Complex Passwords, Firewalls And A Security Service Can Help Protect Your Business Computers

By Ann Marie van den Hurk Lexington Herald-Leader.

What you can't see can hurt you as a business owner.

Businesses are increasingly dependent on the Internet. And while cyber security is something not seen, it is vitally important for your business. Unfortunately, many business owners are finding out the hard way about cyber security.

According to the recent 2015 Cyberthreat Defense Report, 71 percent of respondents' networks were breached, with 22 percent of them victimized six or more times. Cyber crimes hit an all-time high in 2014 and had great impact on businesses of all sizes.

David Brown, CEO of Web.com, shares that he has seen cyber threats increase exponentially in the past year. Threats once were coming just from malcontents for mischief or organized crime, he said. While those categories are still active, cyber security threats are now coming from those with political and/or social missions.

Cyber threats come in different forms such as viruses, malware, brute force attacks, and zero-day attacks to disable your digital presence. Zero-day attacks are a hole in software that is unknown to the vendor, allowing hackers to exploit it before the software vendor is aware of it. Some common threats that manifest via websites are defacing a website, stealing a domain name or hacking a domain. Hackers want to get access to sensitive data such as customer information, credit card numbers, and/or Social Security numbers. This data brings top dollar in the illegal data market.

Brown finds there is a lack of awareness by business owners in regards to cyber threats. According to the same Cyberthreat Defense Report, more than half of IT professionals think their business will be hit with a successful cyber attack in 2015.

Brown has these recommendations for businesses to minimize cyber threats:

-Use complex passwords for all systems, be it network, email or website. That means passwords that are more than eight characters. They should not include a word, but a random selection of numbers, characters and letters.

-Set a password for your Wi-Fi router. It needs to be a complex one, too.

-Turn on your firewall on computers and routers. It is designed to protect from data and virus you do not want. It shuts off access to your operating system and/or computers on your network to the outside.

-Use a security service on your devices. They can help keep your computers clean of viruses and malware. There are both paid and free services such as Sophos and McAfee.

Many businesses have no idea that their networks and/or website has been comprised. They often find out from customers, says Brown. Once an organization is aware that there has been a breach of data due to hacking, you must act. Many states have laws governing this, and there is a time frame for notifying customers as well as providing them with certain services depending on the information stolen.

Cyber crime prevention is a growth industry. Often the industry is one step behind the hackers. Simple steps you can take to secure your website and networks will make it harder for hackers and often cause them to move on to an easier target. Do not make it easier for the hackers. ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Ann Marie van den Hurk, an accredited public relations professional, is principal of Mind the Gap Public Relations and author of "Social Media Crisis Communications."

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