Information technology is anything but static, and it’s tough keeping up with the latest developments. In days past, it was common for businesses and organizations to have an in-house IT staff that monitored, maintained, and installed hardware at the business’s physical location.
Then cloud computing emerged and turned everything upside down. While the biggest businesses and brands, such as Facebook, do have their own IT infrastructure and data centers, it’s far more common for small and medium-sized businesses turn to third-party services in the cloud.
Without anyone on site to advise small business owners the best practices and cardinal sins of information technology, many mistakes are made. Today we’re going to take a look at actionable ways small businesses can stay ahead of the security curve.
Step Up Your Password Game
Do you use the same password for all of your accounts, or only a slight variation of the same password? Do you use your birthday, anniversary, pet’s name, or other easily discoverable information as your password? If so, you could be the next unwilling victim of a hacker or despicable snoop who wants to steal your data.
Unfortunately, most people don’t understand how important it is to create a strong password. To create a strong password, it should be at least 16 characters long and consist of numbers, lowercase letters, uppercase letters, and special symbols. But I would go one step further. Consider the following two passwords:
Which one do you think is easier to crack? Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “That long crazy password would be impossible to remember!” And you know what? I don’t disagree. Instead of trying to memorize or create it, use two tools: a random password generator and a password database. A password database will save all your passwords and encrypt them so they can’t be stolen.
Furthermore, you can then copy and paste long passwords to thwart key loggers. There is only one stipulation: you must remember the single master password that encrypts the whole file. Not only should you use strong passwords, but you should also create a policy that requires employees to create strong passwords too.
Lock Down Wi-Fi
Many small businesses use what is known as a SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) Wireless Router. If you do, be very cautious. Neighbors, malicious competitors, and hackers can use your WiFi if you don’t explicitly lock it down password encryption. While at first it may not seem so bad for someone else to use your Internet connection to browse the web, be aware that many attacks can be initiated once a hacker is connected to the local LAN.
Implement Antivirus Security Software on Every Desktop, Laptop, and Mobile Device
Some people detest antivirus security software because antivirus scans bog down their computer, hog resources, and always seem to pop up at the most irritating times. But not installing and regularly running an antivirus security suite on every desktop, laptop, and mobile device in your business is just asking for trouble.
Understand that no computing system is 100% infallible and secure against every threat. Unfortunately, that’s just the nature of information security – a new threat is always emerging as technology evolves and hackers find new ways to compromise systems. Even with antivirus security, your data could still be at risk, though a competent antivirus application will drastically mitigate the overwhelming majority of threats.
Backup Your Data Regularly
If you ask most people what the most important part of any computer is, some will tell you it’s the processor. Others might guess the RAM or the monitor. Some might even say it’s the hard drive, which is closer to the mark. Believe it or not, the most important part of any computing system is its data. Without data, the purpose of the computing system ceases to exist.
Fortunately, data is easily protected and preserved, though sadly many small business owners forget, get distracted, or flat out choose not to, which is a huge mistake. Most backup services, be it local software or cloud backups, have an automatic backup feature as well as scheduled backups. In the event of a virus or hardware failure, your data will remain safe.
Control Physical Access to Network Ports and Computing Devices
It’s easy to get so focused on digital security that some people forget about physical security. Nevertheless, you absolutely must ensure no one but your employees can access computers and networking equipment without your consent. When you’re done for the day, it’s best to keep all computer devices shut down and under lock and key so they can’t be accessed remotely or physically.
For that matter, you should disable any port that is not being used, and only once again re-enable it once you’re ready to connect a device. Hackers can wreak havoc on your network if you leave an open possibility for them to connect. By shutting off unused ports, you also prevent an employee from connecting their own wireless router to the network, which could present a hacker with an opportunity to access your network if the employee used weak or no encryption on the wireless device.
Control Network Access by MAC Address
A MAC (Media Access Control) address can add an extra layer of security by ensuring unauthorized mobile devices and rogue laptops connected via an Ethernet cable don’t access your network. It isn’t always a feasible action plan in large environments, but since small business typically have a limited number of devices accessing the network, you can configure a policy that only permits a handful of MAC addresses access to the network. This helps block random devices because each device has a globally unique address.
Small business owners have a million and one things to do, from worrying about information technology security to sourcing top talent. It’s easy to get distracted and forget about other crucial components of your business, such as web presence and digital marketing strategy.
Instead of letting your digital marketing strategy wither and die, reach out today for the help of a qualified and experienced digital marketing professional to gain traffic, leads, and ultimately increase your bottom line.