The digital world is a unique landscape. It’s one that most people may access from anywhere on the planet with just an internet connection and internet-enabled device. Unfortunately, not all those who go online do so with good intentions. Just as in real life, companies and their websites are at risk from criminals, particularly hackers.
iInstead of tangible goods, hackers are after something more valuable: your business’, users’, customers’, and clients’ sensitive data. Passwords, user names, addresses, card numbers, social security numbers, browsing data, messages, and other private information are vulnerable.
As a legal entity possessing and processing data, you should worry about cybersecurity. Not just for your user’s sake but also to stop a breach from doing considerable damage to your brand reputation. With this in mind, here’s how companies protect themselves from hackers and ramp up their cybersecurity.
Why Is It Important to Protect Your Business From Hackers?
Protecting digital assets is very important if your company operates online or stores any sensitive information. Here are the top reasons why businesses protect themselves from hackers and take cybersecurity seriously.
To Avoid Damage to Your Brand Reputation
As a company, big or small, your customers look to you to protect their data from hackers. They share data with your website when they shop or interact with you. Most importantly, they do so believing you’ve got their back, and their information will never get used against them. A data breach is a significant loss of that trust and may cause irreparable damage to a brand’s reputation.
Not even the most reputable companies are safe or have been knowledgeable enough to know how to deal with hackers. LinkedIn, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace, Experian, and many other well-known companies have been involved in high-profile data breaches. However, don’t think for a second that you’re out of the firing range if you’re a smaller outfit.
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The more sensitive your data or weaker your defenses, the bigger the threat, regardless of your user base size. Additionally, the less likely you’ll be able to recover from the consequences of a successful cybersecurity attack. Ecommerce stores and financial websites, in particular, are at risk from hackers. Aside from stealing data, hackers can also cause costly website crashes.
To Limit Damage to Your Users, Clients, and Customers
The reason why hackers try to gain access to sensitive data isn’t purely for fun. Data is money and may get sold for thousands of dollars on the dark web. Once purchased, the data may then get used by hackers, mainly for scams, blackmail, or extortion against your website or mobile app users who have no idea how to deal with such occurrences.
Alternatively, this data may help hackers gain access to users’ bank accounts and other online accounts to steal more personal information. Who can forget the Ashley Madison (AM) hack that exposed millions of affair-seekers to their married partners, communities, bosses, and colleagues?
Though some may consider this breach more divinely deserved than others, you cannot deny the damage done. Besides the embarrassment, the data breach resulted in divorces, resignations, and even suicides. Afterward, select users were further subjected to blackmail and extortion scams while the AM team failed to manage the fallout.
The AM hack is just one disastrous data breach reputation damage example that harmed its users considerably. If you value yours, being considerate and protecting their data is critical. If users happen to require access to your software or site for work or commerce, a cyber attack-caused website crash can also result in a loss of revenue.
To Avoid Lengthy and Costly Lawsuits
Once the damage and public relations are done, companies may not yet have overcome the biggest hurdle. Lawsuits are another reason why businesses must protect themselves from hackers. Users may be able to claim considerable funds in damages, especially if your preventative measures were negligent.
Ashley Madison users won an $11.2 million settlement for damages from its parent company. Luckily, it had enough funds to foot the bill, but your business may not. On top of settlements, you’re looking at legal fees and investigation costs. Lawsuits may also drag on over multiple years, making it challenging to move past the ordeal.
To Minimize Business Security Threats
It’s not only your user and customer data that’s at risk if you don’t know how to deal with hackers. Included in the hacked Ashely Madison data were the personal numbers and details of some of its CEOs and founders.
Your business administrator passwords, financials, and other sensitive business data could easily get stolen in a cybersecurity attack. Then, it can get used in a way that results in further security threats to your physical premises, employees, finances, website, and digital assets later on.
