Don’t Let Hackers Ruin Your Holidays

Online shopping has become more popular than ever before. In 2020, more than 2 billion people bought products or services online. Whether they’re shopping online because it’s more convenient or they’re avoiding going to brick-and-mortar retailers during the ongoing pandemic, more people are turning to online retailers every day.

It’s not just the convenience or health safety that’s drawing people to shop online; shopping this way has become more secure than ever before. That doesn’t mean all retail websites are created equal when it comes to safety and security. Hackers and scammers are still out there trying to get your information, but by taking the proper precautions, you have no reason to worry while shopping digitally.

If you plan on buying online this holiday season, here are five tips to ensure your information stays protected.

Use Well-Known And Secure Sites

When looking to purchase a product or service online, you have thousands of options to choose from. To avoid having your personal information stolen, it’s best to use familiar sites such as Amazon, Walmart or any of the other major retailers. If you search for a product on a search engine, you may be presented with prices that are extremely low. There’s a good chance these are not trustworthy sites. When it comes to online shopping, if it seems too good to be true, something is wrong.

Pay attention to the security of the site where you’re trying to make a purchase. Look for a lock icon in the browser bar. If the website has one, then you should be safe on their site. Another way to tell is by looking at the beginning of the web address. If it begins with “https” instead of “http,” you are in good shape, and you can continue using the site. Secure websites help protect your financial information as well as passwords. Shopping at unsecured sites can put your personal information at risk.

Create Stronger Passwords

A strong password can make all the difference between your information remaining secure and someone stealing it. You need to make your passwords as difficult as possible so that hackers and thieves can’t hack into your accounts. It’s best to use a complex mix of uppercase and lowercase letters while including special characters and numbers. Avoid using common spellings of words and personal information in your passwords because these can be easier to crack.

If you’re worried about not remembering a complex password, use a password manager. This tool will remember the passwords for your accounts while also keeping them protected. Utilizing password managers is the best way to create complex passwords since you won’t have to personally remember them, and they will still be protected.

Keep Track Of Your Statements

You should always be watching your finances, but it becomes even more important when shopping online. It’s a good habit to form and will help you catch overcharges or purchases that you did not make. It’s also a good idea to only shop with a credit card when shopping online. If someone hacks into your account and steals your debit card information, they will have direct access to your money. Most credit cards have protections in place for fraud, so you won’t be at fault for any errant charges on your account.

Protect Your Information

When entering a new website, you should be wary if they ask for any personal information upfront. No online retailer should ever ask for your Social Security number unless you are applying for a credit card on their site. Be cautious if they ask for your birthday as well. Hackers can use this information in conjunction with your credit card number to wreak havoc on your life.

Don’t Shop On Public WiFi

While it might seem like a good way to keep yourself entertained while enjoying a coffee at a local café, shopping on public WiFi can leave you at risk of being hacked. Public WiFi is often not very secure, and entering your personal information while using it can give hackers easy access. It’s much safer to bookmark the item and wait until you’re home or no longer using WiFi to make
the purchase.

Shopping online can be as safe and reliable as shopping in a store – as long as you take the proper precautions. Take some time to ensure that you are following the right security measures before making purchasing or entering any information.

A Proven Method To Secure Your Business’s Network

People don’t usually think about small businesses when discussing cyber security. The media covers breaches in governmental and big-business security in excess. These entities usually have lucrative targets that attract the attention of hackers but are often backed up with an extremely protective network security system that’s difficult to crack. When hackers can’t break the big system, they turn their attention to easier targets.

While most hackers want the opportunity to crack a high-risk target, these situations are few and far between. Instead, they turn their attention toward much lower-hanging fruit. This is where small businesses come in; they still have access to money and data but have much lower defense than a governmental entity. Luckily, many average cyber security strategies can keep the would-be hackers away. Their methods are always changing, though, and it helps to be one step ahead of the game.

