4 keys to protecting against foreign hackers

Small businesses face the threat of security attacks from all over the world. In this guest post, Myrtle Gray lists some of the basic steps all businesses should be taking to protect themselves. 

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Trade in the 21st century has removed many of the barriers of time and space that affected business prior to the the Internet and modern communication. American businesses felt the pinch of the recession and now feel the boom from overseas markets, with the U.S. News And World Report stating that some 40% of the profit enjoyed by Fortune 500 corporations comes from abroad.

For many small businesses, however, overseas populations represent a threat rather than a consumer base. With foreign hackers draining billions from businesses each year, how can a company protect itself?

Make a plan

Just like you would have a fire or hurricane plan in place whenever an environmental threat to your company develops, so too do you need to prepare against digital threats. Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ 2013 survey of American cybercrime notes that too many companies aren’t doing enough to protect themselves, with 30% of respondents admitting they have no plan in place for a cyber attack.

IT departments must create a comprehensive plan in the face of an attack, including shutting down servers and notifying the authorities. Companies can sign up for a LifeLock identity theft protection plan that helps you in the event of a worst case scenario, while also actively protecting you against foreign and domestic harm. This service includes 24/7 monitoring for an attack at any hour of the day.

Train users

Just as most crimes in the real world happen due to opportunity — like a bicycle stolen because it had no padlock — cyber crime largely occurs when a person makes a mistake. The FBI notes that an organization that does not train its employees on the need to protect proprietary information puts itself at a greater risk for digital theft.

Sometimes, this can be handled quite easily, by shredding physical documents and putting password protection on their digital counterparts. Make sure every employee coming into the organization knows how to keep information secure, and stress that their personal information (Social Security numbers and credit card data) can be at equal risk to foreign hackers.

Create better passwords

The cheapest way a company can minimize the risk of hackers penetrating their network is also the easiest: Change passwords, and make better passwords. The gatekeepers of a company’s data, a password with nothing but lower-case letters can be hacked in a matter of minutes.

Sophos notes that hackers capitalize on scheduled changes, since they can predict when the system turns over. Instead, change passwords at random dates (such as few days before and after each federal holiday), and include a mix of letters, numbers and characters.

Social media security

The popularity of social media has made it easier than ever for a hacker to get everything from names to pictures of faces to birth dates and contact information. No business can afford to ignore the benefits of social media but must do so in a careful manner to prevent cybercrime. Monitor official business posts and Tweets to determine they do not give away sensitive information, such as a company’s budget plan or hiring choices.

About the author: Myrtle Gray writes about business, technology, entertainment and everything in between.

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