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IT Security

3 Common IT Challenges Small Businesses Face

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Technology is the enabler for most businesses today, and SMEs rely on IT apps and systems in most departments, from finance to sales. There are a few common challenges with technology, and in this post, we review what they are and how to turn them into strengths for your business.

Top Most Common Tech Challenges

Thankfully there are a lot of sources online to assist with the accuracy of our content. Starting with TechCrunch. They rank IT security as the top challenge.

IT Security

The pandemic did not pause cybercrime, and reports say cyberattacks increased with malware, phishing, and ransomware being the most common cyber threats to businesses. Remote working has added to the stress.

Companies need to ensure devices and apps used to share data and access business systems are secure. Staff at home are less accessible. The need for ongoing knowledge transfer and user training requires planning and resources, which is an added cost SMEs would prefer to do without.

Malware Attacks

Out of all types of data attacks, malware is among the most common. Malware attacks are simple and happen when a piece of malicious software is installed on someone’s computer or a network. The malware will then perform specific actions as desired.

Some malware is there to disrupt. Other malware can do things such as catching admin credentials for financial information, for instance. These can be very serious and put your whole organization at a standstill, so they cannot take them lightly.

Another thing you should know is that malware attacks are rarely made without the cooperation of a human in your organization. And, in most cases, they weren’t even in on it.

Attackers will often use social engineering techniques to pose as someone in authority. The receiver will have no idea as everything will be made to look like it’s coming from that person.

But this isn’t the only case where humans can become a liability. As a matter of fact, humans are the single biggest IT vulnerability.

You may have a remote or hybrid workplace, and one of your employees loses a device that could be found and accessed by a hacker. From the device, your whole network at risk.

It’s in the Cloud

Getting your head around cloud computing and how to adopt it company-wide is challenging. Vendor agreements are different, and the model is user pays, which is a far cry from buying a server and having it in your office.

Lack of In-House Skill

This is one of the biggest challenges for any business. Finding people who have IT skills and the type of skill you need can be complicated. Someone may understand certain things, but if you have an issue that needs a particular set of expertise, you might find your business stuck and hitting a dead end.

This is why many businesses decide to outsource their IT department. This way, they have a team at their disposal that can deal with everything that they need. They can also do things such as maintaining your licenses to make sure that they’re in order and that your patches are all up to date. Or they might be able to help you recover your systems quickly if there’s an unexpected error or breach.

Emerging Tech

Getting to grips with AI, robotics, Natural Language Processing, and matching learning is challenging to most businesses. When do you adopt systems that may replace your staff? There’s no escaping change and technology evolution. Some apps already use AI, and automation is used in many mundane tasks within the business.

Chatbots use AI and machine learning are the norm on many websites that offer services and online purchases, i.e. eCommerce stores. 64% of users say the 24-hour service is the best feature of the chatbot. As a consumer, you rely on instantaneous response, especially when you’re in the midst of an online purchase.

Summing Up

These are just some of the most common IT issues small businesses have to deal with every day. If you are one, make sure that you protect yourself against these risks and consider hiring an expert team for assistance.

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IT Security

Developing an eCommerce Website: 7 Must-Do Privacy Steps

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Setting up a website is effortless these days. You buy your hosting, find a platform, pick a name, and voila – you’re a site owner. The real challenge comes when you need to develop every bit of it before it goes public. It continues when it goes live since your task is to keep it safe and secure.

With digital crime growing every day, keeping a website safe from fraud and hacking is challenging. During Covid-19 there were up to 30,000 cyber attacks every day. Any competent business person whose success depends on online sales knows that a significant breach or several small chargebacks can kill everything they’ve done since the start.

Privacy & Security On eCommerce Sites

Selling your products or services online has a huge earning potential. It offers you a more expansive and virtually unlimited reach. According to Statista research, around 270 million Americans make online purchases in a year. That brings a total of $548 billion into the eCommerce industry every year.