These are the best current cyber security strategies you can put into place.

Cloud Security

Cloud security is the protection of data stored online via cloud computing platforms from theft, leakage and deletion. As more and more businesses switch from hard-drive data storage to remote databases, this practice is becoming more and more commonplace. Methods of providing cloud security include firewalls, penetration testing and virtual private networks (VPN), to name a few. While many people feel that their data and information are better stored on a hard drive on their own network, data stored in the cloud may actually be more secure, depending on the system’s defense strategy. Be wary, though: not all cloud securities are made the same. Do your research and pick one that will best protect your data.

Network Security

Network security is the protection of the underlying networking infrastructure from unauthorized access, misuse or theft. This is what your network administrator will need to put into place in order to keep your devices and data secure. The best approach to protecting your network is to create a strong WiFi password. Random numbers and letters work best for a small business since nobody but those who need it will be able to guess the password. In addition to a strong password, you’ll also have to anticipate any type of internal attack.

VPNs And Firewalls

A VPN can help protect your security by masking your IP address. This essentially means that you’ll be connected through a different server, making it much harder for the government or websites to pinpoint your location. It also encrypts all network data by creating a secure tunnel. A firewall is simply a shield that protects your computer from the Internet. Firewalls can help restrict access to sites that could be damaging to your network. Both of these tools can be highly effective when used properly, but they do not protect against all threats.

Updates And Upgrades

While it might seem simple, consistently updating and upgrading your technology tools can keep you much more secure. The developers of many of these tools are constantly looking for new threats that pose a risk to their program. They’ll issue patches to make sure any holes are filled. You just need to make sure that all of your tools are updated in a timely manner and verify that the updates are installing.

Data Backups

You should always have multiple backups of your business’s data. You never know when a power surge or some type of natural disaster might cause your current files to be deleted. You can prevent this issue by regularly backing up your data.

Employee Training

It’s important to limit employee access to systems and data owned by your company. Not everyone needs to have access, so only give it to those who can’t work without it. There should also be some type of security training for all employees. Phishing schemes and weak passwords create just as many issues as hackers do. Finally, you should make sure everyone in your workplace is security-conscious. A single breach could critically hurt your business. Your employees need to understand this so they can be proactive as well.

No matter which route you take, the most important thing you can do for your small business is protect its network. Governmental entities and big businesses do not suffer from security lapses nearly as bad as small businesses. A security lapse could even stop your business dead in its tracks.

5 Risks of Not Having a Business Continuity Plan

What would happen to your business if there was a disruption to operations? Would employees know what to do to get systems online? How much would downtime cost the business? If you’re not sure, it’s time to consider putting a business continuity plan in place. The plan helps get systems back online. Employees know what to do in case of manmade or natural disasters. Most importantly, a plan saves your business time, money, and reputation.

The elements of a business continuity plan include:

  • Risk assessment to understand impact of interruption.
  • Clear, precise, and tested recovery procedures assigned to specific stakeholders.
  • System to secure, backup, and restore data.

What are the risks of not having a business continuity plan?

Without a business continuity plan, your business is at risk on a number of levels.

  1. Financial Risk. One of the biggest costs of disruption is financial. Ransomware attacks cost businesses thousands, if not millions, of dollars per year. Not to mention lost revenue and reputation management. Not having a business continuity plan in place means you’re risking your entire business. Invest now for a better tomorrow.
  2. Data protection. If a server failed, how quickly could operations be back up and running? If you’re not sure, it’s time to consider business continuity planning. Without a data protection plan in place, data is at risk. Protect data by ensuring there is a system to secure and back up company information, especially in case of a disaster like server failure.
  3. Disconnect with remote workers. When companies had to send employees to work from home during the pandemic, many didn’t have the infrastructure and hardware in place to make the transition. To make sure remote employees have access to the data and resources they need, they need accessibility. Your organization needs a plan to ensure workers can easily transition to and from the office and remote locations. A business continuity plan can help by making sure VPN, VOiP, and other systems are in place and running at all times or can be easily restored in case of interruption.
  4. Loss of reputation. One negative review online can easily be resolved but a full company shutdown can be disastrous to your company’s reputation. If your customers can’t reach you or your customer service team doesn’t have a plan of what do in case of interruption, it can take a long time and a PR campaign to recover. Don’t risk the reputation of the business you created and have a business continuity plan in place.
  5. Insurance doesn’t cover everything. While business interruption insurance may cover some expenses in case of disaster, it doesn’t typically cover deaths or federal violations. It also may not cover loss of reputation. Mitigate risk and talk to Panurgy about a business continuity plan for your business. It’s not a matter of if but when a disaster will strike.

