Basic Steps to Help Protect Your Business From Hackers

Today, there are more cyber-criminals and hackers out there than ever before. They attempt identity theft and network infiltration via malware and ransomware, sneaking into our systems via weak passwords and firewalls. Learn how to protect your business with these basic website protection protocols for your employees and your company.

Password Security

First things first, let’s discuss a few basic tools your company can utilize that don’t cost a thing. You can start with two-step email verification. Also known as multi-step verification, hackers hate this tool because it prompts users to enter a secret code in addition to their login ID and password; hackers have no way of discovering this secret code, and the real user is promptly notified of the false login attempt.

There are also a number of free cybersecurity tools and anti-virus programs that are easily downloadable and accessible to any company looking for extra anti-virus protection. Password managers that direct users to create a master password are also popular since they create passwords that are secure and don’t require you to remember them yourself.

Another guideline to keep in mind when creating workplace passwords is the human predictability problem. Originally coined by Bill Burr, the two fundamental guidelines for password creation include, first, a combination of alphanumeric, uppercase, lowercase, and special characters; and second, it needs to be changed every 90 days.

Cybercriminals on the Rise

The second thing to know about the increase in corporate hacking is the general rise of the cybercriminal as both independent actor and agent of the state as well. According to the University of Cincinnati, half of data records stolen are financial in nature—for example, credit card information and account details. Moreover, the industries with the most security breaches include technology at 44 percent (ironically), retail at 30 percent, and government at 10 percent.

In addition, Cisco reports that the number of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks—which are defined as assaults that flood a system’s servers with junk web traffic—jumped globally by 172 percent in 2016. With all this news of cyberattacks, you might think all security breaches were nefarious by nature. However, you may not be aware of the phenomenon known as “white hat hacking.”

White Hat Hackers

Hackers who go by the moniker “white hat” are generally benevolent actors who penetrate networks and data servers for the purpose of gaining greater security knowledge or to help improve the cyberdefense systems of governments, corporations, or other organizations.

The first known white hat hackers were perhaps the group known as the 414s, who infiltrated the Los Alamos nuclear weapons research facility—but not for the purpose of selling or misusing any privileged information. Instead, the 414s were simply acting out of curiosity—having been “mischievous, bored, and talented teenagers,” in the words of Timothy Winslow, their ringleader.

As a result of their good intentions, the FBI never charged them with jail time, and Winslow eventually became a network engineer who worked to bolster corporate cybersecurity standards. Other white hat hackers assist military officials or chief information security officers in understanding how to equip IT departments with appropriately sized teams and resources able to successfully combat savvy cybercriminals. Business owners can employ white hat hackers to test their organization’s defenses.  Look for candidates with Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification via sites like Hackers List and Neighborhood Hacker.

Recommended Cybersecurity Tools

You might be surprised to learn that there is a cybersecurity branch of the Federal Trade Commission that not only provides small business owners with tips for protecting company information, but it also details what steps should be taken in the event of a security breach.

A recent Forbes article reported that 71 percent of all cyber attacks affect businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Among the other security precautions recommended by cybersecurity professionals include VPNs, secure servers, and reaction strategies than put a reliable plan in place in the event of a breach.

Another important safety mesuare is having a good backup system in place. Your best chance of recovering from a ransomware attack is to have a complete backup of your files in the cloud.

There are plenty of savvy hackers out there. The minimum you should do for the security of your company’s sensitive customer and employee information is to cover your proverbial bases and implement basic security safeguards along with creating a plan of action in the event of a data breach.

What are you doing to protect your business data? What if hackers decide to target your company next? Share your experience and opinion in the comments section below.


Devin Morrissey

Devin has been a dishwasher, a business owner, and everything in between. It took him a while to settle on a dream, so he tried out everyone else's to varying degrees of success. You can find him in Daly City or on Twitter, whichever is closer.

Cyber-criminals are everywhere. Small businesses really should take extra efforts secure their websites.

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