SMBs: It is Hackers v. You – Don’t Let Them Score

SMBs: It is Hackers v. You – Don’t Let Them Score

Selling stolen IDs and other personal data is a lucrative trade for hackers. They are always looking for sources where vital information is stored. As a small to midsize business you store your client’s personal information, collected from different sources, on your computers and servers. Your Point-of-sale (PoS) terminal and some website transactions can be completed by use of electronic banking, credit cards or debit cards only. Your customers have to key-in their pins or passwords to make payments. That information has to be saved. Also, depending on the kind of services or products you provide, you may be collecting Social Security numbers, addresses, driver’s license numbers and DOBs of your clients. Information that personal is as important as it can get. Any source of that information is like a gold mine for a hacker. All this means only one thing for you: A data security nightmare.

Here are the channels hackers can use to break into your IT infrastructure

  • Your website: Hackers have become very sophisticated in cyberattacks on websites. They can access specific information by targeting websites that have the information they are looking for. For example, if they want only financial information about their victims, they can use tools that will fish for the websites that carry that kind of information. Implementation of web-based applications has made it easier for cybercriminals to connect to your website database. They are able to find the loopholes and hack into systems. They can then access your customer’s personal information, allowing them to steal from your clients by committing credit card and bank fraud. Or they can just sell your client’s info on the Internet.
  • Your computers and servers: Your computers and servers are treasure-troves of information. By sending malware into your systems they can steal your admin passwords, and then login to your servers and other network devices. These hardware devices are the ultimate prize for cyber thieves because these devices not only hold important information about your clients, they also have all the information about your business and possibly about your vendors and associates. There is nothing about your business that these hackers don’t know. Imagine how devastating this attack can be.
  • Mobile devices used by your employees: If you are one of those entities that allow their employees to use their mobile devices to conduct business, you have another security dimension to worry about. You don’t know how secure their mobile phones, iPads, laptops or tablets are. You don’t know how hard or easy their passwords are to crack. Breach of security into those devices will lead hackers right into your networks where they can steal data at will.
  • Unsecure Wi-Fi network: Most businesses keep their Wi-Fi networks well protected, but unsecured Wi-Fi is an open invitation to cyber criminals. If your Wi-Fi network is not secure, hackers are one step closer to breaking into your systems without even trying.
  • Your PoS systems: PoS systems are the prime targets for hackers who want to commit financial fraud. Cyber thieves know that PoS systems that come with preloaded software can be hacked using an unsecured Wi-Fi network. This fraud has a direct impact on an individual’s finances because a hacker can make unauthorized credit card charges quickly and move on before anyone realizes what happened. Ruined credit can take years to mend.
  • Your emails: Email is another venue that hackers use to infect computers with malicious software. They send viruses that replicate themselves in the host computers, performing various tasks such as denial of service to the users of your systems, spamming your contacts and accessing data without authorization.

Summary: After reading this article you probably feel like you are in cyber warfare with hackers and your IT infrastructure is the battlefield. You are absolutely right. Hackers are relentless and they are devising new methods all the time to steal from businesses. But this is one fight you can’t let them win. Protecting client data is not just a moral obligation. You are legally bound by the privacy laws to protect this information by all means. Breach in data security can ruin your reputation, and the financial liability to meet legal obligations may become too much to sustain.

So how do you fight this war in which you have to make certain that there is only one winner? Outsource your IT managed services to professionals who will monitor your networks 24/7 from a remote location. Your in-house IT management team may be able to fix problems, but it is important that proactive solutions are in place in case there is data loss as a result of a breach. Managed services can create solid data backup & recovery plans that will have your systems up and running quickly, so you can reduce downtime and protect your revenue.

Business Disaster: What Threatens Small Businesses the Most?

Business Disaster: What Threatens Small Businesses the Most?

There are many threats to the integrity of a small business, and not all of them are as dramatic as a cyberattack or a hurricane. Every small business needs to do a risk assessment to determine all the threats that exist that could bring harm. External threats are the ones that get the the most attention. These can be big snowstorms or hurricanes that bring down power lines and network connections. They can also be man-made. A power outage due to a grid failure, or an act of terror. Also in this category are phishing scams, cyber attacks and data theft from external sources.

All of these are the ones that make the evening network news, and every business needs to plan how to handle them. However, there are some internal threats that can be just as serious, but are far less attention getting.

For example, human error. Stolen data can occur because someone forgot about changing their passcode, or they left a smartphone containing critical data on the bus. These aren’t nefarious acts, but they can still have serious consequences. Have you looked at how you might wipe clean a lost phone? What about the person who forgot to do a backup the day before a server failed?

Another area where human error can occur is a technical oversight. Perhaps an overworked tech who did not recognize the existence of a single point of failure in your IT infrastructure. To learn how outsourcing some tasks such as proactive management and security audits can solve these problems, see “Outsourcing Isn’t a Dirty Word: Meet Managed Services, Your IT Team’s New Best Friend – Managed Services”

Data Protection and Bring Your Own Device to Work

Data Protection and Bring Your Own Device to Work

BYOD refers to a firm’s policy of allowing employees to use their own personal phones, tablets and laptops for all their work applications.This is a pretty common policy, and it has many benefits, but it brings along risks. How are you addressing these risks?

