A Refresher on Keeping Your Online Business Secure.

9 Ways To Keep Your Online Business Secure

When you run an online business, your main focus may be on growing your business and keeping your customers happy.  That’s understandable.

However, what most online business owners fail to realize is that they are constantly being targeted, whether they realize it or not.

Cybercriminals, hackers, identity thieves, and scammers are always on the lookout for weaknesses that they can exploit in a business.  It doesn’t matter how big the business is, either, they’re targeting your customers, and you’re the path to help them.

In 2017, there is a huge number of ways these cybercriminals can target your business and steal your customer’s sensitive information, whether to use it for themselves or to sell it on a marketplace where other criminals are ready to buy it.

When it comes to securing your business, most business owners simply get overwhelmed with the process, and stick their head in the sand.  This is the biggest mistake you can make, though, especially when you realize how easy it can be to secure your online business.

Here are 9 different ways you can keep your online business secure and safe from the threat of hackers and other cybercriminals.

#1 – Understand You’re A Target

It may not be possible to completely defend yourself from hackers and online predators, but understanding that your business is the perfect target will help get you in the right mindset to protect yourself, and your customers.

Complacency is the biggest reason that online businesses become a victim.

That’s exactly what hackers look for — business owners that have their heads buried in the sand, assuming that their business is too small to be targeted, or that they’ve done everything they need to do.

Small businesses, unfortunately, can’t always afford the services of IT professionals, which means that they are prime targets for hackers.

The best thing you can do in this situation is to be prepared.  You should have at least one person that’s in charge of securing your network and website, and training the rest of your employees how to protect themselves, your network, your business, and your customers.

If you’re not completely positive that your business has been properly secured, you may also want to think about bringing in an outside security consultant to dissect the network and show you the areas that need to be improved.

#2 – Stay Up To Date & Backed Up

Another critical mistake many business owners make is purchasing hardware for their business and then leaving it alone until the time it needs to be replaced again.

One of the easiest things a hacker can do is figure out the usernames and passwords that you’re using, especially if you haven’t updated the security settings or operating system files for the hardware that you’re using.

Thankfully, there is a simple fix to this problem.

Today’s operating systems will constantly attempt to update and address known security flaws, while running an antivirus, anti-spyware and spam blocker can make it harder for you or your employees to create new security faults.

You should also make sure that your WiFi network isn’t accessible using the default password and that the information being transmitted across it is secure.  These steps require minimal work to implement and provide the biggest impact for your security.

You will also want to make sure you are regularly creating backups of your system.  In the event your hardware goes down, getting your business back up and running will be as easy as restoring the backup files you’ve created.

#3 – Watch Your Employees

Employees are one of the biggest sources of security threats known to any small to medium sized business.  Humans are inherently complacent and, as you already know, hackers love complacency.

To help limit the potential for breaches due to their lapse in judgement or failure to acknowledge the threats, you want to ensure that they have limited access to sensitive information.  Then, for employees that do have access, you want to ensure they’re kept up to date on the latest security best practices.

Regardless whether the employee-caused data breach was a harmless misstep, or a calculated attack, it’s vital to your business that you invest in training your employees to maintain a high level of security.

Everyone should understand the dangers of downloading files, opening unsolicited emails, visiting unsecured websites, and using weak passwords.  They should also understand that hackers can attack your business in face-to-face situations, and not just online.

#4 – Handle “Remote” Work The Right Way

If you’re business is based 100% online, you could have employees connecting and working from all around the world.  While this is incredibly convenient for you, it does make it significantly harder to properly secure your business.

Whenever you have employees and freelancers working remotely, you’re going to need to ensure that you have the proper security measures in place.

You should require that they connect to any of your business assets through an encrypted Virtual Private Network service and that their computer’s files and software are regularly updated.

You can also require more secure, and even extra passwords for workers that are remotely accessing your network.  Make sure that employees understand they should never connect to your network through a public WiFi, or submit sensitive information while they’re connected outside of a Virtual Private Network.

#5 – Work On The Cloud

It’s understandable that you may find yourself getting overwhelmed by the amount of information being thrown at you, and everything you need to do to secure your online business.

