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8 Tips for Protecting Your Business’ Sensitive Data

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securityPicture this scenario: you walk into your office one morning to see pandemonium. Your employees are in an agitated mess, you know something is very wrong. Your IT team informs you that your company’s data is compromised.

At best, a data breach will damage your reputation. At worst, you could be at risk for massive lawsuits.

Cybersecurity is nothing to take for granted. Every business is at vulnerable. To keep your sensitive data safe, try these cybersecurity tips.

Tips to Protect Your Business’ Sensitive Data

To prevent a data breach, you need to be a step ahead of hackers. These tips will get you started:

1. Set Up a Cybersecurity Strategy

Cybersecurity isn’t something you can deal with on the fly. Invest time in coming up with a researched, up-to-date cybersecurity plan. Think of the different ways someone could access your data and set up roadblocks before there’s a problem.

Make sure to think beyond your office. If you have work from home employees, set up security protocol for them to use.

Remember that hacking evolves every year, so your cybersecurity plan should too. Just like you revisit your marketing plan each year, do the same with your security plan.

2. Make Your Employees’ Accounts Hard to Access

Some businesses focus on complex solutions while overlooking the obvious. The first step to great security is requiring hard-to-crack passwords. It’s also important to give employees access to the data they need and nothing more.

Another way to keep your employees’ accounts safe is two-factor authentication. For example, after an employee enters the password, the software sends a code to his/her phone. The employee must enter the one-time code to access the software.

3. Choose Your Data Center Carefully

If your company is maintaining its own servers, your data center plays a large role in your security. Take a tour of a data center and find out their security protocol before you commit.

If you do business overseas, keep in mind that international data laws may require that you set up a data center overseas. For instance, European data cannot be stored in the US. If you do business in Europe, you need a London data centre or a data center elsewhere in Europe.

4. Back Up Your Data Often

A data breach doesn’t just mean that your data gets into the wrong hands. It can also mean that you lose important data.

One of the rising threats of hacking is ransomware. This software quarantines your data and threatens to delete it if you don’t pay a “ransom.”

You can protect yourself against ransomware by backing up your data on a regular basis. If a hacker threatens to delete your data but you have a backup from two hours ago, it’s not a huge problem.

Make sure you do backups on a consistent basis. You may be able to set up an automatic backup that runs at the same time every day or every week.

Keep in mind, however, that this shouldn’t be a substitute for other security measures. It’s a way to mitigate damage in one particular situation.

5. Train Your Employees about Social Engineering

People have this image of hackers as people sitting in a basement typing like to wind to “break into” a system. In reality, 84% of hackers use social engineering as a common tactic.

Social engineering is a term for tricking people into giving away data or access. For example, a hacker may call your HR department and say they’re a new employee. The HR employee, though they can’t verify the information, gives the hacker access to your internal software.

Offer your employees direct training about how to detect social engineering. Provide this training for new hires and give refresher courses every so often.

6. Update Your Software on a Regular Basis

In many cases when a company’s data is compromised, it’s due to a flaw in the software they use. You might not be the one who made the software, but you’ll still face consequences if it isn’t secure.

Keep up with your software’s updates and install them as soon as you’re aware of them. A large number of these updates involve patching security holes, even if they don’t state it in the description. This applies to your operating system, your browser, any plug-ins on your site, and more.

7. Teach Your Employees How to Catch Phishing or Other Scams

On top of social engineering, hackers can trick employees with email tactics. Train your employees on how to detect suspicious emails.

For example, explain the signs of phishing emails. Instruct employees never to open .exe files that come as email attachments unless they know what it is.

In many cases, a hacker will send the same type of email to numerous people at the same company. Tell your employees to alert your IT department if they get a suspicious email.

8. Consider Hiring a Cybersecurity Consultant

Hiring a consultant is a great way to get a specialist’s input without the expense of a new employee. That’s as true with cybersecurity as it is for marketing or acquisitions.

A cybersecurity consultant has specialized, up-to-date knowledge about data risks. They can comb through your operations to look for security risks and advise you about how to fix them. In some cases, the consultant can repair your security holes as well.

If possible, look for a cybersecurity consultant who has experience in your industry. For instance, if you’re a medical company or doctor’s office, look for someone with experience in HIPAA compliance.

Safeguarding Your Business with Cybersecurity

Depending on the nature of your business, your sensitive data could be what keeps your company alive. Some aspects of cybersecurity cost nothing, while others are major investments. Still, is vulnerable data a risk you can afford to take?

If you’re looking for more ways to protect and boost your business, check out our business tips blog.

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4 Things Businesses Should Consider To Improve Physical Security

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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.

3. Lanyards

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.

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5 key email security threats and how to protect against them

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email marketing tips for businessIn 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.

2. Malware

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.

Verdict?

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.

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Security

5 Tips for Improving Your Workplace Security

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security guardDid 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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