When it comes to protecting your private information from hackers, phishing scams, and other cyber security threats, it’s important to know your best practices. As a small business, it’s also important to make sure you’re providing your customers’ data with the same protections. After all, online shopping and bill paying has quickly become standard practice; making sure that your customers can safely perform transactions on your site is just good business sense. To that end, here are three easy things you can do to make your home and business less vulnerable to outside attacks.
#1. Practice Perfect Password Protocol
Remembering passwords can be hard, especially when you need so many of them—for your email, your social media, your bank, your games, and more. Unfortunately, to truly stay safe, there’s just no way to take shortcuts: if all a hacker would need to get into your accounts is to know your anniversary date or the names of your children in the order they were born, you need a stronger password. Though the mainstream image of a hacker may be of someone stringing code together to create a secret backdoor into all of your accounts, much information theft is just more easily done through social engineering.
To increase the strength of your usernames and passwords, stay away from repeating basic nouns. Don’t, for example, make your password “password,” “wordpass,” or even “motdepasse,” which is French for password. Stay away as well from personal information—maiden name, favorite color, important family dates, etc. A password can be strengthened by being longer, adding numbers and symbols, and by using mnemonic devices to associate the most random elements with a more memorable phrase. For example, a password like “bzQ#1n@” can be turned phonetically and symbolically into “BuzzAGeek is number one in computers!”
#2. Run Spyware Checks Regularly
If you don’t already have a computer security suite, let us help you by installing AVG AntiVirus, our affiliate antivirus which comes with spyware, malware, and virus detection, as well as firewall protection. While malware is the kind of virus that will cause your computer to crash, spyware exists to collect personal information as you browse: including transaction data, file location, and even which sites you visit. Some spyware programs can even track your keystrokes and use them to decode messages and passwords. They can be so subtle you won't notice them interfering with your regular activity, which is why it’s important to run a computer checkup and virus detection program bi-weekly, if not more often.
#3. Encrypt Online Data
Every time you log into an online account, send an email, or make an online financial transaction, you are sending information across the internet. If you are sending it over a non-secured connection (for example, most coffee shops’ free Wi-Fi) there is no guarantee that someone else on the same network can’t see it. Luckily, it’s not too hard to encrypt emails and uploaded files; many email programs such as Gmail and Outlook already have encryption options, and programs like BoxCryptor and Cloudfogger allow you to encrypt your sensitive files even when placed on the cloud.
If you are a business who wants to protect the information of your clients, consider acquiring a public key certificate, which will protect your customers from cyber eavesdropping and other hacking attempts. These secure sites can be identified because they will have https:// in front of their domain names, not just the regular http://.
Have further questions for us on how to protect your personal information? Contact us, we’d be happy to answer them!