The internet is an amazing tool that your business can use to transform everything from sales to staff satisfaction. However, there is a darker side to the internet, and with it comes a host of cyber threats that can target your business, causing crippling damage.
Here’s what to watch out for with cybercrime, and how to stop it destroying your business:
Your data is at risk
There are many ways in which your precious business data can fall into the wrong hands. Firstly, and most obviously, if you keep this data on a physical laptop or smartphone it is easy for it to go missing. Either the device can be stolen or an absent-minded member of staff can leave it on a plane or in a taxi cab.
Even if you have it on a company server, it’s not impossible for criminals to hack in and take your data. This is especially a threat if your business holds sensitive personal data about your customers. It combines the threat of data loss with the devastating loss of trust your customers will feel if the information they entrusted you with goes missing. Click here to find out more.
It can turn away customers
Creating and consolidating a strong customer base is one of the hardest and most costly challenges you’ll face in business. You already know this.
However, what you may not know is how easily cybercrime can tear that customer base from right under your feet, seemingly overnight. For instance, imagine if your website got hacked and it went down for a day. Even half a day.
In one fell swoop your brand looks unreliable, untrustworthy and worst of all – vulnerable. This is like repellent spray for your customers. They will likely leave in droves, because once you’ve lost their trust, it’s incredibly difficult and time-consuming to get it back (if you ever do).
This isn’t always the case because not all customer behavior is this fickle. They may still leave, however, if they can’t get what they’re looking for from your site. It only takes a couple of clicks to reach someone else’s website. Once they’re there and they’ve ordered, there’s every chance they’ll be hooked on that brand and never look back.
Your reputation can be tarnished
Once your website has gone down once, there’s always the risk it will go down again. Being seen as unreliable and vulnerable is the stuff of marketing nightmares. But this is not the worst of it.
Cyber criminals can ruin your brand by association too. For example, criminals can buy up domain names that are similar to yours, thereby tricking consumers into buying fake products or fake apps from fake websites, which are modelled on yours. This can further diminish your brand’s integrity and muddy the marketing waters.
You have to spend a lot to tackle it
Thankfully, cybercrime is not a one-sided battle. There are an equally numerous number of tactics and technologies you can use to fend off these internet thieves. The inevitable downside is cost. Defending your digital presence doesn’t come cheap.
Look at it this way. Investing in effective cyber security is just that – an investment. It will likely save you money and, if you’re feeling creative, even make you money too. Leaving yourself open to attack is possibly the costliest mistake a business can make, because it risks everything from your reputation, customer base, sensitive data and stone-cold cash. Like all threats, it’s only after you’ve come under attack that you can fully appreciate the benefit of protection.
You’re softest at your core
Often the threat comes from within, which is the most unexpected of all. This is not to say your employees could intentionally steal your data or hack into your website (although this is not beyond the realms of possibility). Rather, your staff may not be fully aware of cyber threats, leaving you vulnerable to attack.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of educating your staff on the dangers of internet crime, and ensuring they adhere to strict company protocol whenever handling sensitive data. This can be difficult, especially if you communicate the importance of protocol poorly. Many business managers get caught up in dry and confusing security jargon, making it sound about as frightening as remembering to dry company coffee mugs properly or lifting boxes with the correct posture.
Cut the waffle and emphasize the importance of cyber security. It may save you an awful lot of time, money and customers.
Everyday tools to tackle cybercrime
There are many simple and cost-effective tools and techniques you can use to better defend yourself against the cybercrime threat. For example, why not use a secure VPN?
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, which provides you with a secure, private connection over a public network, which would allow your staff to exchange data over a public or shared network as if they were using a private network. The best part is, a good VPN makes you invisible to cyber criminals, meaning they have far less chance of stealing your data. There is an overwhelming variety of services available, so take time to research which package would benefit your business the most.
Another way to safeguard yourself is to put up as many buffers as possible between your data and the hacker. In the same way you’d double lock your front door and leave a light on for good measure, ensure you have effective and up to date antivirus software on every company and employee device, forbid staff members from downloading software on work computers without first clearing it with your IT team, and putting up firewalls.
You can use a cloud-based service
So, how exactly can you safeguard yourself against these cyber criminals? One increasingly popular option is moving your business to the cloud. The cloud is a protected online server technology that allows your business to operate on a singular online platform. It is safer than using traditional in-house methods and makes sharing data between your staff easier. There’s no need to worry about leaving memory sticks and laptops in risky spots. Your data will remain protected on the cloud and can be accessed 24/7 and worldwide.
This service isn’t free, however, and you’ll need to find an IT specialist who can act as your cloud host. Nevertheless, it’s likely cheaper than a compromised security system.
Seek IT support
Finding a trustworthy and reasonably priced IT support service is crucial to maintaining your business’ online presence and ensuring there are no embarrassing breakdowns in security. A lot of businesses underestimate the threat of cyber security or downplay the damage it can cause because they simply don’t understand how to defend themselves. This is a dangerous game of denial to be in. It’s the difference between hiring a full-time team of bodyguards to protect your hordes of gold, and standing there yourself, waiting for the burglar to come.
Quite apart from providing guidance on your website, the handling of your data and even giving your business access to the cloud, hiring a team of experts gives you the most priceless gift of all. Peace of mind.
Train your existing employees
Another way to boost your chances of warding off cyber criminals is to train your existing staff in IT and internet security. There is a serious lack of IT experts at the moment, and their scarcity has made them valuable. It is easier (and cheaper) to grow your own talent in-house. You likely already have a dedicated IT professional. Why not train them in the latest internet security techniques, which will entice them to stay within your company and provide you with a qualified expert. You can then continue this process by training less experienced employees to support them, creating your own IT support team from within.
You could also use this opportunity to give your other employees a crash course in internet security, and the risks they will face handling data on a daily basis. Even simple tricks like extending password lengths, regularly updating passwords and software, as well as remembering to avoid phishing emails are all great ways your employees can be better prepared for everyday cyber security threats.
Use the cyber threat to your advantage
You can even turn this threat around and use it to your advantage. The dangers posed by cyber criminals forces you into a corner, but it’s not necessarily a bad place to be as long as you know how to defend yourself and use the technology to improve your business.
Take cloud technology, for instance. As well as protecting your data, it can also provide a platform for your employees to collaborate with each other, potentially increasing productivity as a result. This is because the cloud allows large teams to share information and work together on projects in real-time, even if they are away from the office.
By tackling the threat of cyber security breaches, you can make your business more efficient and perhaps even more profitable.