Digital defence - keep your business safe online

Online security is an increasingly important concern for businesses of every size.

While big corporations can spend huge sums to protect themselves, small firms find themselves faced with significant threats, but armed with limited resources with which to fight them.

Thankfully, though, there are a few simple steps you can take to help ensure your business stays safe in a difficult digital world. Read about some of the main risk areas, and what they mean for your business.

Banking

Online banking is the area in which security concerns are highest. The prospect of having your bank account compromised is a terrifying one – but it is also a worryingly common occurrence. The rise of so-called ‘phishing’ attacks, in which users are tricked into handing over their details, has meant that many more business owners are falling victim to online banking fraud.

  • Look for the padlock. Only entrust your details to encrypted sites. Look for the padlock in your browser address bar to make sure you’re on the right site.
  • Don’t fall for phishing. Banks will never ask for personal details by email. If you receive a suspect message, forward it to your bank’s anti-fraud department.
  • Install an antivirus. Spyware poses a big threat when it comes to online banking. Make sure that your antivirus software is up to date.

Privacy

Privacy is a major worry for many internet users, both commercial and consumer. Virtually every website you use knows something about you, and many want to store information on your computer for future use. Separately, social networking sites like Facebook are becoming ever more intrusive, requesting more and more information with each new version.

  • Check your permissions. Use MyPermissions to control which bits of information social networking sites can access.

  • Understand cookies. Cookies are tiny files stored on your computer, which can be used for a range of reasons. Make sure you understand which cookies you are approving, and what they are doing.

  • Know the law. Businesses will soon have to comply with new European legislation on cookies. Read more about the changes.

Networks

Your own networks are also vulnerable to compromise. This doesn’t necessarily mean secret agents clambering into your office, Mission Impossible-style (although you might want to make sure your windows are secure just in case). With a rise in the number of people working remotely, and a steep increase in the amount of data being transferred every day, secure company networks are becoming increasingly important.

  • Build a firewall. An enterprise-strength firewall is an absolute necessity for any business network. Consider taking professional advice to make sure your needs are met.
  • Avoid portable storage. Flash drives can allow unwelcome bugs onto your network. Consider banning them, or limiting their use.
  • Consider VPN. If your employees need remote access, you’ll need to set up a secure ‘virtual private network’. Remember that you might require additional hardware for this.

Reputation management

The internet has opened up a world of possibilities for businesses – but it has also meant a brand new set of risks. Reputations can be ruined in hours online, and businesses of every size need to be alert to the risks and ready to protect themselves.

  • Monitor social media. Make sure you are keeping an eye on social media for mentions of your brand. Keep track with these analytics tools, and read some tips on social media crisis management.
  • Build an employee policy. Write a comprehensive policy setting out acceptable social media use by your employees. It should explain how social media is to be used in the business, and which employees are authorised to speak on your behalf. Read more about building a social media policy.
  • Be prepared to talk. Remember that social media is a conversation. If you encounter negative feedback, don’t ignore it – engage.

'Real-world' security

Finally, we were only half joking when we warned you about keeping your windows shut. While you’re unlikely to fall prey to secret agents, it is vitally important that you remember physical, as well as digital security.

  • Protect your servers. If you have your servers onsite, make sure that they are properly protected from theft, fire, and flood. If they’re offsite, make sure that you review your chosen provider’s safety policies regularly.
  • Make offsite backups. Backing up is vital – but it is equally important that your backups are kept away from the original data. You might choose to investigate cloud solutions to help you with this.
  • Limit access. Make sure that you operate on a ‘need-to’ basis. Access to data and equipment should be limited to those individuals who require it if you are to minimise risks.