Any business that uses computers or digital devices in the modern era could be susceptible to cyber attacks. A cyber attack is a malicious and deliberate attempt to breach the information system of a person or a business. Hackers use cyber attacks to gain access to information they are not authorised to see or to disable the computer or system they have hacked to harm the business or profit from it.
Around 54% of businesses reported cyber attacks in 2019. Despite this, it’s been reported that over 77% of businesses still do not have a cyber security incident response plan.
Many businesses store their information and data online using cloud service providers. These cloud servers may be accessed by unauthorised users if the business’s employees haven’t been following the proper preventative measures. Your business could benefit from learning how to prevent cyber attacks.
So here are 7 ways to keep your business safe from cyber-attacks.
1. Strong passwords and MFA
Your employees should be required to use strong passwords to access your business’s information system. Strong passwords usually contain at least 12 characters and feature a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters such as @#!$.
These passwords generally take much longer for hackers to crack and offer better protection for businesses. Many cloud service providers will require you to use a strong password to access your business’s data in the cloud, for added security.
Strong passwords are great, but for that extra layer of protection, you should configure multi-factor authentication (MFA). This requires users to verify their login using their phone or another method. Although this may seem like extra work, it safeguards your business against unauthorised login attempts. These are some applications, such as Xero, that have made MFA mandatory. If you’re unsure how to enable MFA, talk to a trusted IT support company.
If you want to improve your password management, then it’s worth considering a password manager.
2. Avoiding untrustworthy emails or websites
Employees ould be cautious and avoid opening emails from email addresses they find untrustworthy or don’t recognise. Some of these emails could be from hackers and contain viruses in their attachments.
Similarly, your employees should look out for illegitimate websites that are known to install malware on computers and devices unprompted. These websites are often hard to spot, but your employees can learn to recognise them with the right cyber awareness training courses.
You can fortify your business’s digital security by using a reliable anti-virus. A good anti-virus solution will scan your emails and system files for viruses and notify you if any are found. You should make sure to update your anti-virus regularly so that it can stop new threats.
There are many good anti-virus tools available which are free to use. However, many businesses may require the enhanced security and features that a paid anti-virus plan offers. You should pick a plan that offers the best security and features, at a price point that your business can feasibly afford.
4. Back-up your files
It may be impossible for a business to stay completely safe from cyber attacks. So you should take appropriate measures for dealing with the aftermath of a cyber attack.
Your business should back up its files at regular intervals to minimise loss of data following a cyber attack. Many cloud computing services offer to back up your files on the cloud. However, you should also make an effort to back-up your files yourself.
It may be handy for your business to retain an accessible back-up of your files in the event that your system is hacked or damaged. These backups will make it easier to rebuild as quickly as possible following a cyber-attack.
5. Remove spyware and malware
Spyware and malware can sometimes make it onto your business’ computers despite your best efforts. Malicious websites or programs will often install spyware and malware onto your computers stealthily. These can slow down your computers or even steal sensitive information.
Your computers should have good anti-spyware and anti-malware software installed that can identify and remove these threats. Similar to an anti-virus, these tools should run regular scans of your computers and be updated regularly to identify the latest spyware and malware that could be plaguing your devices.
6. Improve the security of your network
Hackers will often use a system’s network to gain access to sensitive business files. The security of your network could be your main line-of-defence in protecting your business from cyber-attacks. You should make sure to set up new network routers with strong passwords, and by using a secure and encrypted setup.
Many cloud computing services will ensure that the network they set up for you is secure and protected, but it’s always best to double check. After all, your network is the gateway to your business’s files and information.
7. Keep your operating system updated
You can also prevent cyber-attacks from getting through by keeping your operating system updated. Operating system providers include patches in their system updates which close exploitable loopholes that could be the target of new hacking methods.
Whenever a new hacking method is discovered, operating system providers identify the loophole being exploited, before rolling out a patch to stop hackers from getting in via that loophole.
These are just a few of the many ways in which you could keep your business safe from cyber-attacks. However, despite your best efforts, your business may still end up falling victim to cyber-attacks.
Hackers are always on the lookout for new and novel ways to get into your system. So, you should take a proactive approach and ensure that your employees are well trained to deal with cyber-attacks by making them undergo cyber awareness training.
In addition to this, you should also consider using cloud computing services that prioritise security. A good service provider will stay up to date with the best security and encryption methods for keeping your data safe.
Your approach should take into account both preventative measures, and measures for dealing with cyber-attacks that have already occurred, as they are going to continue being an issue for businesses in the future.
Andrew Bischof is the Owner/Director of Future Computers, a managed IT service providers in North Queensland. His dream of working in IT became a reality when he moved to Cairns and took over Future Computers in 2003. Since then, he has been providing IT and consulting services to SMEs in Cairns, Townsville and North Queensland. His goal is to provide clients with IT solutions that surprise, inspire and delight.