security recommendations

As a business owner, you are probably increasingly aware of just how reliant you are on the internet for the successful running of your business. It’s a very powerful tool it does require some precaution.

Online privacy is key for the successful running of your business as it will make sure that your valued information is safe and sound and prevent exploitation. Online privacy is a pertinent issue right now and should be taken seriously.

What Is Online Privacy

To put it simply, online privacy refers to the protection of your personal information in an online environment.

As we browse the web, data is constantly being collected. Some of it one might argue is necessary. Even if it isn’t absolutely necessary, it can make things more convenient. We can all agree that not having to type in our usernames on our favorite website each time is quite convenient.

However, in many ways the data that is collected and how it is used can be viewed as encroaching on privacy. For example, most of us have probably experienced targeted ads. Yes, the typical scenario where after searching for a product we are interested in, we are bombarded with ads about the exact same product.

This is only scratching the surface so far. These scenarios are all in relation to legitimate companies. What about criminals who seek to forcefully access our information in order to disadvantage us for their gain? Stolen credit card numbers, identity theft, you name it! These guys will make you think seriously about your online security.

The situations we have examined so far are all slanted toward the experience of an individual. You should not get complacent as a business owner, however. Online privacy should be taken seriously by you too. Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly more common and you should be aware of them and take whatever precautions you can against them.

Damage caused by cyber attacks for companies in 2016

2016 has been quite a year as it relates to cyber attacks. Organizations which you would never have imagined being hacked have been compromised which drives home the importance of constant vigilance as it relates to online security.

1.US Navy cyber attack

On October 27, 2016 the Social Security Numbers of over 100 thousand current and former members of the navy were compromised. You can read more about the security breach notification of sailors’ here

2. Mail Chimp cyber attack

Even the widely popular email newsletter service has been victimized in 2016. Mailchimp was compromised in November, 2016 and emails were sent out under the guise of being sent legitimately. Messages were sent in an attempt to take advantage of persons subscribed to various companies which make use of the service.

3. Dyn cyber attack

You may not have heard about Dyn before. However, if you tried to access certain popular websites from the eastern part of the U.S. on October 21, 2016 you will probably have discovered how important this company is.

Dyn is an Internet Performance Management company which basically ensures that web traffic runs smoothly. Companies such as Reddit, Spotify and Twitter make use of the company’s services and were inaccessible to many customers during the attack. See more about the attack here.

How can you protect yourself?

Hackers will target companies indiscriminately for various motivations. For this reason, being proactive (always) as it relates to online privacy is key.

What makes things worse is that companies rely heavily on the internet to carry out business. Point of sales terminals make use of the internet, purchase requisitions are carried out online, we communicate with emails and even security cameras are connected these days.

Protecting yourself is key yes but I am by no means suggesting that you abandon the conveniences that are offered by all of the awesome online services available to your business. So what exactly can you do?

Here are some key points to consider for protecting your information in the online arena.

1. Encrypt messages

In order to avoid being exploited through email, it is advised that you encrypt your emails in order to protect sensitive information. Looking at PGP encryption is probably a good place to start. You can find out more about this here.

2. Use firewalls

Firewalls restrict network connections on your business’ computers. Only certain connections will be allowed. This means that if setup properly a firewall is capable of screening malicious activity.

If you have over 10 computers you may want to consider a hardware firewall solution which would protect all of the computers on your network. It’s probably best to check with your IT consultant before making such a purchase but CISCO usually offers effective solutions.

3. Use a VPN

VPNs protect your identity when carrying out online activity. They essentially make it very difficult for prying eyes to track your online activity. They can protect you from malicious activity such as man-in-the-middle attacks.

A man-in-the-middle attack relies on taking advantage of the communication equipment being used to transmit information between parties. A VPN will mask your identity and protect you from possible exploitation. There are plenty of providers nowadays, to find out which VPN service will work best for you see here.

4. Properly train your employees and have protocols in place for the handling of digital information

You could have the best equipment and software possible for securing your online privacy and with these things you will fare well. However, this can all be nullified by unsafe activities carried out by you or your employees.

Yes, the weakest links in your security chain are you and your employees. Guidelines should be put in place on how to conduct online activities as safely as possible in order to avoid exposing sensitive information.

Final Thoughts

With relevant policies and guidelines in place as well as appropriate hardware and software solutions, you will have taken a giant step in securing your online privacy.

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Monika is the Head of business development at Fried.com - a website dedicated to educate individuals on how to protect their online privacy through comprehensive guides and tutorials. She is passionate about online privacy, cyber security and maintaining a "free web" for the entire globe.

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