Four ways hackers sneak into your systems — and how to defend yourself

Before the proliferation of technology, protecting your business was as simple as pulling a grate down before you left for the day. In this new digital age, things get a little bit more complicated, since criminals have more tools at their disposal to commit their misdeeds. Here are a few common weaknesses exploited by crooks — and how you can protect yourself. 

Non-secure passwords: With a medium-end graphics card, a would-be intruder can run hundreds of billions of combinations of letters every minute. Some 80 percent of cyber attacks include a password being compromised, and when you consider that more than half of all people use just one for all of their logins, the potential damage is catastrophic.

To avoid falling prey to these schemes, use different passwords for all of your accounts, and make them as difficult to crack as possible. Use special characters, change cases and make them long enough that they're not as susceptible to "brute force" hacks. 

Malware: This threat can come from a variety of sources — a compromised website, a bad USB drive or a sketchy application could all deliver software that nabs your keystrokes, passwords and other personal data. On average, a business caught in one of these schemes loses nearly $100,00.

Luckily, malware detection software exists, and you should make good use of it. Avoid downloading unknown applications, or using USB drives that are unfamiliar to you. Be very careful about the websites you visit, and run regular virus scans to pick off any lingering threats. 

Phony Emails: Also known as "phishing,", this threat consists of official-looking or threatening emails that require your immediate attention. Once you've opened one, they point you to an infected site (see the second threat on the list), or ask for your password (see the first). These scams bilked over a billion dollars from small businesses last year, and have increased with the proliferation of social media. 

To protect yourself, make sure all of your operating systems are completely up to date, and install a good spam filter on your emails. Be especially wary of correspondence that comes from addresses you don't recognize, and do some background research before clicking any questionable links. Carefully examine any URL that asks you for a password before entering any personal information, since phishing sites often very closely emulate sites you might use on a regular basis.

Hostage Hosting: In this scheme, the criminal finds a way to take control of your website, and posts embarrassing content until you pony up a large some of money. What's worse, you don't have any access to critical files during this time. 

Your best defense against this kind of attack is to be wary of any suspicious links, as well as to invest in high tech insurance. The latter can make sure that your data is always accessible, even during an emergency, and can quickly help you recover after the situation is resolved. 

Hackers are smart, which means that your business needs to be smarter. Be safe, and make sure you have technology insurance to help with any emergencies that arise.

 

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