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December 22, 2015

Staying secure online in 2016

The global cyber-attack culture shows no sign of slowing down as we head into 2016. This means that it’s more important than ever to take steps to be safe online. While consumers need to be progressively aware of online security, businesses must take action now to safeguard their website.

Personal

LaptopBeing secure when surfing the web is not just important on a desktop computer – you’re potentially more at risk when browsing on a portable device. Not only can people see what you’re typing or browsing on the go, but people can also gain access to your network through unsecure Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections. Here are the main ways that people can gain access to your details:

  • Knowing passwords: If you use your phone, tablet or laptop in public, you’re more at risk of someone seeing, or even guessing your password. Make sure it’s as cryptic and complicated as possible, but of course you need to ensure you remember it. Using a tool such as LastPass can ensure account safety. Try using two-factor or multi-factor authorisation such as fingerprint or a unique pattern for an extra layer of security.
  • Spam: Mainly through emails, hackers can send unsolicited messages, or spam, to large amounts of people and it’s likely that someone will click on them. Don’t click on any emails or links from unknown sources and be wary of them on social media too. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so protect your emails by setting up spam folders and don’t communicate with users who aren’t known to you.
  • Using card details online: When you’re shopping online, you need to make sure you’re even more secure than normal. Keep your security software up-to-date and look for sites with web addresses with “https://” or “shttp://”, which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “http://” is not as secure and will leave you more at risk.

It’s likely that either you or someone you know will be targeted at some point, so you need to ensure that security is as tight as possible to reduce the amount of damage that a hacker can inflict. Here are some tips to protecting yourself when browsing the web and things you should look out for:

  • Use secure Wi-Fi: If a Wi-Fi connection is not secured, unauthorised people may have access to what you’re browsing online. If the connection between your device and the Wi-Fi is not encrypted, or if someone creates a spoof hotspot – essentially an internet connection owned by hackers to lure you in, then your device will be particularly at risk. Here’s the best way to ensure your Wi-Fi is secured.
  • Turn Bluetooth off: Whenever you’re out on the go, you should switch Bluetooth off when you’re not using it. Ensure your device is not ‘discoverable’ and don’t pair devices in public when creating a connection. You should always restrict access where possible to prevent people from scanning or transmitting to your device.
  • Be vigilant and prompt: Of course, you should never leave your device unattended and always ensure you’ve put a passcode on your phone or tablet. Using it on the go increases the risk of it being stolen, and ensures nobody can see your screen from behind you or by your side. If someone does violate your privacy in any way, act promptly to protect yourself and limit the damage by defending yourself appropriately.

Businesses

The main security emphasis lies with reputable companies which should ensure they are as safe as possible. As recent cases involving companies including TalkTalk have shown, firms which are exploited can see their reputations be affected with a long-lasting impact.

It’s important to note that no system is fool-proof, but you must take every step possible to protect an online business against hackers who could steal vital information. Here are some tips to ensure your company’s assets are secured:

  • Change passwords and limit access: When installing software or a machine out of the box, change the password upon setup. This is one of the most common security mistakes from companies and is simple to sort. Keep the amount of people with access to an absolute minimum, ensuring that passwords are changed regularly to monitor activity and spot any unusual activity promptly.
  • Update your software: Updating your software, plugins and systems ensures that security is at its tightest. Anti-virus software should also be installed in some form. Regular checks and updates on your software will allow you to become familiar with the activity on your site and pick up on any vulnerabilities.
  • Encrypt data: Visa and MasterCard are amongst those who require businesses to have certain procedures set up and encrypting data is one of those in order to protect customers’ personal data. Sometimes, particularly for small businesses, it can be useful to outsource this part of your business using a system such as PayPal. Ensure that you research thoroughly beforehand to ensure it’s a reputable firm.

To find about more on the security of your ecommerce site, read my recent blog post here. Take a look at Igniyte’s guide to protecting company reputation here for details of how to implement internal security procedures, and get in touch with me at simon@igniyte.co.uk or on +44 (0) 203 542 8689 if you’d like to discuss protecting your brand’s reputation.

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