Changing trends and evolving best practices means business owners today need to be concerned about more than just the security of a brick and mortar location. In the past, most businesses operated out of a brick and mortar location, or at least had a physical location they could think of as “home base.” As the world evolved, and the internet opened up the business world and marketplace, business needs have changed as well.
Those businesses that operate predominantly or entirely online will find this especially true for their continued success and growth. While most of today’s competitive businesses have an online presence, even when they also have a physical location, it’s impossible for an online business to achieve true success without a thriving and reliable internet presence.
A strong cyber defense can help protect your business, whether it’s brand new or well-established, while it grows and achieves the success you’ve been working toward.
5 Cybersecurity Risks for Your Online Business
Protecting your online business from cybersecurity threats begins with understanding what risks your venture faces. Here are some of the most common cyber threats facing your small business.
1. Data Breaches
A data breach happens when someone accesses sensitive data without authorized permission. This data may be the business owner’s, like financial records or personal identifying information used to secure loans. A loss of such data could lead to financial ruin, identity theft, or the loss of your business entirely.
Another risk for an online business is that a data breach can lead to the loss of customers’ data. Of course, not only is this a problem for the customers in question, but it can also result in a loss of repeat business for you and potentially lead to poor public reviews that could hurt your business.
2. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
This type of cybersecurity attack occurs when a third party tries to intercept data as it moves between devices. Data typically lost during this type of attack are passwords or payment information. Man-in-the-middle attacks can be insidious, masquerading as an authorized check-out page or seamlessly rerouting customer traffic to another location to steal data. Many times, you or your customer may not even realize they’ve been victimized until well after the fact.
3. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks
The disruption of normal traffic by overwhelming a server and preventing users from reaching their intended destination. For an online business, this can mean preventing a potential customer from properly checking out.
Not only does this mean you’ve lost the income that would have been provided by those who try to make purchases during the attack, but it can also negatively impact your reputation and discourage would-be consumers.
4. Phishing Schemes
A phishing scheme or attack is an attempt to extract sensitive personal data and then use that data against you. Account numbers, names and addresses, and financial data can all be collected during a successful phishing attack. Armed with that information, a third party can damage your credit or successfully poach your identity.
When successful, these attacks can be vicious, and they’re frequently achieved by impersonating a trusted figure you have (or are believed to have) an existing relationship with. The third party behind the phishing scheme hopes that you will believe your account has been compromised and provide the needed information to gain access to your data.
5. Malware Attacks
Malware is malicious software and it has been around for decades. As our computers and capabilities have evolved, so too has malware. It’s now more sophisticated than it’s ever been and, depending on the type you encounter, it can steal your data or ruin your device.
Standard malware includes viruses, spyware, ransomware, and trojans. Malware is often easy to transmit to others through data that has passed through a compromised device, which means it can be a threat not just to you and your business, but also to anyone you do business with.
Protecting Your Online Business from Cyber Threats
Knowing what’s out there can help you prepare your business properly — and have you avoiding some of the worst possible outcomes. If you’re ready to take the action needed to improve your online business’ level of protection, here are some steps you can take to improve cybersecurity, prevent devastating cyberattacks, and keep your business flourishing.
Use Proper Security Measures
One of the easiest ways to beef up cybersecurity is to use all of the security measures available with every device you use. You’ve put the time, energy, and finances into creating an online business. Once you have the structure in place, you want to see the fruits of your labor with a thriving, successful venture.
When an entrepreneur has put all the resources into the framework of a new business, it can be tempting to rush through the final steps of implementing an appropriate security protocol — whether it’s due to a time crunch or a lack of remaining funds. Unfortunately, cutting corners with basic security at this juncture can make the difference between achieving success and seeing your business stutter or even fail.
1. Opt for Multi-Factor Authentication
Most major platforms and devices now offer multi-factor authentication. It’s an additional step during a sign-in process that increases online security. Multi-factor authentication can be as simple as requiring a code sent via text message to a cell phone that is used to complete the login.
Text-based multi-step authentication is usually free and a built-in feature of the website or platform you’re using. More sophisticated multi-factor authentication apps and software are available as well. This is a highly effective way to reduce the likelihood that passwords can be used without your permission.
In addition to the reduction of unapproved access to your accounts, many of these platforms will also send you an alert that an attempt to access your account was made. This allows you to keep a close eye on whether or not your passwords or devices have been compromised and gives you the opportunity to change your information, scan for malware, and otherwise maintain cybersecurity for your business.
