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Cyber security, or information security (IS), is the application of security measures to protect against unauthorized access, destruction, disclosure, or modification of information or data assets by ensuring their confidentiality, integrity, and availability. While it may seem like common sense that you should keep all of your company’s sensitive documents safe from intruders and damage, there are many things you can do to fortify your business’s cyber defenses and ensure the safety of your customer’s personal information (PI). This guide will cover some of the basics of cyber security you need to know in order to keep your company safe from cyber attacks.

You have probably heard the term cyber security more and more recently, whether it was on the news or just in conversation with your friends. This can be disconcerting, especially if you own a business and you don’t know what to do to protect your information from hackers. Luckily, cyber security doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, there are several things you can do to ensure that your company is well protected from cyber attacks. Here are some things every business owner should know about cyber security.

A growing number of businesses are recognizing the importance of cyber security, and even small companies now have some kind of protection in place to prevent malware attacks from costing them tens of thousands of dollars (if not more). But just having some kind of protection in place isn’t enough – you need to actively manage your system to ensure you stay protected as new threats emerge. This guide on cyber security will help you do just that, by giving you the knowledge you need to identify your current weaknesses and prevent attacks from ever happening in the first place.

01. Installing Updates

Making sure your devices are fully up-to-date is one of the easiest ways to improve your security posture. Updates don’t just fix software bugs, they also patch vulnerabilities that could be used by an attacker—just make sure you keep everything updated and running in a supported version of its OS. If you can keep your security measures up-to-date automatically, do it! One great way to do so is with products like Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business. Update regularly! It’s better than nothing.


02. Using Strong Passwords

Hackers use a variety of methods to try and gain access to accounts, including password guessing, malware-infected links, phishing for information and social engineering. To protect your business from cyberattacks, you must use strong passwords—and make sure you are using different passwords for every site that requires one. That way, if hackers compromise any single account, they won’t be able to get into any others. To make creating a strong password easier, set rules or policies within your company that require multiple words combined with numbers or symbols so each new password is unique and nearly impossible for an attacker to guess correctly on their first try.


03. Avoid Opening Attachments

Cyber-attacks often start with a seemingly innocuous email—one that seems more personal than professional. Cybercriminals may ask you to review an important document or one that appears as though it is related to your company or industry. Opening attachments can infect computers with viruses and malware, so make sure you never open attachments unless you are expecting them. And remember: If an email doesn’t seem right, then it probably isn’t. Delete emails from senders you don’t know and don’t hesitate to let IT personnel at your business know if something doesn’t seem quite right.


04. Use Unique Passwords Everywhere

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: A strong password is your most valuable asset. It protects access to your online banking account, email, social media accounts, and even your health records. Hackers know that, too. This is why they try—and often succeed—to steal passwords from large groups of people at once through attacks like phishing scams, malware or other methods. To protect against cyber-attack, you must ensure every account you use has a unique password that isn’t used anywhere else.


05. Keep Sensitive Data Off Cloud Storage

To secure your sensitive data, don’t put it in a cloud storage solution. Storing your data on a third-party server opens up an easy attack vector for criminals who are interested in getting their hands on your private info. It also means that you have no idea how well that company is protecting your information—or even if they have access to it at all. For example, one of 2014’s most famous breaches occurred when hackers used stolen login credentials from a third-party vendor to gain access to US Investigations Services and steal 24,000 FBI files.


06. Update Operating Systems

Although it can be inconvenient, updating your computer’s operating system is one of the best ways to help protect your computer against malware. Make sure you update as soon as a new version is available. For example, Microsoft released an update in March 2015 that addressed several security flaws with Internet Explorer. Google rolled out updates in October 2014 that fixed dozens of Android vulnerabilities. Many businesses are still running older versions and are at risk of having their private information leaked to criminals. Be sure you keep your operating systems up-to-date so that you’re protected from known security threats and risks.


07. Exercise Caution on Public WiFi Networks

There are many benefits of using public WiFi hotspots; convenience, cheap access and increased productivity, just to name a few. However, we urge you to exercise caution when conducting business online via public WiFi networks. Even if a network is password-protected, there’s no guarantee your information is secure. Hackers can easily sniff network traffic and use readily available tools for obtaining passwords that haven’t been encrypted. If you need high-level security for sensitive data transmissions over public WiFi, consider using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).


08. Install Malware Protection Software

If you don’t already have anti-virus software installed on your business computers, it’s time to start installing it. Malware—or malicious software—can infect your computer in ways that range from annoying pop-ups and sluggish performance to serious viruses that can destroy entire systems. Malware is a growing threat: According to a study from B2B research firm Ponemon Institute, 30 percent of U.S. respondents say they were affected by cybercrime in 2013, compared with 19 percent in 2012. Today’s malware is also sneakier than ever: New types (such as scareware) are designed specifically for small businesses and are not just being marketed toward individual consumers.


09. Conclusion

The best way to protect your business is through data backup and storage. Data backup protects against physical loss or damage, natural disasters (fire, floods), and even disgruntled employees. This simple process can save you a lot of time, money and hassle. A good rule of thumb is to have three copies of everything: two on-site in case one copy gets damaged by accident or disaster, plus one off-site that’s housed in a secure location such as a fireproof safe or your office’s backup center. Ensure that all copies are always up-to-date!

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