If you own or run an e-commerce site, take a few extra minutes before declaring that yes, of course your website is prepared for this holiday seasons’ influx of online shopping. During this time of the year, people all over the world are shopping for gifts for their loved ones. Due to the nature of this season and the attention it draws to e-commerce sites, it’s possible you cannot afford to miss out on these sales because your website has been rendered unusable. You may be more at risk than you think, and it is of the utmost importance to make sure your site is fully functional while users are itching to buy.
DDoS Attacks: The One Item on Nobody’s List
A DDoS attack, otherwise known as a distributed denial of service of attack, is unfortunately exactly what it sounds like: an attack that denies the services of your website to its legitimate users. A DDoS attack does so by overwhelming your website or other online services with illegitimate traffic, knocking them offline or drastically slowing them down.
From November to January, the holiday season is in full effect, and thus begins the season of gifting. Millions of shoppers are looking to spend billions of dollars; In fact, in 2014, holiday season retail e-commerce spending in the United States amounted to $53.3 billion. Simple enough, shoppers are looking to spend their money during the holiday season—in specific, on e-commerce sites. However, if your website is down or lagging during this precious time, users will go elsewhere to make their purchases. The inability to deliver deals on specific holiday sales days will most certainly also impact your brand reputation, causing you to lose customer loyalty and future sales.
And then there’s Smokescreens…
Not every DDoS attack aiming to do damage on the one major online shopping day of the year: Cyber Monday. In fact, it may be the attacks that come after Cyber Monday that cause the longest-lasting damage.
Because DDoS attacks are so difficult to deal with and can fully occupy a website’s security, software, services, and security employees alike, DDoS attacks can be used as a smokescreen. While your security is busy working to stop the flow of malicious traffic and get your website back online, attackers may be installing data-stealing malware on your site that will lift consumers’ credit card information come post-Cyber Monday.
Booters, Stressers, and Ransom Demands
It’s not only the major e-commerce websites, like Amazon, that are the target of DDoS attacks; small and medium sites alike need to take extra precaution as well. There was a time in the past when DDoS attacks could only be accomplished by the work of the world’s most skilled hackers, however this is no longer the case. Today, DDoS attacks are seen by many as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme, and many average-grade attackers are cashing in. Due to this change, the pool of potential victims has been widened tremendously.
DDoS ransom notes are commonly used by attackers; these attackers are demanding a sum of money in exchange for not launching a DDoS attack. These notes are usually accompanied by a small DDoS attack to show that the attackers are legitimate and mean business. Whether or not the attackers are capable of powerful enough attacks to take a site offline is irrelevant for many site owners, who simply choose to pay up.
Furthermore, attackers are also now offering DDoS-for-hire services. As explained by DDoS protection service provider Incapsula, these services are typically referred to as booters or stressers. For a monthly fee that typically does not exceed $100, anyone can buy access to a service that launches an unlimited number of DDoS attacks to the websites of their choosing. If a person is desperate enough to maliciously target a competitor’s website, he or she can do so with minimal financial investment. Seeing as DDoS-for-hire services are so easy to come by, what better time to make a competitor pay than during the holiday season?
Regardless of if a DDoS attack is meant to take your site offline, give hackers a chance to steal financial information, or to make minor league attackers financial gain from DDoS-for-hire or DDoS ransom notes, these attacks are steadily on the rise. According to Imperva’s Q3 Report, DDoS attacks rose 116% from the previous quarter.
Legitimate Traffic: Another Added Risk
This may seem trivial to mention after the nightmare that is DDoS attacks, but with the popularity that online holiday shopping is gaining year after year, is your website truly equipped to handle the influx of traffic you may get?
Research has shown that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in less than two seconds. Now, what happens if a website takes more than three seconds to load? 40% of consumers will abandon that site altogether. These statistics represent an average day, yet holiday shopping season is not an average day, as consumes are racing to lock down the best deals.
How much bandwidth does your website chew up every time it loads a page? Does it manage connections effectively for a faster user experience? Do your servers have load balancing for dealing with large amounts of traffic? There is a solution for all of these problems.
In Honor of Holiday Sales: A 2-for-1 Deal
In honor of the holiday sales, a time all about getting the most bang for your buck, consider investing in a top-tier Content Delivery Network (CDN) for your website. Not only does a CDN have servers strategically located all over the world to deliver the fastest possible load times to users regardless of location, but the network of servers in a CDN also provide load balancing to keep your site from crashing under an influx of traffic – legitimate or not.
Furthermore, a CDN also compresses images and other files for faster load times, and manages your site’s network connections efficiently. It can also cache content for faster delivery, and advanced CDNs can even cache dynamic content. Perhaps best of all, high-quality CDNs will provide professional DDoS protection, keeping your site safe during this holiday season as well as year-round.
If you invest in the right security solutions for your e-commerce site, you will be glad you didn’t answer this article’s headline in haste. This crazy time of online shopping has dawned upon us; take the time to evaluate your site’s security needs.
