Cybersecurity 101: 6 Ways to Protect Your Small Business Online

The year 2020 has started off with three things: confetti, new year’s resolutions, and increased public concern over the threat of cyber attacks. One of these is clearly not like the others, and cybersecurity has become something of a hot-button topic over the past few weeks. However, this issue is much more pressing than a simple case of news cycle-driven concern.

The truth of the matter is, cyber attacks are happening, have been happening and will continue to happen. As the internet of things continues to expand every day, so does the number of ways cybercriminals are able to find security vulnerabilities that put your business at risk. Small business websites are especially vulnerable targets for cyber attacks because their websites often lack the same security measures put in place by larger corporations.

The best way to prevent a cyber attack is to be proactive against a cyber attack. Here are 6 ways to improve your website’s cybersecurity and protect your small business online.

Why Do I Need A Secure Website?

There’s often a misconception that security breaches only happen to large companies. After all, how much value could a cybercriminal get out of hacking into a small business’ website?

Simply put, hackers aren’t looking for the biggest websites to compromise, they’re looking for the easiest websites to compromise. A website that is not secure can pose a chain reaction of problems for your customers and your business as a whole.

When you secure your website, you are equipping it with encryption keys that make it very difficult for unauthorized users to access sensitive information. Without this encryption, hackers are able to easily identify vulnerabilities in your infrastructure to extract, change or even delete crucial data that could put your company’s and your customer’s information at risk. For business websites hosted on ecommerce platforms, a security breach that deals with your customers’ banking information could put your company’s reputation at risk – even if the actual damage itself is small or nonexistent.

How Can I Protect My Business From Cyber Attacks?

1) Update Your Software Regularly

From themes to plugins to software, there are plenty of moving parts that go into making your website look and function optimally. Conversely, this also means there are plenty of ways hackers are able to access your data through outdated or corrupted files. Make it a point to routinely update your website to ensure that every file is the newest version available. It is especially important to be diligent if you download any third-party plugins or software, as they tend to be especially prone to vulnerabilities. On that topic…

2) Know Where Your Plugins Originated

There are many resources for third-party plugins on the web, and the vast majority are completely safe and secure. However, it is important that you know and trust where your plugins are coming from before one opens the door for security vulnerabilities that could put your website at risk. Search for reviews for these third-party websites to get a feel for their reputation, and delete any old plugins on your website that are no longer in use. When in doubt, your most secure option is almost always to look for a comparable plugin through WordPress or your web hosting service of choice.

3) Change Your Password

Be honest: how many of your logins share the same password? Fortunately – or perhaps unfortunately – you aren’t alone. 44% of people reported reusing passwords on non-sensitive accounts, and 11% reported using the exact same one across all of their accounts. If a cybercriminal is able to hack your website’s admin password, they can infect and corrupt your data in a matter of seconds. Use this same password on various logins related to your business, and they can do an even greater amount of damage. Play it safe by changing your password at least once a year using a unique and complex password. This can be accomplished by using a series of symbols and numbers in place of letters, such as changing “Creative Click Media” to “Cr3@t!v3_cL1Ck.m3d!A”.

4) Use HTTPS

Not having that little lock symbol next to your website’s URL in the browser bar can do a surprising amount of harm not only to your security, but also your SEO. The “S” in “HTTPS” stands for secure, and that lock symbol signifies that your website has an SSL certificate which secures the transfer of sensitive information from website to server. Google has been cracking down on non-HTTPS websites since a 2018 update, and websites that are not SSL certified continue to take a rankings hit. Becoming SSL certified will not only keep Google happy, but will also give your customers peace of mind knowing they are browsing a website with encrypted security measures in place.

5) Think Before Opening Emails

When your boss’ name appears in your inbox, your first instinct is probably to open that email straight away. That being said, if the email address itself does not match your boss’ usual email address, it’s likely part of a phishing scheme. Cybercriminals prey on victims through phishing schemes by crafting a convincing enough email to entice them to click on an infected link or download files containing malware. Thankfully, 99% of phishing emails require the user to take action in order for your security to be compromised. When in doubt, contact the person whose name the email was sent from before clicking anything to determine if the email is valid or potentially malicious.

protect your small business online6) Back Up Everything

Even if you’ve taken all of the aforementioned steps, there’s still a chance your website could be the victim of a cyber attack. The most proactive way to protect your business online and prepare for the worst is to back up your website completely after every update. This is the most efficient way to restore your website to it’s most recent state without having to double your efforts to replicate what was lost. Be sure you host your backup offsite – if your server was compromised, your backup could be, too.

How Can You Protect Your Small Business Online?

Simply put – start right now! For business owners especially, the ideal approach to cybersecurity can be summed up in three phrases:

Better safe than sorry.

Better sooner than later.

Better now than never.

Every literal second you let slip by without safeguarding your website opens the door further and further for cybercriminals looking to compromise your security. The best way to protect your business from a cyber attack is to invest in a security and maintenance plan before catastrophe strikes. Consider working with an experienced digital marketing agency with the knowledge and know-how needed to predict, prevent and protect your small business online against the biggest threats to your business’ security.

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