Don’t risk your business. Plan ahead for disaster when you have a business continuity plan in place. Get started with Panurgy today!

Protecting Your Business From Data Disasters

Data is everything to a small business in this day and age – which means if you lose access or control of your data, you lose everything.

As dramatic as that might sound, the data backs that up. According to several sources, 93% of companies, no matter how big they are, are out of business within one year if they suffer a major data disaster without having first formulated a strategy for combating it. And since 68% of businesses don’t have any sort of plan for that worst-case scenario, that means losing data would be a death knell for most of the businesses in the country.

Fortunately, your business does not have to be one of them. By taking the following steps, you can ensure that you have a rock-solid disaster recovery plan in place.

Step 1: Know How A Disaster Recovery Plan Is Different From A Business Continuity Plan

The main difference between these two types of plans is that while business continuity plans are proactive, disaster recovery plans are reactive.

More specifically, a business continuity plan is a strategy by which a business ensures that, no matter what disaster befalls it, it can continue to operate and provide products and services to its customers. A disaster recovery plan, on the flip side, is a strategy by which businesses can back up and recover critical data should it get lost or held for ransom.

So, now that we have a clear, concise understanding of what constitutes a disaster recovery plan, we can dive into the steps necessary to create one.

Step 2: Gather Information And Support

In order to get the ball rolling on your disaster recovery plan, start with executive buy-in. This means that everyone, from the CEO to the entry-level employees, needs to be brought in on executing the plan in case your company suffers a data disaster. When everyone is aware of the possibility of a data disaster, it allows for cross-functional collaboration in the creation process – a necessary step if you want to prevent breaches in all parts of your systems.

You need to account for all elements in your tech systems when you’re putting together your disaster recovery plan, including your systems, applications and data. Be sure to account for any issues involving the physical security of your servers as well as physical access to your systems. You’ll need a plan in case those are compromised.

In the end, you’ll need to figure out which processes are absolutely necessary to keep up and running during a worst-case scenario when your capability is limited.

Step 3: Actually Create Your Strategy

When everyone is on board with the disaster recovery plan and they understand their systems’ vulnerabilities, as well as which systems need to stay up and running even in a worst-case scenario, it’s time to actually put together the game plan. In order to do that, you’ll need to have a good grip on your budget, resources, tools and partners.

If you’re a small business, you might want to consider your budget and the timeline for the recovery process. These are good starting points for putting together your plan, and doing so will also give you an idea of what you can tell your customers to expect while you get your business back up to full operating capacity.

Step 4: Test The Plan

Even if you complete the first two steps, you’ll never know that you’re prepared until you actually test out your disaster recovery plan. Running through all the steps with your employees helps them familiarize themselves with the steps they’ll need to take in the event of a real emergency, and it will help you detect any areas of your plan that need improvement. By the time an actual data disaster befalls your business, your systems and employees will easily know how to spring into action.

So, to review, these are the quick actions that you and your employees will need to take in order to make a successful, robust disaster recovery plan:

  • Get executive buy-in for the plan.
  • Research and analyze the different systems in your business to understand how they could be impacted.
  • Prioritize systems that are absolutely necessary to the functioning of your business.
  • Test your disaster recovery plan to evaluate its effectiveness.

