Guest post: Matt Powell, editor for the broadband comparison site Broadband Genie, offers ten top tips to help you improve online security and protect your business.
Whether you’re a sole trader or a larger organisation, having the fastest or cheapest broadband isn’t the only thing to worry about, it’s also vital to take steps to stay safe online. Virus or hacking attacks could result in real financial loss and exposing private information could have devastating consequences on your reputation.
1. Secure your Wi-Fi network
If you have a Wi-Fi network, it should always be password protected. This will prevent others nearby from using your connection or accessing network shares. You may wish to change the password regularly, and you can also choose to hide the SSID (network name) to make it harder to find.
Also remember - when setting up a password make sure you use the ‘WPA’ standard and not the older and very insecure ‘WEP’.
2. Keep up to date with patches
All software and hardware should be kept bang up to date with patches to help protect against the latest threats and bugs. This is particularly important when it comes to operating system patches, web plugins such as Java and Flash and broadband router firmware.
Many applications and hardware devices will offer automatic updating, or at least notify you when a new version is available. If this is not an option, you will need to check manually on a regular basis.
3. Remotely control hardware
Misplacing a laptop, smartphone or tablet could expose confidential data or give someone access to your private files or services. To protect against this, use remote control and tracking software. As well as offering the possibility of retrieving lost devices, it will let you remotely wipe the storage to prevent data falling into the wrong hands.
This functionality is now built into both Apple iOS and Android. For desktop and laptop computers install Prey.
4. Install anti-virus software
Anti-virus is absolutely essential to combat malware which may damage or steal data. This may not need to cost anything as there are free packages such as Microsoft Defender, Avirus and Avast! which are as good as premium options (though check the licensing terms as it may not permit commercial use without a fee).
5. Improve web browser security
Web browsers can be a major security risk as web sites and browser plugins are often used to spread viruses. Ensure your anti-virus software extends protection to the web browser, and also make use of ad and script blocking browser add-ons which provide additional safety. You may also wish to use web filtering software to prevent employees accessing sites that are both higher risk and unsuitable for work.
6. Buy a better router
An entry level SOHO (Small Office Home Office) router to replace the cheap ISP-issued hardware is a worthwhile (and relatively modest) investment for any business. A good quality router can offer a noticeable improvement in wired and wireless performance, provide greater security and have a much wider range of features and settings to allow you to get more from your network and broadband connection.
7. Back up essential data
Data you don’t have backed up is data you don’t want. When backing up follow the ‘3-2-1’ rule: have three copies of everything on two different storage mediums, with at least one kept in a different location.
8. Use multi factor authentication
Wherever possible make use of multi-factor authentication. This works by requiring an additional security token, such as a text message or smart phone app, in addition to a password. It means that even if someone gets hold of a password, your essential files and services are safe unless they can also obtain your secondary security method. It is now offered as a standard feature on many services, including Google apps, Twitter, Microsoft and Apple accounts.
9. Keep logins safe with a password manager
Password management software stores logins in a securely encrypted software safe and automatically enters them into sites and applications when required. This means you don’t need to remember every password so they can each be complex and unique.
For employers the enterprise features offered by some password managers can also be valuable protection for vital services. You can grant access to logins without providing the actual details, and withdraw access when an employee leaves the company.
10. Encrypt files and devices
By encrypting devices or files you can stop unauthorised users from viewing important data. This could be a real lifesaver in the event a piece of hardware is lost or stolen or a hacker gains access to your systems.
Encryption is now widely available and very easy to use. It’s available as a built in feature on smartphones, tablets and computers and there are numerous free and paid software packages which make it effortless to secure individual files, folders or entire hard drives.