However, the money you’ll be receiving from your eCommerce store, i.e., the website, won’t change hands invisibly. You’ll need people’s information, a lot of which is personal, to process their payments and deliver the products and services. Unless you have a good privacy and safety strategy in place, this will be impossible to do.

Did you know that every month, there is an average of 249 fraud attempts? In 2018, it prevented only 182 fraud attempt and in 2020 FTC received over 2 million consumer fraud reports.

People are warier of the rising online crime than ever. They put extra caution into sharing their personal information, which means that people won’t trust you enough to buy from your website unless you put safety measures in place.

The online world is highly reliant on word-of-mouth. It means that, even if you suffer a smaller hack that doesn’t hurt your company badly, the word can spread pretty fast, instantly ruining your reputation and credibility.

Not to mention, failing to implement the necessary safety measures can equal breaking the law. You’ll be up for penalties and consequences. It’s why if you’ve decided to put your eCommerce business idea into action, you need to take all the precautions to keep privacy to an optimal level.

Critical Privacy & Security Tasks

Here are the critical privacy and security steps that every eCommerce website creator should take.

Get familiar with the applicable laws

As crime grows online, so does the number of security steps businesses need to take to keep their customers safe. Data is beneficial to companies these days. It allows them to sell products, track the market, analyze and create their marketing strategies, and communicate with customers. However, it is as much of a threat as it is an asset.

The call for strengthening the data privacy of consumers has been heard all around the globe. Every year, we hear new legislative changes that ensure consumers’ privacy and security who buy things online. There are currently 100 countries spanning six continents with privacy laws in place, attempting to protect internet users’ information.

If you want to build a trustworthy business and avoid legal issues, you need to operate within the confines of the laws applicable to you. For example, if you’re in California, you should constantly be up to date with the latest ccpa laws and regulations. These are carefully crafted to keep consumers safe.

The California Consumer Protection Act or CCPA is one of the latest additions to privacy laws worldwide. It was enacted on January 1 of 2020. At this point, eCommerce businesses had more than a year to understand and ensure that their companies are doing the necessary to protect consumers.

With that in mind, before you put your website online, you need to make privacy your priority—this is the best way to get started.

In addition to ensuring that your website complies with the CCPA regulations, ensure that you’re informed on other applicable laws and regulations. Why is this important?

GDPR, for example, (the European Union privacy law) requires all companies who sell to customers within the Union’s borders to be compliant with their rules and regulations. If you want to avoid harsh penalties, you should get familiar with their regulations also.

Trademark your logo and company name

Your business might be new for now, and therefore, there’ll probably be little interest in stealing it. However, as it grows, you might be a victim of identity theft – but for your company. The most essential tip an eCommerce business person can get these days is to trademark their company name and logo.

Before you choose a name, make sure that it is clear to use as a trademark. Finding an available domain name does not mean that your choice is known as a trademark. To ensure that no one will try and take your company name and logo, you need to go through this process as soon as possible.

If you don’t know how to register a name as a trademark, seek a legal professional that will process your request through the Patent and Trademark Office. Registering your company’s and website’s name protects you against infringers, future copiers, as well as knockoffs.

Pick a secure eCommerce platform

There are many choices in terms of where you can open your eCommerce store. But, if you want to enrich consumers’ privacy, you should take this step very seriously. Building a store on Software-as-a-Service platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce is an excellent idea since these sites help you build, host, and keep your store safe.

In most cases, eCommerce platforms are chosen for their convenience of use, functionality, range of design, and security features. The goal here is to find solutions that provide SSL certificates, encrypted payment gateways, and suitable authentication protocols for buyers and sellers.

Use HTTPS

SSL or Secure Sockets Layer is a security technology that allows you to establish encrypted links between browsers and web servers. Using HTTP with SSL ensures that all data through the web server and browser remains integral and private. It’s vital if you wish to ensure your customers’ privacy and keep the eCommerce transactions secure.

Having HTTPS websites means higher Google rankings, improved security, increased customer confidence, and conversions.