Complete these steps, and you can ensure that your business will survive any data disaster that comes your way.

How Co-Managed IT Could Save Your Company From Financial Disaster

When you consider the investments in your business that you can make as a CEO, you probably think to yourself, “Which investments will give my company the best ROI?” With that in mind, would you think of making a significant investment in bolstering your IT department?

Many CEOs are understandably hesitant to throw a lot of money into their IT department because the ROI is more difficult to estimate. That said, though, consistently updating your company’s IT services is becoming increasingly crucial to the continued success, and indeed safety, of your company. Ransomware and other cyber-attacks that steal company data are becoming more frequent and more costly, while IT departments continually get the short end of the budgetary stick.

While that all undoubtedly sounds horrible, you might be wondering just what you can do about it. After all, you only have so much money you can invest back into your company’s IT department, and it might not be sufficient for keeping your IT staff from getting burned out, disgruntled or making costly mistakes – even when they’re performing their responsibilities to the best of their abilities.

What if there were a way that you could have access to the most up-to-date IT knowledge and software while also not having to shell out the funds necessary to update your systems and hire more knowledgeable employees? Well, that’s where co-managed IT can be your company’s life preserver.

Co-managed IT is a flexible system for keeping data for your company, employees and clients safe from cyber-attacks as well as assisting in your daily operations where needed. Think of it as “filling in the gaps” that your current IT department (try as they might) struggle to fill.

For instance, say your current IT department is great at taking care of the day-to-day fires that inevitably come up in a normal workday, but they struggle to get to the “important but not urgent” task of updating your company’s cyber security and creating data backups. Maybe it’s the other way around, where your IT department is very focused on security, but they struggle to find time to assist employees with password resets and buggy programs. Maybe neither of these cases describes your IT department, but they still need better access to the tools and software that would allow them to reach their full potential in protecting the company’s sensitive information. Or maybe your company is going through a period of rapid expansion, and you just don’t have time to build the kind of IT infrastructure that would best serve your needs.

Regardless of what your IT department’s current needs are, co-managed IT is the solution. We’re here to do the tasks and provide the tools that your current IT department just can’t provide. Make no mistake, however: our intent is not to replace your current IT leader or team. In fact, we rely on the expertise that your IT department has about your systems. That’s what makes up the “co” in “co-managed IT.”

In order for co-managed IT to work, your company’s IT department will need to see us as an ally in doing their job, not as an adversary. At the same time, they’ll also need to be open to new ways of doing things. The world of cyber security is constantly changing, and if your IT department is set in their ways and unwilling to budge, your company will be left with an antiquated system, chock-full of valuable data that hackers and cybercriminals can easily exploit.

Finally, however, in order for co-managed IT to work, your company still must be willing to invest in its IT department. We know that the ROI might not be as clear as it is for some other investments, but trust us, the consequences of not having up-to-date IT services if (or when) hackers steal your sensitive data could financially devastate your company – or even end it altogether.

So, with that in mind, we hope you’ll consider the benefits of co-managed IT and how it can make your company safe from cyber-attacks and bring you peace of mind.Could your internal IT staff use some extra hands? Are you worried that your backups and IT security are not adequate for todays every changing threats? Our free IT optimization plan will show you how we can, ensure your cyber security solutions are up to date and stay that way, as well as where we can provide those “extra hands” for projects, end user support or to fill in those gaps, while potentially lowering your IT costs.    

Could your internal IT staff use some extra hands? Are you worried that your backups and IT security are not adequate for todays every changing threats? Our free IT optimization plan will show you how we can, ensure your cyber security solutions are up to date and stay that way, as well as where we can provide those “extra hands” for projects, end user support or to fill in those gaps, while potentially lowering your IT costs.    

Schedule a Discovery Call today to get started on getting your free IT Optimization Plan.