6 ways to keep your small business safe from virtual fraudsters

Cyber securityThis week I was deprived of Wifi for two days. The withdrawal symptoms were palpable. Internet access is essential for most of our businesses and for many of us it’s also become pretty much a basic need!

Without the internet most of our businesses and social life would grind to a halt. So are you doing enough to protect your digital life? Online fraudsters are getting smarter. We take care not to get burgled or mugged on the street, but criminals have rolled with the times and are now operating just as devastatingly in the virtual world.

The speed with which hackers penetrate new technologies and programmes is alarming. As we’ve seen with the recent Sony hack, no business is safe from cyber criminals, yet that incident has at least provided a sobering wake-up call for companies across the world. So what can you do to safeguard yourself and your business?

1. Don’t pay the price for unsafe transactions

One of the fastest ways for fraudsters to scam innocents out of their money is via online shopping sites. Like Sony, even the mighty eBay fell victim to a hacking scandal, with a significant amount of passwords stolen from the virtual auctioning site. If you’re an online store or even purchasing goods for your business, it’s wise to be aware of alternative payment methods currently on the market, such as paysafecard for example. Paysafecard works differently to PayPal, as the user can purchase a one-time PIN to purchase goods and services – all without any record of your personal details kept online.

2. Resist phishing

Have you ever received a well-crafted email containing information that is plausible, but just feels strange? The likelihood is that it’s a phishing email. Perhaps your best defence against this surreptitious hacking trick is a healthy dose of suspicion. Never give away any revealing information to anyone who contacts you unannounced, even if it is seemingly from your bank or credit card provider. These hackers can masquerade as real companies, and dupe unsuspecting businesses into giving away precious private data.

3. Avoid viruses

Make sure that you use reputable anti-virus software on your computer systems and keep it updated. You should also never open attachments in emails that you are not sure about. Attachments are a common way for fraudsters to introduce viruses to your computer. Data sticks and DVDs can also be sources of viruses and many companies now do not allow the use of those external devices for that reason.

4. Protect your online business

Ensure that any software used in your website is kept scrupulously up-to-date. If your site is on the WordPress system that could mean daily updating of plugins. As soon as software is out-of-date it is vulnerable to attacks. You should also use robust passwords and change them regularly. If you have an e-commerce site make sure that your customers are protected by SSL certification, which adds a layer of encryption to transactions. SSL protected sites use the prefix https. Google prioritises SSL protected sites in its rankings, so certification is good business sense in every way.

5. Take care offline too

High levels of internet-based fraud start the old-fashioned way, with someone searching through your bins! Make sure that any sensitive papers are shredded before you dispose of them. Also take sensible precautions with staff, for example take-up references for new employees and change relevant passwords when people move on.

6. Keep up with the scammers

Internet crooks are evolving all the time, and concocting new and elaborate ways of committing internet crimes. One of the best things you can do is to stay aware of their latest developments using the excellent tracking site www.scambusters.org. They offer a comprehensive breakdown of the latest ‘trends’ among virtual criminals, what you need to look out for, and the ways in which you can avoid becoming their latest victim.

Liz Wiley

Liz Wiley is a freelance writer who is passionate about flexible working and advancing women in business. Liz is a regular contributor to Prowess and other business blogs.

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