I was working with a client the other day who was attempting to ramp up their cyber security after recovering from being hit with a computer virus. This virus left his company without important files and documents needed to operate for a period of weeks and cost him thousands of dollars in profit and overtime wages for the staff to get the business operating again.
While the company had cyber insurance, the virus still made a big impact on their business for the time they were without a computer. In order to help them I sat and wrote down a list of the things that I do in my business to keep my computer secure, and now I want to share them with you to help protect your business. Here are the top 4 things that I do to protect my business from cyber-attacks.
1- Update your Software and Operating Systems
When it comes to cyber-attacks, for most types of malware and viruses your computer should be your first point of call when it comes to security. Don’t just rely on your IT service provider to bail you out and fix your computer if it has been hacked or infected with a virus; it is important to be proactive and take precautions to protect yourself and your business.
The best place to start is with your operating system. If you are one of the few people whose computer is living in the nostalgia age and running old Windows systems like Windows 95, your software is incredibly out of date and can actually be dangerous when it comes to your cyber security. When a new operating system is introduced, it is common for developers to discontinue creating security patches for older systems, leaving them unprotected against new forms of malware and viruses. To make sure that you remain protected ensure that your operating system is one of the, if not most recent one on the market to ensure that your computer receives these software and security patches.
While it may be tempting to ignore these patches on newer operating systems for the sake of time and convenience, it is important that they are installed as soon as they become available (or your computer tells you it needs to restart to install updates). The 2017 outbreak of the WannaCry virus that locked down businesses and government departments all over the world came from a hole in Windows security that was patched months before the attack, but most people hadn’t installed the patch for.
2- Make your Passwords Strong
Did you know that it can take a skilled hacker with a good decryption software as little as 10 minutes to crack a lower-case password if it is 5 characters long? If you add three more letters and making a few of them capitals that number jumps to 3 years. Adding a single character to that and some numbers and/or symbols and it will take approximately 44,530 years to crack.
For many companies, passwords are the weakest point in their security. The use of overly simple passwords such as “password” and “admin” are common, which makes it a key entry point when trying to access a company’s systems.
To seal up this weak point be sure to keep your passwords strong, only use them on one website and remember to change them regularly. By using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols of all cases, your weak “password” can become a strong “P@ssword1**” which is just as easy to remember but much more secure.
3- Use Antivirus Software
The most common way to protect your business from cyber-attacks such as viruses is to use a good antivirus software on your computer. Whether it be a free downloadable one like AVG, or one of the paid programs like Norton or McAfee, by using any type of antivirus software you decrease your risk of a cyber-attack via a virus.
While having these programs and using them daily is a great starting point there is still more you can do protect your computer. Free programs such as Malware Bytes go deeper into your computer and can pick up viruses and bugs that may be too new for your regular antivirus program to know about.
4- Be Careful What You Click
Did you know that in 2016 one in 131 emails scanned by Norton contained malware? Email has become the primary target when it comes to cyber-attacks such as ransomware. When you click and follow links, and open files from unknown senders you are opening yourself and your business up to a multitude of cyber-attacks and pain if you do get infected.
Most antivirus software now has a scan function for emails and incoming USB/portable hard drives which is a valuable asset when it comes to preventing cyber-attacks. If you are receiving documents or links, even if you know the person and trust them, scan the email first before you open or download anything. If you don’t know the person and weren’t expecting anything from that email address, delete the email, if the person really wants to get in touch with you, they will attempt to contact you again. It is better safe than sorry when it comes to computer safety.
These 4 things are all important precautions to take when it comes to protecting your computer and business against cyber-attacks, but the most important thing you can do aside from these is to back up your computer weekly. That way if the worst does happen and your computer is hit with a virus or a piece of ransomware, you will still have a copy of all your files and will be able to restore your computer from that. It is better to have lost a few days’ worth of recent files than lose them all to a virus.