How to protect yourself from cybercrime cyber crime With ransomware cyber-attacks being big more frequent lately, we explain how you can keep yourself protected from cybercrime.

How to protect yourself from cyber crime

It's important to take a proactive approach when fighting cyber crime. Online criminals employ many sophisticated techniques to gain access to your data, but there are several simple steps you can take to make their lives more difficult.

But firstly, do you know enough about what cyber crime actually is? If not, you're not alone. Cyber crime is the act of using a computer system to commit a criminal offence, with some of the most common types being hacking, phishing and ransomware. Criminals use computer technology to access personal information or manipulate online resources for exploitative or malicious purposes. Let's take a look at three of the common types of cyber crime:

1. Phishing

Phishing is a method used by cyber criminals to gain access to sensitive information. It involves using deceptive emails or websites that appear to be from recognisable companies or brands in order to gain the user's trust. Phishing scams could also involve tricking the user into downloading malicious software which can then be used to spy on them, gather their personal information or even disable their computer system entirely.

2. Hacking

A hacker is someone who gains unauthorised access to computer systems or networks. If a hacker successfully gains access to your system then you've been hacked.

In some instances, a hacker may hold your data to ransom, threatening to alter, delete or share it unless you pay them. They are often highly skilled computer programmers who exploit weaknesses in computer systems and networks to obtain access to your data.

Data refers to any digitised information. It can refer to anything from your customers' personal details to images and recordings stored on your computer system. If this information is taken or stolen from your system without your knowledge or authorisation, a data breach has occurred.

3. Ransomware

One of the biggest threats to small businesses is ransomware. This is when hackers trick computer users into downloading a piece of software that locks users out of their system and prevents them from using their computer unless they pay a ransom to the hackers. Ransomware can rapidly infect entire networks, potentially crippling your ability to do business and if you are connected to a client's network you could be liable for disabling their system as well.

Luckily there are some fairly straightforward steps you can take to make sure your protection levels are up to minimum standards:

Train your staff on the importance of data privacy and other cyber risks

Most cyber issues arise from simple mistakes, like accidentally sending an email to the wrong recipient or leaving your work laptop on a train. However, you can take simple, proactive steps to make sure your business isn't vulnerable to cyber crime. For example: encrypting emails, making use of passwords, locking the screen when you step away from your computer, and encouraging your employees to do the same.

Your employees should understand the importance of keeping company data and systems safe and should be given guidance on the necessary actions they may need to take. It's important that you continue to stress the importance of staying vigilant – from clicking links to responding to information requests without trusting the source. One of the major causes of unintentional cyber crime losses is within email accounts, where a user receives a request to verify the login credentials of their account. Regular reminders and training should help.

Download security upgrades as soon as they are released

It's very easy to put off installing the latest security updates for your PCs, laptops, smartphones tablets and software, but even though it might take a few minutes, it's important to close the gaps in your cyber security. The older your operating systems are, the more likely that they are vulnerable to cyber threat.

Keep your antivirus software up to date

Again, it's important that you make sure you're running the most sophisticated antivirus software available to you.

You don't have to pay a lot of money for good protection, but you do have to make sure that you take advantage of any available patches and upgrades, as hackers are constantly developing workarounds and ways to breach your security.

Set up a two-factor authentication system

Passwords are often not the safest way to protect your data. It's all too easy to rely on two or three standby passwords, which are often far too short and easy to hack. A two factor authentication system requires you to connect another device, like your phone, to your account and then a new code is sent to you every time you log in. This extra step makes it a lot more difficult for hackers to access your password-protected applications.

Provide any employees with a company computer/laptop/smartphone

The more devices that log into your network, the more chance that the network could be compromised. Although it's tempting for small businesses to save money by allowing employees to use their personal machines at work, you simply don't know who has had access to their computer or what kind of viruses they're bringing into your network. If you standardise the devices used for your business, you can control the level of security and antivirus software installed on them.

Back up important company files and contacts

This may sound obvious, but it's surprising how easy it is to forget to maintain good backup practices. It's helpful to make use of cloud computing when you're on the go so that your files aren't saved solely on a physical device. However, it's also wise to make use of an external hard drive and run periodic backup sessions, so that if your online network is compromised, your files are safely contained in an offline repository.

It is also important to make sure the external drives are kept secure and to consider using data encryption where possible.

Carrying out regular training is imperative to preventing a cyber attack, but if you do fall victim it can take both time and money to reduce the impact and get your business back up and running. Our cyber insurance can help you take back control and deal with the fallout.

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Added: 06 Nov 2019