Whether you lead a Fortune 500 company or small business, there’s a good chance that software, the internet, and/or point-of-sale terminals play an important role in day-to-day operations. You may purchase components online, log transactions in accounting software, and take orders via your website. Customers who swipe credit and debit cards trust you with sensitive information. While each of these actions can make doing business much more convenient and profitable, technology also introduces serious risks. Securing your digital resources is essential to help guard against hackers, viruses, and data theft.

Here are eight helpful tips to help protect your business against digital threats that can damage your company’s balance sheet and reputation.     Tweet This

1. Secure Your Wireless Network

If your wireless network is not secure, anyone within range of its signal can browse the web on your bandwidth, or, worse yet, infiltrate your systems. Consider taking the steps below to secure your router when setting up a network. You can also go back and change settings if your network is already up-and-running. Consult the instructions that came with your wireless router for more specific details. Here’s how to help secure your wireless router:

Change your router’s name

The default name given to your router is supplied by the manufacturer. Hackers know which default names are connected to which brands. That information can greatly reduce the time it takes for an unscrupulous third party to break into the network – especially if you’re still using the manufacturer’s default password. Change the name of your router to something that isn’t associated with a brand or your business in order to make the hacker’s job a bit more difficult.

Create a unique password for your router

When setting up the router, it will ask you to create a password. Data thieves know the default passwords, and they can basically waltz into your network when you fail to change the login. Create a unique password using a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. This may make it harder for thieves to crack.

Choose WPA2 to secure your network

WPA2, or Wi-Fi Protected Access II, is a security protocol that can keep outside parties from accessing your network. WPA2 is preferred by many security professionals because it offers the strongest protection available for many commercial routers. Read the instructions that came with your router to confirm that you’ve enabled WPA2 protection.

Use a network firewall

Most computer operating systems offer you the option of turning on a firewall, which can block intruders from accessing your machine. Make sure to enable this option, as it can provide invaluable protection.

2. Invest in Anti-virus Software

Computer viruses and malware can enter your network from various sources. Some websites host malignant code that infects your computer when you visit a page. Email is also a serious vulnerability, as data thieves may attempt to imitate a trusted brand in order to get you to click on dangerous links or download attachments that contain viruses. Installing anti-virus software from a trusted merchant can shield you from many of these threats. Best of all, most anti-virus companies provide frequent updates to guard against new viruses at no additional cost. Make sure to renew your anti-virus subscription when it expires, or else you’ll lose the protection you’ve relied upon.

3. Turn on Automatic Software Updates

Since hackers and identity thieves are constantly looking for new security vulnerabilities, software publishers routinely push out updates to counteract any exploits that have been discovered. Keeping track of the latest updates and patches on your own can be difficult, but many operating systems and applications offer a convenient automatic update feature. Activating this feature is an easy way to ensure that your programs are up-to-date.

4. Protect Your Point-of-Sale (POS) Terminals

When your customers swipe a payment card, their banking information is transmitted across a network in order to be processed. Recent laws now place the liability of credit card fraud on businesses without EMV chip card readers, so make sure you upgrade your equipment as soon as possible to avoid paying for your customer’s credit card fraud. POS terminals have become a popular target for identity thieves, and their efforts can expose millions of financial accounts to fraud. There are two major ways that POS terminals are compromised: skimming and malware.

Skimming with an Unauthorized Device

Skimming involves attaching a piece of hardware to the POS terminal in order to record the payment details as cards are swiped. Depending upon how long the theft goes unnoticed, this can result in significant amounts of data being collected for criminal purposes. Business owners should check to make sure that their POS systems haven’t been tampered with, regardless of how much they trust their staff. Consider applying security seals and steel cable tethers to make it difficult for people to remove terminals.

Malware

Many malware attacks on POS systems target account information contained on a credit card’s magnetic strip. Malicious software enters the retailer’s network and, if left undetected, can deliver account details into the hands of identity thieves. Installing and updating anti-virus software on your POS system is highly recommended by many security experts. Integrity control software can be used to monitor for any changes in a system, and to block unauthorized activity.

5. Make Sure That All Connected Devices are Protected

If you or your employees use smartphones, iPads, netbooks, or any other web-enabled devices to conduct business, then each one will also need to be protected against viruses, malware, and other threats. If an infected device is connected to your network, it can cause problems for everyone. Employees who store company data on their own devices should be advised that they must take reasonable precautions to protect it.

6. Scan All Plug-and-Play Devices for Threats

Even computers that aren’t connected to external networks can become infected with malicious software via USB drives and other types of plug-and-play devices. Most anti-virus programs will scan these peripherals before allowing them access to your system, but you should verify this with your IT administrator.

7. Only Conduct Business on Secure Websites

If you are shopping online for business materials or placing an order with a vendor, make sure the site you are buying from is secure. When checking out, look for https: at the front of the URL, or for a padlock icon in the browser bar. These indicate that a page or site is using data encryption technology, which keeps information secure while in-transit. Pages that fail to encrypt credit card numbers and other business details are prime targets for data thieves. If your supplier isn’t using a secure website, find another way to get them your details.

8. Back Up All of Your Data

Backing up your data is essential to helping protect your business from all manner of digital threats. In the event that you’re hacked or suffer a catastrophic hardware failure, having backups can save your business time and money. Can you imagine losing an entire year’s worth of receipts? Don’t risk it – back up your data on a regular basis. There is hardware and software available to help automate this process.

Photo Credit: mattmylesphoto, Twenty20