If you’re just starting out in business, you probably think you’re too small for black-hat hackers to mess with. Yet according to Symantec, 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses, while a January 2016 NY Times article says up to 60% of all online attacks target small and midsize businesses.
It’s not just your product data that can be compromised—it could be your clients’ information, your bank accounts, your credit cards, or even your customers’ credit cards. Any of these can be disastrous as you begin your business, or as you strive to instill trust and confidence in your existing company and in your product and services.
And even if you build a robust information security system in your office, your data can get hacked while you travel. According to Christopher Elliot, a consumer advocate and editor at large for National Geographic Traveler, rental cars (computers on wheels), charging stations at the airport and “free” Internet hot spots in your hotel lobby can open your data to the “bad guys.”
Of course, you may be thinking good protection on all these fronts is too expensive for your small business to afford. But don’t make that mistake! There are plenty of affordable options for protecting your company out there.
Here are 5 inexpensive ways to protect yourself, your employees, your startup, or your small or medium sized business:
1. Make your passwords secure—use a password app. (Free and paid)
It’s hard to think up truly random passwords. It’s even harder to remember them. A password app makes both those tasks a breeze.
LastPass and Dashlane offer free and paid versions for both MacOS and Windows. Both apps protect your passwords and make it easy to access your account from devices you trust.
2. Have all employees encrypt their hard drives with built-in programs. (Free)
Hacking isn’t just about illicitly accessing your data through the web—it can also be more immediate. Someone can simply steal one of your office computers and have access to a trove of valuable data.
That’s why all your employees should encrypt their data so that it’s only accessible with a password. Both Mac and Windows have built-in functions that accomplish this. Mac users should turn on File Vault in “System Preferences.” Windows users should use “BitLocker.”
3. Don’t use text messages—use a messaging app. (Free)
Messages you send over text are vulnerable to hacking. Instant messaging apps provide end-to-end encryption to make sure conversations about financial information or intellectual property are truly private.
WhatsApp and LINE are both great free options. You can also use them for voice calls, saving you money on your phone bill as well.
4. Set your operating system to auto-update. (Free)
Companies are constantly offering updates that enhance the security of apps and operating systems they build. Have your employees set all company devices to update automatically to ensure you are never unnecessarily vulnerable to attacks.
5. Secure your internet with a VPN (Virtual Private Network). (Paid)
When you use the internet in public places, you are exposed to other people on the same wireless network. Using a VPN on your laptop and phone encrypts your internet data and protects you from data thieves. With a VPN you are assured of secure communication.
Bottom line: You do not have to spend a lot of money to make sure your startup or your small or medium sized business is protected against constant hacking threats! Sometimes it’s knowing where and when you and your employees are in the highest danger, and then taking simple steps and creating good habits to prevent the worst from happening.