Here are some of the issues raised by BYOD

  1. A lost device – If you issue company phones, you have the ability to remotely wipe the unit clean if it is lost or stolen. With employee’s personal devices, do you still have that ability. If not, your data is at risk.
  2. Software updates – Is the employee responsible for updating all the software and virus protection programs on their own devices? If that responsibility transfers to them, you are at the mercy of their willingness to keep track of such tedious tasks. If you accept responsibility for it, do you have the in-house staff to handle all the extra work?
  3. Back ups – with data being entered on many different devices, something must be done to ensure back up procedures are routinely followed.

In short, BYOD is probably an unavoidable approach to device management. It is unrealistic to expect people to carry around 2 different phones or tablets 24/7. But BYOD means extra work for the in-house staff of a small business. To learn more about these risks and a more affordable, comprehensive approach to BYOD Management, see our e-guide “Now you see it, There IT…Stays”.

Everyday Human Error Can Affect Data Protection

Everyday Human Error Can Affect Data Protection

Are you under the impression that data loss is all about putting up firewalls to protect against evil cyberattacks? Some of the biggest sources of data loss include sloppiness, human error, and just plain forgetfulness.

What are some of the unglamorous things that we do everyday that leave us vulnerable?

Passwords
Old or easy passwords are a good first example. Employees set up simple passwords that are easy to crack. More importantly, employees may share passwords, and many often fail to create new ones on a frequent basis. Both of these represent critical breakdowns of good data protection practices.

Emails
Another significant problem caused by bad judgment is the tendency of people to open phishing scams. Almost everyone now knows about the Nigerian who wants to send money to your bank account, but many new scams come along every day and people fall for them. This is such a serious source of virus infection that some companies now deliberately send out their own phishing email to teach workers not to open anything from an unknown source. (The employee who opens one of these gets a pop up screen that tells them they’ve been tricked and then offers guidelines for identifying bad emails.)

Browsing the Web
Bad websites. Yes, everyone has policies about internet use at work, but that doesn’t mean people pay attention and don’t visit places they shouldn’t. Most significantly, a lot of those “sites they shouldn’t visit” are far more likely to be infected than CNN, Ebay or Amazon!

Losing Your Belongings
And finally there is just old-fashioned forgetfulness. Phones left on a bar stool.Or the bus. Sigh. There isn’t much more to be said about this one.

To learn more about the risks that your employees pose to your business’s data integrity, see our e-guide “Now you see it, There IT…Stays”.

Disaster Recovery Plans: Do You Have One?

Disaster Recovery Plans: Do You Have One?

Disaster recovery and business continuity plans are issues that almost all small businesses fail to think about. More frequently, they decide they haven’t the resources to address such “unthinkables.”

If your business was down for 1-2 days or more, what costs would you incur?

  1. Lost revenues and lost productivity. These are obvious. You won’t make the money that you would have if you remained open. This is especially true if you provide a service. Services are inherently tied to time, and time cannot be re-created. Sure, you can work extra hours next week, but it won’t be a service provided at the time it was expected. However, even if you provide a product that can be purchased next week instead of today, a customer didn’t get it when they most wanted or needed it.

    There are other far more serious consequences of business downtime than just unsold goods and services. There are the intangibles that can’t be so easily measured but have long-term consequences.

  2. Helping the competition – You give your competition a real edge. Present clients and potential ones may go to a competitor while you are down. Not all will return. Your competitors now have ammunition against you to use in sales pitches.
  3. Employee frustration – Employees will carry the burden of the extra hours and stress of helping get things back together. That can lead to a lot of frustration, which, if things don’t get back to normal quickly, can damage long-term productivity. Most importantly, it can damage the respect they have for management (that means you). In general, they will recognize that you didn’t have the foresight and wisdom to anticipate the need to create disaster recovery and continuity plans. How can that not damage their trust and support for the company and you?
  4. Negative brand reputation –Your customers will also wonder how you couldn’t have cared enough to make plans to handle trouble. Think of the negative way a customer sees it. The event suggests a company that doesn’t think ahead. A client is not “off base” to feel angry that you didn’t care enough to make plans to support him if a disaster hit. Also, if you can’t handle disasters well, what else aren’t you handling properly?

These are just a few of the reasons everyone needs to consider disaster recovery. To learn more, see our e-guide “Staying Alive: The Definitive Guide to Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery for Small Businesses”.

Why Small Businesses Shouldn’t Avoid Making Disaster Recovery Plans.

 
 
Why Small Businesses Shouldn’t Avoid Making Disaster Recovery Plans.
 
Entrepreneurs and small businesses, especially ones that are fairly new, often don’t think about making plans to recover in case of a disaster. However, it is the smallest business that most likely has the fewest resources to fall back on in case of disaster.
 
Why does this happen?
  1. It isn’t on an entrepreneur’s radar – The challenge and hurdles of starting out are what drive small business owners. The excitement that comes with getting a new client or releasing a new product are what motivates them. To be honest, things like disaster recovery plans are a little dull and aren’t part of the exciting day-to-day hustle of running a company. As a result, these issues get put on the back burner.
  2. Planning tools can seem too complex – Ideas like “risk assessment” and “business impact analysis” can be intimidating. Many SMBs may just feel the whole area is overwhelming and leave it to another day.
  3. It is perceived to be unaffordable – Many owners may believe that putting disaster recovery plans into place involves a lot of additional spending on consultants, backup hardware and more software. That isn’t true. With cloud technology and the use of a managed service provider, disaster recovery doesn’t need to be an intimidating or expensive proposition.