Even though it may be scary to think about working in “the cloud”, using online services to to monitor your security, manage your documents, handle your payment processing, and secure your emails can be hugely beneficial — and affordable — for your small business.

One of the biggest benefits of using cloud based services is that you are handing off your own business security to a huge corporation that has a substantially larger budget to monitor their own security than you do to monitor yours.

Cloud-based services also make it incredibly easy for your remote employees to connect and work without you having to worry about their own security.

With this being said, you can’t completely sit back and relax, though.  They aren’t going to make your business invincible, and you still have to put your trust into a third-party service.  Make sure you’re only using reputable, trustworthy services if you do work on the cloud.

#6 – Properly Dispose Of Sensitive Data

Whenever you have hardware that is no longer usable, that you intend to replace, or when an employee leaves the company, you’re going to need to ensure you have measures in place for handling the sensitive information that’s left behind.

You can’t simply throw this equipment into the garbage.  That would open your business up to a large number of security risks, because threats don’t just come from online avenues.  If you do, your mistake could come back to haunt you in a big way.

You also can’t rely on deleting the files that are stored on the hard drive, or deleting the accounts left behind by the past employee.

Instead of disposing of the sensitive information yourself, this is a job that should be left to the professionals.  Professional disposal services will wipe the hard drives and then destroy them in a crusher to ensure the information on them cannot be retrieved.

#7 – Secure Your Website

When you’re thinking about beefing up the security in your online business, you would be making a grave mistake to ignore the security of your website — where most credit card information is being collected.

Hackers will regularly target security faults in the software that your hosting company is running on their servers, which means you need to remain accountable for them.

Your credit card processing companies are another potential source of problems.  You’ll need to do the research to ensure that both your hosting company and your payment processing company have strict security measures.

If they fail to address security in the right way, your business could be on the hook for the loss of information that your customers incur, even though you weren’t necessarily responsible for the loss of information, or the breach, in the first place.

#8 – Watch Your Smartphone Use

Even though all you may need to run your online business is a desktop and a connection to the internet, we still tend to connect to our business assets through our smartphone.

What most business owners fail to realize, though, is the same smartphone that makes our lives and our business so convenient and accessible is the same device that can pose huge security threats.

This is especially true if your employees connect to your business assets through their phone. I already touched on how vulnerable your employees can make your business, and having an unsecured smartphone just increases that risk — sometimes exponentially.

If your employees connect to your business assets through their smartphone, you should have policies in place that guarantee the phones are updated regularly, and that the phones are regularly checked for software vulnerabilities.

You should also ensure that the phones have software in place to completely wipe them, in the event that the phone has been lost or stolen.

#9 – Report And Respond

In the event that you do experience a security breach, you can’t hesitate in your response.

You need to make sure that any affected equipment has been quarantined, and that you are working diligently to clean it out.  Make sure that your business partners and contacts know that there has been a breach and that they could be affected by it.

The next step is to figure out whether or not your customer’s sensitive information has been compromised in the attack.   You should also focus your efforts on hiring a security firm or consultant to figure out how the attack happened and what can be done to prevent future attacks.

Report the incident to your local authorities, and the FBI, if you deem it necessary.  The faster you report the attack, the easier it’s going to be for authorities to gather clues and potentially catch the people responsible for the attack.

Whatever you do, don’t attempt to handle the situation on your own or attempt to cover up the attack from your partners, contacts, and your customers.  It could lead to far worse situations down the road.

Is Your Online Business Secure?

In today’s digital landscape, you need to put forth the effort needed to secure your online business.

Hackers, thieves, cybercriminals, and other online predators are always looking out for weaknesses in a business, and then figuring out how they can exploit those weaknesses for their own personal gain.

If you want to ensure your online business is secure, you can start by following the 9 different ways I’ve laid out for you here.

If you feel confused about the process, it is worth investing in a security firm or consultant to take you by the hand and ensure you, your employees, your customers, and your business is safe.

Jock is the founder of Digital Exits, an online brokerage service. Jock has been featured in Forbes and contributed to numerous websites and podcasts. He specializes in appraising and buying/selling online businesses and enjoys helping other entrepreneurs do business online.