When it comes to cyber security, small business owners have a lot to think about. Not only do you need to keep your own systems safe, but you also need to make sure that your remote team is doing the same. Here are some tips for keeping your data and your team safe. Did you know that a majority of small businesses have had a cyber attack in the past year? And that’s just the businesses that know they’ve been attacked—many more go undiscovered. If you’re running a small business, it’s essential that you take steps to protect yourself from online threats and partner up with a managed IT services provider. One way to do that is by making sure your remote team is following good cyber security practices. Here are some tips from top level business owners that you and your team working remotely can implement in your home networks to increase your cyber security.
Set Boundaries for Your Personal and Workplace Devices
Make sure you set and stick to a clear set of rules surrounding your personal and workplace technology. “Set clear boundaries for your personal and work devices. It seems silly, but high level professionals will often have two phone lines; one for work and one for personal calls. This helps entrepreneurs keep organization in their different roles throughout the day. It also helps protect your business and personal information. Storing them on different devices makes it harder to extract personal info like bank statements and social security numbers. Most importantly, make sure your family members know the boundaries around these devices. This is for their own safety!”
This can save you a ton of trouble in the long run, and makes sure that your business information is only going out to coworkers and clients. “Another reason to keep your personal and work communications secure and separate is to protect your personal information and time. Just as your family and friends shouldn’t have access to your work contacts, the opposite is also true,” said Lauren Singer of Package Free Shop.
Update Your Operating Systems
Make sure you keep your work devices up to date with the latest operating system. This sounds like a chore, but it will keep your computer armed with the latest security preferences for the machine you’re using. The same goes, maybe even more so, for mobile devices and tablets which can be easier to target when people are taking them on the go all the time.
In addition to keeping your operating systems up to date, make sure you also update any software programs you use. When new versions come out, developers generally stop supporting legacy versions of software and that includes their security. Keeping up to date with software updates is a good way to ensure all of your programs are protected and running at their absolute fullest potential.
Use a VPN
Possibly the best way currently to protect your identity online is to hide it! You can do this easily by paying for a personal VPN or Virtual Private Network. “The biggest and best piece of advice I can give for remote workers cyber security is to invest in a personal VPN. For those that don’t know or aren’t familiar, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is essentially a way for you to disguise your IP address so that people can see that you are online, but can’t trace your browsing history back to your personal computer. This is absolutely essential for remote employees working with sensitive information at high level companies. VPNs aren’t expensive, but they are an investment into your security.” said Tyler Read, Founder and Senior Editor at Personal Trainer Pioneer
Use Anti-Virus Software to Keep Your Devices Clean
Often thought to be a waste of money, antivirus software is actually a great way to keep malware off your computer. “There are tons of additional services and devices you can implement in your home network to bolster your security. These things do cost some money, but will save you in the long run. Antivirus software and internet security will help you feel at ease with your sensitive work files, and will make your supervisors trust you and the systems you have in place more,” said Patricio Paucar, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at Navi.
For those that don’t know, malware stands for malicious software and can enter your computer when you click on links or visit sites that are not secure. “Malware isn’t always an emergency, but it can get really really annoying. These are the viruses that cause unwanted popups and activity on your computer. Antivirus software will help you detect the location of the malware and remove it from your computer,” said Dan Lewis of Convoy.
Centralize Your Companies File Storage
Companies should keep multiple records of their important documents, but having a singular location for file storage can save you tons of time and allows you to bolster your security there rather than spreading yourself and your information too thin. Better yet, to level up your game on advancing your cybersecurity, partner with a competitive managed IT service provider to safely and smoothly incorporate cloud solutions into your current set-up.
“Consider implementing a centralized storage unit for your company. With cloud-based solutions, this can be implemented very easily if all your employees understand the protocol of where to store sensitive files. This way, you can keep your company information secure and localized so you always know where to look.” said Datha Santomieri, Co-Founder and Vice-President of Steadily.
Passwords are fairly easy for hackers to gain access too, especially when they’re predictable. This is why it really is important to think critically about your password strength. “This may seem an obvious detail, but password strength is actually extremely important. Too many people use the same simple password for most of their logins, and nine times out of ten this is why their social media accounts get hacked. Somewhere outside of your computer, store a bank of passwords that you can use across your various service logins to keep yourself more secure. But make sure you write them down! The downside to this is that it’s easy to forget your login credentials the more complicated they are,” said Thomas Yuan, Head of Partnerships at SaneBox.
Be Aware of Phishing Scams and Video Conference Hacking
Phishing scams are attempts by hackers to get you to click or visit a website that installs a piece of malware. These became extremely common at the turn of the century, and they’ve only gotten harder to spot. “Be wary of scams! There are tons of new scamming routines circulating the internet these days. Newer, common scams usually come in the form of a text message or email with a link inside that installs a virus or in some way allows the hacker access to your device and the information on it. Be informed of phishing trends and watch out for any unrecognized contacts in your inbox or texts,” said Fred Gerantabee, Chief Experience Officer at Readers.com.
In some cases, hackers can also access your computer camera. This can be a concerning feeling for some, and investing in a higher quality camera may save you some headaches in the future. “Mistakenly taken as a paranoid action by some, hiding your webcam is actually a really smart idea. This is something that’s actually fairly easy to access for hackers, and investing in a slightly nicer webcam with a cover will save you the hassle of worrying. Plus it will look a whole lot more professional than sticking a piece of scotch tape over your webcam,” said Brooke Galko, Marketing Coordinator at PUR Cold Pressed Juice.
In general, we want to be aware that video conferencing and live streamed communications over networks are at risk of being accessed by malicious entities. Be aware of your security preferences before hosting your meetings! These can get really obnoxious, and will make your team and clients feel unsafe when joining meetings at your company. Part of cyber security is not just keeping information on lock, but creating a feeling of safety at your company. One of the biggest targets towards the beginning of the pandemic was ‘zoom bombing’ or hackers attempting to crash zoom meetings either as pranks or an attempt to get access to important information, financial or otherwise. Make sure your privacy settings are set correctly on all your work devices and video conferencing software. This is a potentially easy mistake to make, as many don’t know that you need to visit the zoom website to make many security changes prior to beginning the meeting. Double check your settings before jumping on that important call, you’ll be grateful you did!
Your remote employees are probably your most vulnerable link in the chain when it comes to cyber security. They may not be able to report any issues, but they can make themselves more secure by following some simple practices like using a VPN or separating work and personal technology at home. Furthermore, educate them about scams that could happen with their email address or social media accounts so they know how to spot what’s real and what should just be ignored. When you put these simple cybersecurity measures into place for your team members working remotely, you will have made sure that one of the weakest links is as safe as possible from outside attacks on all fronts. Make sure everyone knows how important this kind of safety really is!