Keep the website updated

Not only should you update your site to meet the latest changes in laws and regulations, but also to prevent fraud. Yes, website owners can also take measures to reduce the risk of being hacked. As of 2019, 56% of all the traffic online comes from automated sources like spammers, impersonators, hacking tools, and bots.

Unpatched extensions and applications make websites very easy targets. This is why you should always keep the site and its back-end software updated with new security patches.

Opt for strong passwords

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Those bots and hacking tools are a brute force of hacking. They put endless combinations of letters into a site attempting to enter it. Unless you have a strong password, they might get lucky and crack it. Then, it won’t matter what type of site you have or which laws you’ve tried to follow – they’ll be in.

So, make strong passwords to enter your site, but also request strong passwords from your team. Have your employees use strong passwords, a combo of different-sized letters, symbols, or numbers. Also, remind people to change their passwords often, like, for example, twice a year.

Even if your site has flawless security and many measures in place, many websites’ weakest links are customers. People tend to have poor password hygiene. They’ll use the same passwords or try something very simple that they’ll remember easily. That being said, have some rules in terms of password creation for your consumers. This is to keep their data safe, so you’re doing them a favor by asking this, too.

Also use MFA (multi-factor authentication) wherever you can.  Your clients will thank you for it.

Learn to recognize the signs of fraud

Your job does not end when you take measures to create a safe website. To keep people’s private information secure, you need to remain alert at all times. Fraud prevention can only be as successful, which is why you need to learn to recognize the signs of fraud and stop it before it is too late.

To do this, take a peek at the types of emails used to sign up, the customer order history, check for suspicious emails, etc. Keep in mind that fraudsters target higher value items and usually have their orders shipped to obscure addresses.

Final thoughts

The eCommerce industry can be fruitful for those with a clear idea and quality products and services. However, if you want to succeed and survive in this market, you must put the customers’ privacy as one of your priorities. Remember – this is never a one-and-done deal. Threats change and evolve every day. At this time, the smartest move you can make to keep your reputation and business intact is to maintain a security-focused mindset.

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IT Security

Take These Steps And Protect Your Business From A Cybercrime

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You might have read the news story surrounding the events that happened at Mal A Largo. The prestigious club favoured by the president was recently breached by a woman who claimed she was a member. She wasn’t. When she was inside, she suggested she was there for a conference.

There was no conference taking place and the woman entered the club with multiple pieces of tech. One of which contained malware data. The president was in the club at the time and it is not currently known what the woman’s intentions were. It is however clear, that she almost succeeded.

This shouldn’t come as a massive shock. After all, recent reports have suggested that by 2021 there will be a cyber attack on a business every twenty seconds. That’s crazy and it won’t just be big businesses that are exposed either.

Indeed, experts suggest that smaller companies will be targeted because criminals won’t expect them to have the latest protection measures in place.

This leaves an important question: Is your business secure and prepared for the threat of a cyber attack?

Truthfully, the answer is probably no. But you can take steps and make changes to ensure that your business is protected.

Let’s look at some of the ways you can do this, plus here’s a quick recap on what you need to know about cyber crime and malware.

What is Malware?

You don’t need to know the history of malware but it’s kind of interesting so here’s a short summary.  Its beginnings are thought to be in 1949, with  computer scientist John von Neumann, however the first documented viruses were in the 1970s.

There was the creeper worm by Bob Thomas and in the eighties the man credited as the father of viruses, Fred Cohen really developed the computer virus as we know it today.

Not all viruses are bad, though malware is and it’s thought that a third of all computers world-wide have been infected at some time.

Hard-hitting viruses

There have been some very hard hitting computer viruses over the years including:

  • 2013 – Cyptolocker. This is one of the early ramsonware programs. Ramsonware in itself is interesting insofar as it denies the user access to their computer with threats to publish the users’ data unless a ransom is paid.
  • 2014 – Backoff. Known for hitting the Point of Sale (POS) machines to steal credit card data.
  • 2016 – Cerber. One of the most infective viruses according to Microsoft.
  • 2017 – WannaCry Ransomware. Appropriately named as many companies attacked by it did ‘want to cry’.

