We are living in an era when the majority of businesses now incorporate technology into their operations. Whether they operate solely online, operate online at the same time as operating on a more traditional brick and mortar basis, or whether tech is incorporated into a business in other ways. However, where there’s more money to be made, there’s inevitably more crime. The main form of crime that poses a threat to any business that relies largely on technology is hacking. Here’s everything you need to know on the subject, as well as a few pieces of advice and information regarding how to keep your company safe and what to do if you fall victim to hacking!
What Is a Hacker?
We hear the term “hacker” flung about a whole lot. It’s been around for a while. In fact, the first recorded use of the word “hacker” appears in MIT’s The Tech Newspaper on 20th November 1963! But many of us don’t really know what the term means, or what a hacker actually does. So, let’s fall back on how The New Hacker’s Dictionary defines it.
- “A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.”
- “One who programmes enthusiastically (even obsessively) or who enjoys programming rather than just theorising about programming.”
- “[deprecated] A malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around. Hence ‘password hacker’, ‘internet hacker’.”
As you can see, not all “hackers” are bad people or people to be concerned about. In fact, many hackers are legally employed by companies to test out their software and identify any flaws or holes that could cause data leaks or potential security problems down the line. Some hackers are not employed, but hack for the sake of testing their own knowledge and ability. However, when we speak about hackers in general, we tend to be referred to those who fall in line with the definition supplied by the last bullet point. These individuals are malicious and have only bad intentions. They generally intend to break systems to gain access to personal information which they can then use to their own advantage. While their activity is illegal, they are relatively difficult to track down, as they know how to cover their footsteps. So, tackling a hacker can be extremely difficult and frustrating!
Avoiding Being Hacked
While hackers can pose a significant threat to your business, there are things that you can do to keep your online business safe from these individuals. Here are just Five habits of cyber secure businesses.
Using Strong Passwords
Certain passwords are extremely easy for hackers to crack. Hackers have leaked some of the common passwords to prove this point. It turns out that the most common passwords used around the English-speaking world are:
This goes to show a trend in using series of numbers or letters that are placed next to each other, predictable attempts to be funny (ie. literally typing “password” when a programme requests “enter password”), or things that are generally popular (such as “monkey”, “starwars”, and “football”). Sure, these simple passwords may save you a few seconds when you log in to something, but are these few seconds saved really worth opening your business up to hackers? Instead, create “strong” or difficult to crack passwords. Try to ensure that any password you use contains a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, a number, and a symbol. Do not use words that someone could easily guess. Sure, you may not think that a hacker would know your pet’s name, but a quick browse through your public Instagram profile could allow anyone to find a picture of your pet with a caption including their name. You can find further, in-depth tips and tricks to create strong passwords here.
Training Staff in Cyber Security
While staff may have good intentions at all times, they are one of the leading causes of data breaches and security breaches in companies. Half of the time, a staff member who creates a data or security breach won’t actually have a clue that they have done so. Whether they accidentally leak data, share login details, download software or programmes that you haven’t permitted, or have been drawn into an email scam, there’s always a chance that someone who is working for your business could be its ultimate downfall when it comes to online security. This is why it’s extremely important that you train all members of staff in cyber security. When you take on a new staff member, they should be briefed on all of your security measures and alerted to potential threats that they may face. But this isn’t the end of the journey. Hackers are constantly progressing and coming up with new ways to gain sensitive information. This is why you need to actively keep up with the times and also host regular training days to pass this information on to your employees.
Test Your Staff
Sure, you may go all out and completely train your staff in cyber security, but you may find that certain individuals don’t take the training seriously. Many will see training meetings or sessions as a little free time away from their desk and not actually absorb any of the information that you have provided them with. The best way to call out individuals who aren’t paying attention? Test them. You can do this in a couple of different ways. You can make staff carry out a literal test after every training session, making those who fail take the training again. People will soon get tired of this process and will actually listen to what you have to say, finally passing the test and being allowed to head back to work. You could also do more discreet testing. Simulate spam phishing emails and send them out to your employees. If any of your employees fall for the fake email, you will be alerted, and you can encourage them to take on more training. At the end of the day, it’s better that they fall for your spam email than a legitimate hacker’s. Actually falling for spam is much more likely to stir your staff and make them more alert.
Upgrading Your Tech
The newer your tech system is, the more recently it has been tested by professional companies. The longer tech has been around, the more time hackers have had to crack its code, and after a period of time, any decent hacker will know how to get into the software. As we have mentioned earlier, there are professional and legitimate hackers who are employed by companies to test their software. If you invest in new software, it has passed security checks more recently and hackers are going to have to work a whole lot harder to break into your software. By keeping up to date with the latest tech, you really can help to improve your online business’ security!
Monitor Your Technology
Once you have completed all of the above steps, your work isn’t over. Hackers are constantly moving forward, so you need to move forward one step ahead of them. This is why you need to always monitor your technology. Update software when upgrades become available. Update your operating systems. Update your firewall. Update your antivirus. Just do your best to always keep as up to date with everything as possible. Sure, it may feel frustrating having to wait ten or so minutes for your tech to update itself. But in this situation, patience truly is a virtue.
What to Do If You Have Already Been Hacked
The first thing to do when you have been hacked is to report any crime. If funds have been stolen or sensitive data has been leaked, you need to alert the relevant authorities. The next steps that you take need to be pretty fast. Change the passwords on all affected devices and programmes. Upgrade and update your security settings, firewall, antivirus, and other software. Then, find out exactly what has happened and train your staff to be aware and alert to the risks that your company has fallen subject to.
Sure, hacking can be a relatively intimidating area of tech to focus on. But it is absolutely essential that you understand it, know how to prevent it, and know how to combat it should it occur to you. This will help to keep your business as secure as possible at all times! Hopefully, the above information has helped you to do this!