By Bill Carey, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development, Siber Systems Inc.
Anyone who’s watched a news broadcast or scanned the headlines lately knows that hacking is a massive and growing issue. Data breaches at large companies like Target, Sony and Home Depot have caused fallout for customers, as have hacking incidents at government agencies like the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which affected more than 21 million people.
But smaller businesses are just as vulnerable — perhaps even more so since they typically have less robust security systems in place. Hackers are looking for targets of opportunity everywhere, including individual consumers and small to mid-sized businesses. You don’t have to wait around to become a statistic though; there are steps you can take right now to reduce the risk of cybercrime at your business. Here are five ways to thwart hackers:
- Beef up your passwords: Everyone knows passwords are the first line of defense, but too many people use simple, hackable passwords. Make it a requirement at your company to use eight-character or longer passwords that contain both upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols. It takes a hacker about two minutes to crack a five-character, all-lowercase password. A strong password is exponentially more difficult to crack.
- Use a different password for each site and change it frequently: People tend to use the same password for multiple sites because it’s convenient for them. Unfortunately, it’s also convenient for hackers, who can gain access to every registered site by cracking a single password. Your company’s cyber safety policy should require users to create a unique password for every registered site and change it every 30 to 60 days.
- Log out of computers before leaving them unattended: In the workplace, employees come and go from their workstations, often leaving their laptop or desktop logged in to secure sites. That’s a big mistake since it takes only seconds for someone to steal the absent employee’s log-in credentials. Make sure employees are aware of the risk and understand the importance of logging out of secure sites — even if they’ll only be away for moment.
- Set log-in credentials on mobile devices: Smartphones and tablets can do virtually anything a computer can do today, yet it’s not unusual for employees to neglect to set up log-in credentials on their mobile devices. Make sure all devices require a password or PIN for anything other than answering incoming phone calls or calling 911. Also discourage employees from saving passwords for sites they visit on mobile devices, which makes accessing secure accounts as simple as cracking one PIN.
- Think about using a password manager: It’s no secret why people don’t use strong passwords and change them frequently enough — doing so on your own is a hassle. But convenience isn’t a good excuse for lax security. A well-designed password manager can ensure that employees use strong passwords for each site and change them frequently — all without requiring them to remember multiple passwords. It’s a great way to beef up security without trading off convenience since employees only have to remember one master password.
Cybercrime is a serious and growing issue at companies of all sizes, all around the world. Hackers are also getting more sophisticated, using malware to streamline the hacking process and gain access to valuable data. But there are steps you can take right now to strengthen security. By following these five tips, you can improve security and keep your data safer.