4 Things Businesses Should Consider To Improve Physical Security
1000 US small business owners were surveyed in 2016; nearly 10% of them said that they had suffered from burglary or theft.
Burglary or theft can cause small businesses massive financial difficulties, not to mention potential disputes with insurance providers with regards to any potential damage or cash recovery.
By not having any security measures in place, your business can be easily identified by criminals as an easy target for burglary or theft.
If you think about it, when you are purchasing something online, you always look at the address bar to ensure you see the green lock to make sure that your payment is safe and secure; why should your business be any different?
Remember, not just physical assets are valuable; digital data on physical digital devices such as laptops count as a data breach and may contain information that is valuable for criminals such as credit card information or social security numbers.
Now is the time to take your security more seriously.
1. Access Control
Installing an access control system can add a physical deterrent to any criminal or person that may wish to enter parts of your business that should not be accessed by anyone. Employees using a form of access control shows any visitors or customers that your business takes their security seriously.
According to Cssltd.co.uk, 30% of intruders entered the premises through an unlocked door.
Access control can be customized completely to allow only certain employees access to specific areas.
With this flexibility of picking and choosing who has access to what, this greatly reduces the chance that someone could simply walk in, walk out and take whatever they wish from your business with no issue.
2. Employee ID
Issuing employees with ID cards will ensure that identifying individuals is easy. ID cards can be customized to have additional security features on them; such as using access control cards as employee ID.
Combining employee ID with an access control system adds an extra layer of security that is often not even thought of.
There is a wide range of ID card security features such as barcodes, QR codes, mag stripe and more.
In 2016, Dutch businesses lost almost €1.5million due to business identity theft.
Lanyards are a versatile object that recently has even been picked up by top end fashion brands that sell for extortionate amounts of money. Luckily, lanyards for your business do not need to be that expensive.
Small businesses can utilize plain, pre-printed or fully personalized lanyards. Plain or pre-printed lanyards are available in a wide range of colours at a low price point. For example, using colour coding with lanyards to determine which employee belongs to which department can assist security in identifying who belongs where.
Personalized lanyards may cost more but they will be exclusively available to the business as the design will be completely personalized for you. Whilst personalized lanyards are great for security, they also give your employees an important marketing tool.
Lanyards are very useful, they can hold ID cards, car keys and more. Employees will find other uses for your personalized lanyards when not at the business premises. A company such as ID Card Centre can supply your business with personalized lanyards that fit your needs.
4. Training employees
If your business can afford to hire security staff that’s great. Other small businesses may not have the spare funds for this.
A more cost-effective solution is to ensure all employees understand security and why it’s paramount for the business to ensure that it is safe and secure.
Training your employees also tells them that you trust them, which in return means that they will want to work harder for the business.
By ensuring all your employees have been trained to follow strict security measures, this can deter any potential criminal from attempting to enter your premises.
5 key email security threats and how to protect against them
In 2014, a hacker group gained access to Sony Pictures. Investigators, in particular, the CEO of Cylance speculated that the hackers targeted Apple IDs with a phishing attack and once a user fell prey to the attack, the hackers made their way into Sony servers.
Such attacks are on the increase and as of last year – 2018, statistics indicate that 1 in 131 emails contain malware. That paints a dire picture and raises the stakes because whether it is personal or business emails, people can no longer afford to ignore email security.
However, to practice email security best practices, it is important first to understand the primary email security threats.
1. Interception of confidential data
Sending any confidential data via email over an unencrypted channel is akin to inviting interception and data theft. An eavesdropping attack, whereby a hacker steals information from an unsecured network, is one of the easiest ways a hacker can access private traffic.
Data are sent in plain text in an unsecured network, meaning that passwords and bank details will be shown in plain sight, hence the best way to protect against interception attempts is to secure your networks if possible, or encrypt your traffic by various means which we shall look into later.
A malware is a software that someone intentionally designs to cause disruption, damage data or gain unauthorized access. Statistics indicate that there are over 600 million different forms of malware.
While malware can hide anywhere and in different file forms, email forms a bulk of the hiding place for malware. That is because it is easy to send an email carrying a malware appear legitimate by making it seem as if it is from a personal friend or co-worker.
As a result, especially because people do not take time to confirm that the email is actually from the intended sender, they open the attachment with the malware and infect their devices. The malware then causes damage, and by the time you or the IT department realizes what is happening, a lot of sensitive data might already be gone.
3. Phishing attacks
A phishing scam occurs when a criminal sends an email in the guise of someone else, such as your company CEO, in an attempt to fish for sensitive information from the target.
Often, the email seems urgent, and it can elicit curiosity or fear making it impossible for the target not to open the email. Once the target opens the email, he/she is then prompted to surrender a user name, password, credit card number and so on.
Chances are you’ve run into a phishing scam before as they are highly prevalent all around the world. A 2017 report indicates that cybercriminals create close 1.5 million new phishing sites every month making it arguably the greatest email security threat.
4. Weak passwords
Weak passwords are yet another significant email security vulnerability. They can be easily compromised in a brute force attack. You might think that a password with personal clues like ‘marvelfan1988’ is far from generic but the truth is, it takes only 15 hours to crack it by brute force.
