Cybercriminals have been around since 1878 and while we’ve gotten smarter in how to stop them, they have, too.
A hacker used to be someone who was unauthorized to gain personal information. However, it has now transformed into being an unwarranted user, meaning that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a person, but can now be technology itself.
No matter what you do, the threat of hackers gaining your private business information is still there and always will be. Whether you’re just starting up a new business or have had one for a while, it’s important to know how to protect your business from cyber-attacks.
How To Prevent Hackers From Accessing Your Business Information
Despite there being no full-proof way to avoid hackers completely, there are ways to prevent them from gaining your private business information. While there is a multitude of ways to go about this, the best practices happen to be the quickest and easiest ways.
1. Secure Your Passwords
While securing your passwords is the most repeated piece of advice, it is one of the best ways to ensure you don’t get hacked.
Having various passwords for different accounts can help decrease your chances of getting cyber-attacked. You can even try to use numbers, letters, and symbols within your passwords to make your password more secure.
Two-factor authentication is another useful way to keep your passwords safe and only takes a few extra minutes.
2. Employee Training
A successful ransomware assault on a small business is often caused by a lack of cybersecurity understanding among employees. With this in mind, it is important to make sure that all employees are aware of the dangers of cyber attacks as well as how to look out for them.
With there being various types of training out there, it is hard to choose what is the best fit for you and your company. U.S. Small Business Administration hosts a multitude of cybersecurity events for small businesses. These are a perfect way to educate your team on the importance of cybersecurity and help prevent your company from falling victim to it.
Other training available include the National Cybersecurity Alliance which helps out small business owners with in-person and virtual training so you have the option and availability to attend.
3. Avoid Distrustful Links or Attachments
As technology has grown, so have hackers. While suspicious emails used to be easy to catch and delete, they have gotten more clever and harder to spot. These can include but are not limited to:
- Emails from what seems to be your peers or manager.
- Texts from random numbers.
- Phone calls.
If you are unsure about the legitimacy of links or attachments, it is better to be safe and ignore them.
4. Download Antivirus Software
One of the best ways to keep your business from being hacked is to download antivirus software. Antivirus applications examine your computer for viruses and other potentially hazardous things and safely remove it.
These tools can help you save a lot of time and worry and allow you to focus on watching your business thrive. However, keep in mind that you need to carefully review each one and decide which is best for you and your company while also looking at what will help keep you best protected.
5. Avoid Public Wifi
We’ve all used public Wifi before. You are in a Starbucks or at the airport where you are only getting one bar of service on your device. It is easy. All they ask for is your email and that you agree to their Terms & Conditions that you never look over.
What no one warns you about using public Wifi is that they now can see every site that you visit. While this may not seem like a huge issue, it allows hackers to put themselves in between you and the Wifi, leading to a potential cyber-attack.
Even though it’s easy and convenient to use public Wifi, a great alternative to ensure your safety is to get a VPN, a virtual private network. These allow you to still have the internet, but with an added layer of security.
All of these are only a fraction of what techniques you can use to protect your business from cyber-attacks. Other notable ways that were not mentioned include:
- Mobile device security.
- Back up your data.
- Update your operating systems.
- Controlling access.
Types of Hackers
Now knowing how to prevent your business from being hacked, it’s just as important to recognize the type of hackers, what they are looking for and how big of a threat they are.
1. Black Hat Hackers
Black hat hackers are the definition of your typical cyber-criminal. They are seeking your personal information using techniques such as ransomware.
With your private information, they profit off of it by selling it either back to you or to someone else so they can steal and use your data. They tend to target your regular, everyday people as well as businesses as it is easiest to gain access to their devices.
2. Green Hat Hackers
While green hat hackers aren’t as big of a threat as black hat hackers, they are just as capable of gaining access to your network. Known as “hackers-in-training,” they are still developing their skills and knowledge with the hopes to become a black hat hacker in the future, practising constantly.
As their goal is to eventually become a black hat hacker, they target a similar demographic with everyday people and businesses, putting smaller businesses at risk.
3. Script Kiddies
Script Kiddies may not be as advanced or dedicated as much as the others. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look out and be aware of them.
Rather than coming up with their own hacking techniques, they copy from others such as green or black hat hackers and use it as their own. Targeting internet users and businesses, they can profit off of your stolen information without you even noticing.
4. Elite Hackers
Elite hackers have the skill and experience to create new cyber attack methods from scratch. Probably one of the most dangerous types of cyber criminals, they have the freedom to choose what type of hacker they want to be each day.
They can steal private, sensitive information and breach complicated networks as they target businesses and everyday users.
5. Botnet Hackers
Precoding minions, botnet hackers can take control of your entire computer in seconds. With what they’ve gathered from your device, they will then sell your information on the dark web, profiting from the entire process.
As they target businesses and everyday users, they can easily gain access to devices if not protected correctly.
Knowing the types of hackers that you are vulnerable to and what they are capable of will help you prevent being cyberattacked. While these are only a handful of types of cyber criminals that target small businesses, other common hackers you should be aware of include:
- Malicious insiders.
- Grey hat hackers.
- White hat hackers.
- Gaming hackers.
Techniques They Use
With the vast amount of hackers, there is also a multitude of techniques they use to hopefully gain access to your business’s information.
Phishing is one of the most popular techniques used today by cybercriminals. This can be in the form of an email, chat, or website that is impersonating and oftentimes, very similar to the real thing they are replicating.
These often have a sense of urgency containing messages from major corporations and can even include real logos and brandings to convince you.
Baiting is exactly what it sounds like. Cybercriminals send something either digital or physical that is meant to be left for someone to “find.”
As soon as they take the bait, whether it is physically taking something like a flash drive or clicking on a download, the hacker now has complete access to your device and malicious software takes over.
While this is no longer the traditional type of cyberattack, it still does happen today. Tailgating occurs when someone who is unwarranted enters the building of what company they are aiming to hack.
This can easily be done by an employee holding the door open as a polite gesture, unknowingly. From there, they can access a company computer and import software that allows them to gain your information.
Pretexting is similar to Phishing in the way that the cyber-criminal is impersonating someone or something. They tend to send an email, pretending to be the manager or someone higher up, asking for private information to complete a task.
While it may not come directly from the correct email, they do have the ability to create emails similar and gain access to everyone in the company.
No matter how or what type of hacker, small businesses are at the highest risk of being cyberattacked. Without the proper knowledge and caution, it can cost you thousands, if not millions of dollars to gain your information back.
Even though you may think it won’t happen to you, there is a high chance that it can without you even knowing. It doesn’t hurt to take precautions and follow these tips and suggestions to help protect you and your business.
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Eve Miller is a content writing intern from Orange County, CA. Majoring in journalism and public relations at Chico State, she has been able to cover a variety of topics through her writing. In her spare time, Eve loves to stay active by surfing, playing soccer, weight lifting, and also enjoys baking. To learn more, connect with Eve on LinkedIn.