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Cybersecurity Tips for Online Retailers [Holiday Edition]

This holiday season is shaping up to be one of the busiest ones ever. If you have an online shop, this could spell disaster for your business. At times of overall high traffic, scammers and hackers are more active than usual. They’ll attempt to hack into your systems, ruining plenty of things for you and your customers. Cyber security is one of the most important things for an online business owner to focus on. Keep your holidays happy and make sure you’re not vulnerable by following these ten security tips!

Protect Your Transactions
This would seem to go without saying, but it bears repeating anyway. Always make sure any monetary exchanges have the highest level of security possible. The first major step to take is to set up your payment system through a third-party vendor, such as Paypal or Venmo. If the system is compromised, only the payment itself gets affected. The card and account information is safely protected. Also make sure to set up your payments to be automatically transferred and “pushed” by the customer. They send you the funds rather than having the transaction linger, waiting for you to pull the funds. This method makes the payment quick, meaning it’s not open for long to be intercepted by the wrong hands.

Disable Bluetooth Connectivity
Bluetooth can be very helpful for a number of different reasons. Having it turned on is probably something you don’t even consciously consider. Even so, it can still spell doom for your business. Having Bluetooth connectivity turned on gives hackers a potential path into your systems. If they have the right technology and the needed knowledge, they could gain access to all of your files, including customers’ personal and payment information. Bluetooth is a wonderful invention, but it doesn’t mean it’s flawless, and you don’t want to risk compromising your business!

Security Training
Believe it or not, training in internet security can be a business-saving move. Eighty percent of all data breaches are due to threats from the inside! This typically means an employee clicking on the wrong link or downloading an infected file. It’s important to regularly train your employees in what to and not to do on the internet. Research conducted on the retention of knowledge shows it is retained better when it’s repeated, meaning you should have your employees taking security training on a regular basis. Knowledgeable employees are safe employees, and you won’t have to worry about them accidentally bringing down the company.

Filter Your Websites
Web filtering is usually a tool to manage employee productivity, making sure they’re on task and not on Facebook. However, your web filter can serve you in another way: protection. On the off chance that your employees don’t internalize the knowledge gained from security training, you can step in and block malicious websites. An employee simply loading a webpage with malware can download it to your mainframe, compromising your system. To do this, there are two options: Do it manually, which means having to think about each website, or do it automatically through a security service. The latter option is the most comprehensive, and leads us to…

Regularly Update Your Security Programs
Maybe you have Norton, or MalwareBytes, or McAfee, or something else. Whatever virus protection program (or programs) you have to protect your business is certainly working hard to defend it. However, many new viruses are created every day by opportunistic people waiting to infiltrate your system. The only way to protect yourself the best you can against the new ones is by consistently updating your security programs. The major programs all consistently update themselves with information on new threats and how to fight them. By updating your copy of the program, that knowledge is transferred to your system, and you have the best available defense.

Secure Your Wireless Network
Like Bluetooth, WiFi is a great and convenient part of life. However, it’s even more at risk of intrusion. Give all of your routers WPA2 801.11x security protocols. That’s a much safer setting than regular WPA or WEP, and as such is much harder to break through. If your employees use the internet on breaks or for personal time, or if you have people physically coming into your business (surely a rarity) make sure to set up a public WiFi network that requires a password for access. These steps will keep unauthorized people from getting into your network via wireless internet.

Lock Your Devices
This is quite a minor one, but one that’s easy to forget. Make sure every device related to your business – desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc. – has a password of some kind. A PIN number, an actual password, or a passcode will all work fine. If you have the option of a real password, make it as complex as possible. Something like “CyB3RRs3cur1ty!” will be much harder for a hacker to figure out than “cybersecurity”. Keep it complex, keep it secure.

Get Risk Assessments
Nearly as important as virus protection itself are risk assessments. If there are any weak spots in your system, you certainly would want to know. Annual risk assessments are the best way to consistently monitor how your system will hold up when threatened by the ever-growing number of viruses and malware programs. Penetration tests are especially recommended, as it will show you exactly how hackers will get into your system… if they can.

Encrypt Your Data
You need to encrypt all of your data to protect it even if it does get exposed. This is especially important if you’re storing your customers’ data after transactions. It’s recommended that you store as little data as possible just in case, but if you want (or have) to store data, encryption is the armor that makes it much safer. Even if hackers can get to your encrypted data, it’s likely that they won’t be able to get past the encryption. At that point, they might as well give up!

Think About The Future
If the worst possible outcome occurs and someone actually does gain access to your system somehow, you need to have comprehensive plans in place to deal with it. It’s best to formulate two plans: Incident Response, and Disaster Response. An incident is just a breach, whereas disaster is something fatal which takes out your entire system or all of the data in it. In both scenarios it’s vital to have back-ups of all of your data, either through a program designed to handle that or through physical hard drives not connected to the mainframe. Whatever you do, make sure your plan is set.

An intrusion into your system sometime over the course of your business is nearly guaranteed. These ten tips can solidify your cyber security, delaying or even stopping the supposedly inevitable, and protect all of your information. A secure business is one people come back to again and again. Follow the handy pieces of advice in this article, and your holiday season will be full of cheer and won’t be spoiled by hackers.

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