Source – a brief history of malware

What is Cybercrime?

Simply put, cybercrime is the term given to describe any criminal activity online, i.e. uses the Internet. It’s far-reaching, insofar as it includes everything from ramsonware and other viruses, to hacking, phishing and spamming.

So, what can you do to make sure your business is protected?

Installed And Up To Date

It’s important to make sure that you are installing anti-virus software. Once it is installed, make sure that you are updating it regularly. Many people think that once you have installed anti-virus software on your tech, your issues are over. This just isn’t the case. Indeed, it’s instead possible and even likely that you fall behind on updates and suddenly there’s basically no protection for your business.

This is usually because people are relying on free antivirus software. Free software is better than nothing, but it’s definitely not the ideal solution. If you want the highest level of protection, then you need to invest in the best software on the market. This isn’t free but it does provide fantastic value for your company.

Choose Strong Passwords

Passwords are incredibly dangerous if they are easy to guess or if they include information that people could quickly access. As such, there should be no personal information used to create your passwords. It should be a random string of numbers and letters. These are almost impossible to guess or hack and as such will keep your sensitive data secure.

The Latest Tech

Do make sure that you are investing in the latest technology and equipment. The latest tech will usually have preventive measures in place to ensure that software is protected. Particularly if they are running the latest programs and systems.

You should be careful of methods for saving money as well such as BYOD initiatives. While this can cut costs down, you can’t guarantee that the devices that employees are as secure as they need to be. Investing in the latest technology yourself will always be the best option.

We hope this helps you understand how to secure your business from a potential cybercrime.

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IT Security

How Compliant is your Small Business?

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Operating a small business doesn’t mean you can be complacent with how you’re protecting customer data and the prevention of the real threat of credit card theft.

Hacking gangs are alive and well hence the tightening of data protection rules  in the western world including the European Union’s GDPR.

Data Protection

So there’s two major compliances to work on immediately if you’ve not done so already.  Doing the basics  to ensure your business is in compliance with data protection laws including the GDPR even if you’re not in Europe is a must-do and here’s how you can get started if you’ve not done it already.

Every website collecting email addresses and more, need to comply with the requirements for protecting customer data.  There’s more that’s needed too see (Website policies) further on in this article.

PCI Compliance

There is also a pressing concern for all businesses, eCommerce and particularly those in the retail sector to commit to  PCI compliance.  You might be wondering what it is and is your operation too small to be bothered with it right now.

A really good explanation of what PCI DSS is and why any business transactions using credit cards needs to comply can be found in this article on BusinessBlogs.

Self Assessment

Smaller businesses can do a self assessment and why you might sigh with relief, don’t get too comfortable, you’ll still need to know exactly how to do a PCI self assessment and how to get set up so when your business grows it’s got everything in place for external assessments.

PCI and Networks

The real difficulty lies in understanding how sensitive data moves along your network which is a must for assessment.  The wireless LANs and other connectivity points like USBs and bluetooth can be penetrated hence they need to be monitored and secure.  This is where a PCI compliant specialist comes into their own not only for your self assessment but also when using external PCI auditors for your compliance.

Website Policies

Earlier on we mentioned protection of customer data and laws like GDPR.

Any business with a website that collects customer data can not avoid the basics website features that allow for transparency of how customer data is collected, utilised and shared with privacy and cookies policies.

This really is the norm now and it’s the entry level for all websites so all website developers will implement it, so it’s just the older sites and the Do-it-yourself crowd who need to be aware of the requirements.

Website visitor expectation is they’ll see the pop up that asks for acceptance of re. your website cookies policy and they’ll take the necessary action.  Without it, your business is not perceived as being secure and visitors may take no further action i.e. they’ll exit your site.

All websites should also be using the SSL (HTTPS), and be mobile ready.  Plus have all the bells and whistles in place to manage customer data collection and management for protection of customer data.

Summary

Ignorance is not bliss and it will be hurting your business if your website is not on top of it’s compliance requirements.   Get curious, find out what you need to know and when you need to take action to keep the hackers out and the visitors in.

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