To Avoid Loss of Business Revenue, Value, and Share Value
If there’s one way to wreck a handover, upset shareholders, and cause a significant drop in share or business value, it’s a successful cybersecurity attack. Yahoo was one of the companies that suffered considerable damage to its brand reputation at a critical time. It was notably sold off for less than anticipated after its 2013 data breach coincided with its acquisition by Verizon.
If you’re going public, trying to build your business, encouraging new shareholders to opt in, or even selling it, you don’t want to be in the same boat. Those running eCommerce stores may face further challenges.
These may see a considerable drop in sales due to a loss in customer trust. The last thing most buyers want to do is share their financial account and card details with you after your current customers’ details got exposed.
What Are the Best Ways to Protect Your Business From Hackers?
Cybersecurity is a real threat to fair and open online trade and interaction. Luckily, there are effective ways to protect your business from hackers. Here’s how to deal with hackers and stop them from doing damage to your brand reputation, revenue, and users.
1. Improve Your Password Security
One of the common ways hackers gain access to your data is by logging into your online systems. They may do so using passwords that have already been compromised by another data breach or an employee.
The top ways to protect your business, devices, and computers from hackers misusing your passwords include:
- Using complex and impersonal passwords. You may get tempted to use passwords that feature personal details or similar elements to other passwords to make them more memorable. However, don’t do this as it’s one of the top ways hackers guess passwords.
- Using a password generator. One of the top ways to deal with hackers is to use a password generator to create challenging-to-guess passwords. These may include nonsensical sequences of symbols, numbers, and lowercase and uppercase letters.
- Not storing your passwords anywhere vulnerable. It may be challenging to remember all our passwords. However, be sure to store your passwords in a safe place, such as a notebook in your safe. Alternatively, you may download a reputable password vault or manager in which to keep them.
- Using different passwords for each account. Once a single password gets leaked in a breach, you’re in trouble if you’ve reused it for other accounts. Hackers may look online to find out the platforms you’re active on or simply make a guess. Then, try your reused password to gain access. The top way how to deal with hackers like this is never to reuse a password.
- Changing passwords regularly. Updating your passwords periodically ensures that you’re protected from unknown data breaches. Set a reminder every month or a few months, depending on your data’s sensitivity. You may also send out password reset links to all your employees to get them to follow suit.
- Prioritizing financial, recovery email, and administrator password security. You may recover most accounts by using the email address with which you created them, which makes these details a top threat. Prioritize the security of any recovery email accounts by changing their passwords more regularly. Keeping them secret by not using them for anything else is another way to deal with hackers. You should also treat financial and admin passwords and usernames with as much care.
2. Train All of Your Employees on Cybersecurity
Another top way hackers gain access to sensitive accounts and information is through employee negligence. Not everyone on your team is tech-savvy. Whoever isn’t is likely your weakest link in a cybersecurity attack.
As such, one of the best ways to protect your business from hackers is to invest in regular cybersecurity training for your employees. Rolling out Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), antiviruses, and encryption software is another of the top ways you may protect devices from hackers.
3. Treat, Pay, and Charge Your Staff and Customers Fairly
Though not always the case, vindictive employees and customers have been known to pose a threat in regards to cybersecurity. These angry factions may easily damage your brand reputation by hacking your accounts or providing sensitive information to hackers.
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Treating staff fairly and ensuring customer service is up to par is one way companies protect themselves from hackers. Setting up internal and external complaints procedures may also help mitigate attacks by making them feel heard.
4. Store As Little Data Required
Anyone sharing data or operating an online store or a website is vulnerable to being targeted in a cybersecurity attack. A small percentage of users may even have experienced a hacker stealing their information or logging into their accounts. However, what may be the deciding factor on whether or not this causes harm is the data in question.
How companies protect themselves from hackers has evolved. Storing minimal data is one of the top ways to protect your business from hackers. After all, getting in trouble for data you don’t even use seems senseless.
Many online stores now offer customers the option to store or not store payment details. Storing the bare minimum of data may also act as an effective damage control measure. If all you keep is customer or user names and passwords, it’s easy enough to control the damage by temporarily blocking accounts and sending out direct password reset links.