Once they get access to your email, then they have access to everything else they might need – phone number, answer to your security question, banking, and credit card details, even details to online financial accounts such as PayPal. This is also why holding down your email security fort is so vital.
The situation becomes direr if you use one password for all your online accounts because that means the hacker can now access your entire digital life.
5. Stolen devices
Admittedly, stolen devices are the least concerning email security threat. However, one cannot afford to ignore because once a thief steals a device, all they have to do is tap on view emails and they have access to all manner of sensitive data.
Now that you understand the major email security threats, the question now becomes, what are the ways to improve the security and privacy of your emails? Below are three key guidelines you can follow to ensure you improve your email security.
Ways of Improving Your Email Security and Privacy
Ensure That You Always Use TLS
TLS is Transport Layer Security, and it is a protocol that encrypts any connection to a website, a server or another client. Also, the protocol verifies that any server you connect to is authentic.
Note also that TSL encrypts communication between one server and another which means it offers all-around protection. With TSL, it becomes harder to intercept confidential data – the number one email security threat mentioned above.
To ensure TSL is activated, especially if you are using an external email client, open the client and go to settings. Under settings look for STARTTLS or SSL/TLS and activate the option. If any of these two options are not available, then find – connect only through an encrypted channel.
Scrutinize Attachments, and Be Cognizant of Tracking Links
With attachments, it is advisable to only open those that you trust. However, it might always be possible to verify a sender. In such a situation, it is vital to remember that the pdf, doc, and xls are the file formats which tend to be most infected.
Either open these files in a virtual machine or take advantage of any in-build tool your Webmail provides to open such files.
With regards to links, avoid clicking on the links and instead, copy the address and open in a new tab. That will help you avoid the tracking code embedded in the link by companies or individuals designed to track how many people opened the email.
Also, if the link is designed to send you to a phishing site, by copying it and scrutinizing it further, you might avoid the phishing attack.
Whenever you are careful with tracking links, and you scrutinize attachments, then you have a higher chance of avoiding malware and phishing attacks.
Use Strong Passwords
Strong passwords are the foremost deterrent to an attack due to weak passwords. As an individual or a business, insist on strong passwords; preferably longer than 12 characters, and composed of letters, numbers and special characters.
In addition, each login should have a unique password. You should never use the same password for two or more accounts.
5 Tips for Improving Your Workplace Security
Did you know 2 million workers report being victims of workplace violence every year?
As an employer, if your workplace has never experienced any insecurity or violence cases, it’s easy to let your guard down. A person with criminal intent can break in and cause harm, a client can assault an employee, or your workers can turn on each other.
This is why it’s vital to take your workplace security seriously. Here is a guide on the steps you need to take.
1. Enforce Policies That Promote Security
Your company policies go a long way in keeping the workplace safe and secure.
As such, one of the first things you should do is to audit your existing security policies, identify gaps, and make the necessary changes. For instance, if you’ve been hiring workers without doing a criminal background check, it’s time to make the practice a company policy.
Also, make it your policy to conduct regular security awareness training. This way, your workers will stay up to date on security matters.
2. Implement Access Control
Yes, open office plans are the jam these days, but this doesn’t mean everyone should have access to every room in the office. The best way to prevent access to sensitive areas such as the server room is to deploy an access control system.
Depending on your system, you could issue your workers with keyless cards. This makes it simpler to remotely allocate access credentials and manage who has access to where.
3. Install Alarms and Surveillance Systems
Alarms and surveillance cameras are common in residential settings but not so much in commercial spaces. In fact, only 1 in 7 U.S. businesses (14 percent) have alarms and video surveillance systems.
Sure, the cost of security systems installation and maintenance can be high for a small business, but the return on investment is worth it. These systems not only discourage criminal activity but also make it easier to resolve insecurity-related issues. You can, for instance, use CCTV footage to investigate office theft.
4. Hire Security Guards
If your workplace covers an entire building, it’s not just enough to install alarms and CCTV cameras. Hire security guards too.
You see, guards are your first line of defense against criminal attacks, and they can always step in to de-escalate physical conflicts between employees and other security incidents in the office.
If you don’t own the building that houses your workplace, work with its management to get security guards on site.
5. Make Structural Change to Your Premises
Does the structural nature of your workplace building expose your office to security risks?
For example, if your office has clear windows facing a public area, prying eyes can look in and scan for valuables. Fortunately, there’s a quick solution to this vulnerability. Just hire a commercial window tinting service to safeguard the privacy of your people.
Another structural element to look into is the quality of your access doors. Are they reinforced to prevent unauthorized entry? If not, you can make reinforcements or install new high security doors.
Ramp Up Your Workplace Security
A secure workplace doesn’t only keep your workers, clients and physical assets safe. It also strengthens your brand, increases employee loyalty, and improves productivity.
Want your business to reap these benefits? Implement the workplace security tips fleshed out above and wait for the results!
And as you get your business’ physical security in order, don’t neglect IT security.
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