Hacker Proof Your Business in a Few Easy Steps
If you own a business, cybercriminals consider you and your customers targets. Hacker Proof your business and don’t be an easy target.
Over half of U.S. businesses experienced a cyberattack between 2016 and 2017, a survey by HSB found. Among businesses that were hacked, 72 percent spent over $5,000 per attack on investigations or recovery. Websites are a favorite target of hackers, with attacks on sites increasing 32 percent in 2016, according to Google.
A successful cyberattack can be devastating to your company’s data, finances, and reputation.
Many businesses fall subject to “denial of service” attacks in which the servers are overloaded, rendering the site and service it provides unusable. Similarly, hackers are using a new type of particularly nasty malware called ransomware that locks up computers and sites until the owner pays a fee to regain access. Many websites, particularly e-commerce sites, are also at high risk of being the victims of brute-force attacks, where hackers use varying methods to gain passwords, access the site and steal the information stored within. This is particularly detrimental for online shops as they handle credit card information and other highly personal data.
Why Is Hacker Proofing Important?
There are three ways that suffering a malicious hack or cyberattack can irreversibly affect your business. Firstly, you are putting yourself at risk. If hackers can gain the right information and gain access to your admin panel or personal details, then you risk losing your own personal information and even the profits you’ve made from the business.
The other people who are in direct risk are your customers. Any website handling personal information and sensitive data has to be extremely stringent with their security systems because, if any customers becomes the victim of theft via your site, your will immediately lose the trust of your users which will be financially devastating to the business.
This brings us onto the last point: any attack, no matter what type is it, is detrimental to a businesses reputation. Whether it’s simply some bad code that causes unsavory pop-ups when viewing the website or it’s a full-blown data theft operation, once users notice there’s something suspicious going on, there’s no way they’re going to make purchases via that online store.
And once your reputation has taken a battering, it could be detrimental for your business as a whole.
What Is Hacker Proofing?
There are many different types of attack like the ones listed above that your website could fall victim to. Whether it’s a malicious hacker trying to shut down your webpage, a cybercriminal attempting to intercept data for identity theft or just an unfortunate run-in with a rogue piece of malware, hack-proofing aims to minimize the risk and repercussions of these problems.
Here are three key elements to hacker proof your business.
1. Hacker Proof Your Internal Network
The first front that needs to be defended against hackers is your company’s internal network. With mobile devices playing such a prominent role in today’s business communications, a company culture that includes a strong BYOD security policy is essential, says Information Age reporter Andrew Ross. Requiring workers to select smartphones with up-to-date security features, such as on-device malware detection, will help keep employee devices from becoming points of vulnerability. Smartphones should have lock screens, firewalls, encryption, and remote wiping capability enabled. Employees should only download apps from official sources, and all apps and operating systems should be kept current with the latest security patches. Segregating business and personal data with a partition will help keep devices secure in the event employee devices are lost or stolen.
It’s also important to protect your network connection. Having workers connect through an encrypted virtual private network will help keep hackers from intercepting data transmitted over your network. Requiring two-factor authentication will help ensure that only authorized parties are able to log onto your network.
Training your employees to follow safe email and web browsing practices is also critical for protecting your network. Employees should be trained not to open attachments from unknown parties or click on suspicious links.
2. Hacker Proof Your Website
If you run a small website as a hobby or business, you probably don’t think hackers would take a second glance at it—until one day you wake up, and your entire site is trashed. The fact is, many small business websites run on content management systems like WordPress; which hackers love because the native install leaves your site wide open to a variety of easy target hacks.
You may not even have data that’s valuable to a hacker, but sometimes they do it for fun, or more likely, they do it because they hope to add your server to a malicious botnet that sends viruses out into the world. The Internet security company Sophos reports that 30,000 websites (large and small) get hacked every day. The only way to avoid issues with hackers is to take matters into your own hands.
Protecting your website is another important line of defense. The most common way hackers breach websites is by compromising passwords, according to Google. To prevent this, Google recommends using a strong password that is hard to guess and not using the same password across multiple services. Using a password manager can help automate this strategy.
Outdated or insecure software can also expose your site to risk. Make sure you implement all security updates promptly, and avoid plug-ins and themes that are not being kept updated by their developers.
Another bad security policy is using an HTTP connection instead of an encrypted HTTPS connection. To protect payments from your customers, have payments processed off-site through a secure provider such as PayPal instead of processing payments directly on your own site.
a) Stay on Top of Software Updates
Web servers use many types of scripts and software, all of which need to be updated. In most cases, your Web hosting company keeps the operating system on your server up to date. The only exception to this rule is if you have an unmanaged server, which leaves up-keep entirely in your hands. Go with the latest stable release and any security updates the developer makes available. You also want to keep scripts updated, especially popular ones such as WordPress. They’re widely used, so hackers focus on breaking into those scripts to maximize the amount of damage they do.
b) Change Passwords Frequently
Even if your Web server doesn’t get compromised directly, other sites that have your login information might. If you use the same username and password across multiple sites, you’re going to have a bad time if they try to use it on your server account and end up gaining access. Change passwords monthly or more in order to thwart these kinds of attacks. Password managers make this process easier than you might assume.
c) Lock Down Folder Permissions
Some scripts like asking for far more folder permissions than they actually need. Lock down all of your Web server folders as much as possible. Don’t allow auto-updating scripts if they require a wide open folder to perform the process. Look for folders with file permissions set to 777. This allows anyone to read and write to the folder with the appropriate method, and it’s easy for hackers to inject their scripts and code into open folders.
d) If You’re Hacked
The first thing to do is inform your Web hosting company, so they can take appropriate measures to secure your server. If you have an unmanaged server, you still want to tell your host, as they are probably more than happy to help you out (if only to stop the server from infecting the rest of their network).