5. Partner with a Secure Online Payment Service
Online payment is tricky, with its associated data topping the list of the worst data breach reputation damage examples. You need your customers’ sensitive financial details, including card numbers, expiry dates, and CVVs to process a sale digitally.
However, this is precisely some of the sensitive data that hackers want most. Not only can it be used to steal money, but also to execute more effective blackmail scams. Luckily, banks have ramped up security on card sales, demanding OTP authorization and other secondary security sale measures.
Some companies protect themselves from hackers by partnering with secure payment platforms. Online payment services such as PayPal, Stripe, 2Checkout, Payoneer, Square, Apple Pay, and Google Pay are a few top choices.
When you partner with these services, your business may not even be responsible for storing your customers’ bank details. Your customers will simply be redirected to the payment provider’s gateway to complete their purchases. Once authenticated, you’ll get your confirmation of receipt of payment and may proceed with dispatching the order.
6. Hire a Cybersecurity Company to Put Your Systems to the Test
More often than not, companies fall prey to hackers by accident, not purposely. Ignorance of the weaknesses of software,hardware, and new technological developments, may result in devastating data breaches and cyberattacks.
If you’re more focused and experienced in other areas of your business, you probably don’t have the know-how or time to defend your data or website. Most companies don’t. However, cybersecurity professionals such as ethical hackers and website maintenance companies do.
These knowledgeable professionals may test your systems to expose security issues. A website maintenance company may not just maintain your servers and site, but also regularly scan your site to isolate security vulnerabilities. This way, it can consistently protect your business website, devices, and computers from hackers.
7. Tighten Up Your Cybersecurity With Professional Assistance
How companies effectively protect themselves from hackers includes partnering with professionals to improve their security measures and processes. These cybersecurity defenses should be a consideration from the start. Be it when starting to use internet-enabled devices at work or when setting up a new online store or website.
The development team may build extra security features into your website during the website development process. Cybersecurity professionals may also recommend additional cybersecurity technologies, software, and hardware in which to invest. These may be relevant to your business and may also help you to learn how better to deal with hackers.
Some important cybersecurity features that a website development company may build into your website include:
- Biometric authentication: Biometric authentication is a new safety web development trend. It allows website and app users to log in securely using biometrics with facial recognition and fingerprint technology.
- Login notifications: These notify users via SMS, email, or direct app notification whenever someone logs into their account. If users know when an unauthorized login occurs, they may be able to block and deal with hackers quicker.
- Two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication requires a website or app user to input a code when logging in. Sent via email or text, the process adds another layer of security. As such, it’s ideal for sensitive financial, administrative, and government websites.
8. Plan and Prepare for the Inevitable
Unfortunately, data breaches and hacks are a reality of our digital age. It’s not a matter of if but when it may happen to your company. If you’ve followed all of the steps above to improve your website security, you’re likely to bounce back faster than if you’ve been negligent. However, when a data breach becomes public, all hell may break loose.
Many companies don’t get in trouble simply because of a cybersecurity attack. Often, they do so because of the way they handle (or mishandle) the event. How companies also protect themselves from hackers is by having PR strategies and people on-hand for crisis management. These may help to minimize damage to your brand reputation.
Having a strategy for dealing with the increased volume of user calls and emails is also ideal. However, one of the most important steps to include in your plan is damage control. Your company should know precisely what to do to protect compromised data and users in the event of a data breach.
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This plan of action may include temporarily blocking compromised user accounts as well as sending out notifications to users along with password reset emails. The faster you act, the better, and the higher chance you’ll be able to reduce damage to your brand reputation.
When operating online, be it on work devices or via internal software, cloud storage, or a website, it’s essential to consider your cybersecurity. Hackers are always looking for a new target, and you don’t want to be that data breach reputation damage example. Professionals, such as the right web design company, can help you map out the right cybersecurity plan for your website and apps.