2. Practice Safe Password Use
Nearly every website or platform you use requires a password for access. It can be tempting to resort to bad habits — keeping a written log of which password you’ve used stored close to your computer, reusing passwords, or relying on numbers or names that hold significance for you. Unfortunately, these passwords can be easy to figure out, and reusing a password in multiple locations can mean a breach at a single platform, server, or device, which can lead to your entire online presence, banking, or stored customer data being compromised.
For best results, you should use unique passwords that contain a mixture of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Security software, equipped with additional protection, is available to help keep track of passwords and where they’ve been used without risking the loss of data. Remember to change your passwords regularly and avoid sharing your passwords or account information with others.
3. Avoid Being Scammed
Con artists aren’t new on the scene, but their methods have evolved as our society has turned toward the internet for business operation. Scammers are constantly looking ahead to that next approach where a person or business can be caught off guard and victimized. Remain vigilant and keep abreast of current scams and potential security threats to prevent accidentally leaving yourself vulnerable to a phishing scheme or fraud.
General safety guidelines include the following: never share sensitive account information, including the identity or financial data or passwords when prompted to by a text message, email, or phone call. When there is a concern regarding an account, always initiate contact through an established phone number or email readily visible on a card or paper statement. Do not blindly return an email or redial a phone number without checking against existing contact information. It’s always okay to call back a company if something doesn’t seem quite right and, of course, if something seems too good to be true, it more than likely is.
4. Use the Internet Wisely
Online business isn’t restricted by business hours or local shoppers. You may have shoppers checking out at all hours of the day and all over the world. As a result, you’ll likely find yourself working outside of traditional business hours as well. Collaborating and making purchases through other online businesses can make transactions fast and efficient while keeping product turn-around time swift.
Like any business, some of your decisions on what companies you purchase from and which products you use may come down to your bottom line. While looking for well-priced products can be worth the time and energy, don’t compromise the cyber safety of your business to save a little money. Use only reputable and secure websites to place your orders and rely on established platforms for any monetary exchanges.
Look Beyond the Basics
Once you have the basics of digital security covered, you’re off to a good start. Using multi-factor authentication, appropriate passwords, and safe internet practices can do wonders for protecting your company from cyberattacks. Implementing even these basic security measures can lead to a dramatic reduction in data breaches, phishing schemes, and malware attacks.
As internet use has become more advanced, the opportunities for cybersecurity have as well. While the simple security measures outlined above can help reduce the likelihood of successful cyberattacks on your business, dedicated security software and more sophisticated security measures can greatly improve the protection of your customers and business.
1. Equip Your Network and Devices with Protection
Installing security software on your devices can help keep your business, and any stored data, safe. Routers and wi-fi networks can be vulnerable to cyberattacks and if they’re compromised sensitive data can be plucked from the devices that use them, even when you’re following safety protocols.
Software like a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can give you a secure connection while offering protection to your networks. This can be a great way to create an extra layer of protection for everyday use on known networks.
In addition, a secure VPN can be added to mobile devices you may need to use for business purposes while you’re on the go. Make sure you do not subscribe to free VPNs which are notorious for selling your data to third parties.
Information traveling through your devices will be encrypted and you won’t need to rely on others’ internet connections, which may be compromised or are insufficiently secured. A high-quality VPN service can be a secure way to avoid DDoS and Man-in-the-Middle attacks, while also reducing the likelihood of data breaches and malware attacks.
2. Check for Malware
Even when you’re taking all the necessary precautions, your computer or mobile device may encounter malware. You likely use accounts across multiple devices for your business or access information from different devices or locations. This creates a prime opportunity for malware to find its way into your system.
Without routinely scanning for and removing malware, you may inadvertently compromise your whole system, and even risk exposing your customers to it in the process. Regular, thorough scanning for malware using professional software is the best way to avoid being victimized by malware.
3. Manage Your Data
When it comes to running an online business, there’s a lot of information that needs to be maintained. Inventory, customers’ personal and financial information, and your own account information need to be properly stored and tracked.
Of course, this has always been the case, but today’s online business is a far cry from a handwritten ledger with partial personal information. With so much personal data stored in your system, it’s critical to keep tabs on what data is stored where and who has access.
It’s also important to identify potential breaches as soon as possible and inform any customers who may have experienced data loss. Professional data management software is available to keep your business on track, and regularly backing up your business’ information can help protect you and your customers in case you experience device loss or damage.
Running a Successful Online Business
There are more reasons than ever to launch an online business. While there’s also more competition than there has been in the past, that doesn’t mean you can’t turn your venture into a raging success with time and dedication. Taking the appropriate steps to keep your business and your customers protected from cyber threats can give you the solid start you need to get your business off the ground.
And if you have a business that’s already up and running? Improving your cybersecurity measures will only serve to make your venture stronger.