Small Businesses and Network Security

We frequently read in the news about large businesses whose IT networks have been hacked or who have been the victims of ransomware.  The threat of cybercrime is a serious and growing problem and it is critical that small business owners secure their computer networks from cyber-attacks, hacking, and other unauthorized intrusions.  Here are some recommendations: 

1.      Be sure to change the default settings, including the password, for your router.  Leaving the default settings leaves the router vulnerable to potential hackers.

2.      When using public Wi-Fi always use a virtual private network (VPN), which secures your computer's internet connection by encrypting data being sent and received.  This will prevent confidential data from being accessed by hackers and other unauthorized users.

3.      Enable and use two-factor authentication for additional protection when accessing websites.  Two-factor authentication is a security feature that requires a user provide not only their username and password, but also requires some piece of information that only the user knows.  Often the additional piece of information is a code or PIN sent to a smartphone.

4.      Use complex passwords which include a mix of letters (including capitals), numbers, and special characters (i.e. &, %, or #).  And be sure to change passwords frequently.   Many businesses make use of password managers, like LastPass and KeePass, to save their passwords.

5.      Be watchful for fraudulent emails that appear to be from legitimate organizations or companies, contain suspicious hyperlinks or request personal information.  These types of cyberattacks are called Phishing and are an attempt to obtain confidential information, passwords, and usernames.

6.      Many cyberattacks involve malware so be sure to make use of antivirus software to keep viruses and malware out of your computer systems.  These are affordable solutions, but they must be kept updated and run on a regular basis.

7.      Ensure that your computer operating systems and browsers are up to date.  This includes downloading and installing any new security patches that your operating system needs once vulnerabilities are detected.

8.      Always back up critical information to a server, external hard drive, or cloud storage.