3 easy steps to protect your business data

We see a lot on the news regarding hacking such as the recent WADA  leaks of athlete’s medical records but this is just the stuff that we hear about, at grass roots local small businesses are being targeted and it’s costing thousands of pounds and massive disruption.

This is certainly not just a big organisation issue, this is a massive problem for local business throughout North Wales.

I know of a few local businesses that have had ransomware and virus attacks over the years and it has cost the businesses many days of down time and hundreds and thousands of pounds to repair the damage, not to mention the anxiety and stress caused.

The good news is protecting your business from the majority attacks is quite straight forward and really not that costly.

I consider at this point in time Ransomware is one of the biggest and most dangerous threats to your business. So the advice given is to mainly protect from ransomware and at the same time we will be protecting your business from 99% of the other threats that are causing massive problems small business.

If you are not technically minded that’s OK, while I mention certain software and services that will help you protect your business, a screwdriver can be as dangerous as a chainsaw in the wrong hands so if you don’t fully understand anything in the article, leave a comment at the bottom of the article, get in touch or ask several local computer companies to help out.  Ask questions about the points made in this article and pick the expert that understands, is knowledgeable and gives you the best advice.

The 3 step simple plan to protect your business

The best way to protect your business is to have a good strategy in place to protect your computers and data.

  1. First thing to do is recognise the points at which your business could be vulnerable.
  2. Next stage is to secure each of these points.  It’s not as difficult and certainly not as expensive as you may think.  Here is a step by step on simple things that can be done to protect your business from 99% of the most common and devastating digital attacks .
  3. Lastly make sure your backups and anti virus software is up to date and running on a regular basis. If you have staff make sure they are aware of some simple safe browsing and safe email best practices.

Simple really, so how does a business go about this, here are the steps in more detail, with a few ideas on how to achieve each stage.

Step 1... Determine what stuff your business needs to protect

Protect Your Computer(s)

Computer virus, malware and ransomware are usually transmitted via email.  Rouge email attachments are the most common cause of virus and malware transmission.

Just because you know the sender does not mean the attachment is safe.  If your contacts have contracted a computer virus it can potentially send you an email that looks genuine but in actual fact the virus is trying to spread itself.

Email Security

If a hacker gains access to your email they can view private information, send emails to your contacts and can blacklist our email address and domain name.

For more information on the damage a hacked email account can affect your business or your reputation just asks Hillary Clinton or Colin Powell.

Website Security

Not many people think about protecting your website, but a hacked website can send out emails and blacklist your domain name. This can prevent your email from reaching your recipients and be extremely hard to rectify.  A hacked website can also be down ranked by google meaning it will be less visible to people searching for you in search engines.  A lot of the time you will not even be aware your website has been hacked.  This can cost a local business heavily in online reputation and  lead generation.

Step 2…How to protect your business

Protect Your Computers

  • Make sure you are using an up-to-date version of your operating system; WindowsXP is no longer supported or considered safe.
  • Make sure you have at least one backup system in place that handles multiple versions of your files. To protect yourself from ransomware it is best to use an online backup system (you will need a good internet connection and it depends what size files you need to backup).
  • If you are using an online backup system that holds revisions of backup files, and set your backup to scan daily.Online backup systems such as Livedrive will hold 30 revisions of your files for 30 days.  So if you have Livedrive set to scan once a day backup you have 30 days to notice and 30 days to rectify.  You will notice pretty much straight away if you fall victim with a ransomware attack.Estimated Costs: Livedrive Online Backup Subscription Home version from £5 per month, Business from £30 per month.  For more information see Livedrive Wesbite
  • If you have several computers and no file server, look into getting a file server computer, there are several local scheduled backup systems (such as Windows Backup) you can run alongside your online backup (Livedrive or similar) to give you an extra line of defence.There are several other benefits to having all your files stored in one place including making remote working easy.  For more information ask a question in the comment section or a trusted local computer company.
  • If you are using an ‘offline’ accounts software (where your data is stored on your computer) then online backup is the way forward, there are a few tricks you will need to know to get it to work properly.Accounts software such as sage and QuickBooks sometimes don’t like sync backup software so it’s best to not scan for changes on a regular basis, get the online software to scan at a time when the accounts software is not in use, or within your accounts software save regular backups to a folder that is monitored by your online backup software.  Backup files from Sage or QuickBooks will have no issues syncing to your online backup.  Using a file server computer will also make this a lot easier to manage your backups.Next time you are going to upgrade your accounts software have a look at ‘online’ options. This is a great way to keep your accounts safe and can also make working from other locations (and on the move) easy.

Protect Your Email:

  • Make sure you have an up to date virus checker on each of your computers. Your Virus checker should have the facility to scan your incoming and outgoing email.
  • Ask your web developers about virus and spam protection at source (mail server). This will stop the majority of spam and virus attachments from even getting to your inbox.
  • If you have a website with email contact forms or dynamic content, ask your web developer if your website software is up to date and if there is any protection on your contact forms to stop your website from spamming other people.
  • If you do not need to receive .exe or .zip files, if your email program allows you to block any emails with this type of attachment. (.exe and .zip are the most common files used to infect your computer)

 Protect Your website:

  • Ask your web developer if your website software and platform is using the latest software updates. There are many websites out there that are running insecure scripts on out of date web hosting servers.
  • Does your webs have a firewall installed. Out of date webserver software and websites are more vulnerable to attack and a hacked website can be used to send out spam and to try and get website visitors to download malware in their browser.

Hacked websites can also be defaced and get your domain name blacklisted.  Blacklisted domains can be extremely time consuming and expensive to put right.

Step 3… Implement basic security procedures

  • Check your backups are working on a regular basis, and check your antivirus is updated.
  • If you have staff, make sure everyone knows simple safe computing procedures such as...
    Do not open email attachments you are not expecting
    Just because and email comes from someone you know, doesn't mean its genuine (you contacts computer may have contracted a virus and it may be sending spam emails designed to spread the virus)
    Do not use business computers for non business activity
    Do not use business computers to download Movies, Games, Music or TV series (lots of these websites are not genuine and are designed to spread malware)

Common miss-conceptions that will cost you if you get hit by a virus or ransomware attack

Here are a few common miss-conceptions that are really very dangerous and leave your business vulnerable to virus, malware and hacking attacks.

I have had over 16 years of experience in the Computer, Web design & IT industry and I have seen how bad advice has been instrumental in causing massive damage to small businesses and how just a few simple backup and protection procedures can really reduce these risks.

Yes..... but that hard disk is plugged into your computer and viruses and ransomware can still target these backup drives.  So this does not protect your data at all.

Great….But the problem is if your files get infected it will automatically sync with Google drive.  Plus some viruses and ransomware are clever enough to go searching for popular cloud drives.

Simply put Dropbox & Google Drive does not protect you from a ransomware attack.