Once you’ve secured the server and cleaned it out, keep an eye out for identity theft problems. Hackers can use customer data and your personal data to sign up for credit cards, utilities and apartments in your name. You don’t want to have an unknown bill coming to you years later or debt collectors pounding on your door.
Avoiding the havoc a hacker can inflict on your E-Commerce site is something all store owners want to do, follow these additional easy steps to hacker proof your E-Commerce Site.
As the popularity of e-commerce continues to rise, many merchants are taking their businesses online. The increased reach and ease of purchase make it a great way to expand shops and increase sales. However, when creating these sites, there is one thing that business owners regularly overlook—the security.
Protecting yourself from hacks may seem like a time-consuming and complicated pursuit, but it’s essential for anyone who wants to run a successful online business. If your website isn’t properly secure and hack-proof, then the potential for disaster is enormous!
The time it will take to rebuild your site and your reputation once you’ve suffered an infiltration will take a lot longer and be much more stressful than taking the time to protect your business in the first place. These three easy steps are a great place to start to make sure your e-commerce site is completely hack-proof.
Step 1: Protect Yourself
The most important place to start when looking at securing an online business is with yourself. This is because it’s very easy to infect your website via problems and viruses with the computer that you administrate it from. This can easily be resolved by installing a good firewall and anti-virus software. Both of these programs regularly perform in-depth checks of the health of your computer and monitor traffic that’s moving around and entering from the internet. By keeping your computer clean and risk-free, you can ensure your website isn’t at risk.
Another important point to protect is your internet connection. Particularly because anyone working online is likely to update and check their website when out and about and using public WiFi. Unfortunately these public networks are extremely insecure as they allow your data to fly around unprotected and visible to any prying eyes. Fortunately, you can easily resolve this by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN, once active, mimics a private connection, which encrypts your data between the device and the VPN server before accessing the public network. This means you can administrate your blog securely wherever you are.
Step 2: Get The Right Credentials
Due to the importance of online security for any businesses handling purchase transactions, there are many different organizations that provide tests to ensure that your security system is up to scratch. The PCI-DSS (The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) has been established for any merchants who use online credit card payments. On their website you can take a self-assessment test, which establishes the success of your security and allows you to work with the Security Standards Council to improve any elements of weakness.
Similarly, establishing an SSL (secure sockets layer)—which keeps data encrypted between the web server and website—and displaying an SSL seal is a great way to incite trust from users as the symbol is internationally recognized and trusted. Many ready-made e-commerce platforms, such as BigCommerce and Shopify, come with a built in layer and are a great way to ensure security for less tech-savvy merchants. There are also many independent organizations who will provide a “penetration” test, in which they target the site as a hacker would and see if they can gain entry.
Step 3: Stay Up-To-Date
(this is important – that’s why we’re touching on it again)
Perhaps the most important, and often overlooked, step to take for long-time e-commerce merchants is to ensure that you are staying up-to-date. It’s easy to assume that, once you’ve established your security systems, you will be protected indefinitely, but this is not the case. The online landscape is constantly changing; new hacks are being developed, and new security holes are being discovered. This means that a software or system that was once completely reliable can become obsolete very quickly.
Because of this it’s essential to update any programs you use on a regular basis; this refers to anything from your website host or browser to your computer’s operating system. Many updates usually contain security solutions and vulnerability patch-ups that past versions did not contain, so failing to do this could result in disaster. It’s also important to keep yourself up-to-date with the latest threats. There are many forums and blogs that offer new and relevant information about potential new hacks and risks to watch out for, so keeping in tune with the online communities is a great way to keep yourself protected.
Create a Comprehensive Plan
A comprehensive cybersecurity policy should encompass both your internal network and your website. It should also include a backup plan so you can recover rapidly in response to a breach without disruption to your business. Following these guidelines will help keep your customers’ data secure and keep your business safe from cybercrime.
Have a Backup Plan
While taking these types of precautions will greatly reduce your risk of being hacked, no business is immune to hacking, and it’s important to have a contingency plan in the event that your site or your company’s internal network is breached. If an employee device is lost or stolen, immediately have any company data on the device remotely wiped. Subscribing your employees to an identity theft protection service can give you an early heads-up to a potential breach of your network so you can take appropriate recovery measures. Offering identity protection services to your customers can also be a way to demonstrate your commitment to security or restore goodwill after a breach.
Another important preemptive step is backing up your data, which will help you recover in the event of a disaster such as a ransomware attack. You can automate your data backup process by scheduling automated backups to an external hard drive and a cloud backup service.
Although securing your business and website may seem too overwhelming to pursue, it’s definitely an essential use of your time. The points outlined above are easy to implement and will most certainly help hacker proof your business and your customers.