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Who’s Reading And Sending Your Emails?

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Do you remember how you lived your day-to-day life prior to the internet and email? Some may say it was a simpler way of living. However, think about how the internet has improved your ability to reach your customers, to share information, and how it has overall improved your productivity.

But, just like all technologies, once the internet and email became mainstream and part of the average person’s everyday life, people started abusing and manipulating it for their own benefit.

Now, we’re not talking about those who are trying to trick search engines to get better search engine rankings. We’re talking about “cyber creeps” that hijack your network, your website, and/or email and use it to spread viruses to everyone you have contact with setting off a chain reaction of cyber chaos.

Unfortunately, this past August Deborah Ratcliff, president of Ratcliff Heat & Air in Columbus, OH, had her email account compromised. “It was a lot of hassle to get everything straightened out and we’re still working on it,” she said. “We learned a lot from this experience and it’s something we are now aware of and are more vigilant about our accounts.”

So, how do you prevent this from happening to you? And, if it does happen, what should you do?

Tips For Preventing Cyber Security Breaches

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) there are several things that businesses can do to help secure their online information.

Train Employees In Security Principles: People don’t know what they don’t know. It is important that your company establishes best practices and policies for protecting information. Share this information with everyone on staff and make sure that everyone is aware of the policies.

Protect Information, Computers And Networks From Viruses, Spyware, And Other Malicious Code: It may seem obvious, but you need to install, and update, antivirus and anti-spyware soft ware on every computer in your business. There are a variety of vendors who provide this soft ware and most of them let you set up automatic updates and virus checks. It’s good to note that if you are not required to keep the information, and you do not need it, properly dispose of it, so that it is no longer vulnerable.

Provide Firewall Security For Your Internet Connection: Install and maintain firewalls between your internal network and the internet. If employees work from home, ensure that their home systems are protected by firewalls. Install firewalls on all computers — including laptops — used in conducting your business.

Download And Install Software Updates: Download software updates on a regular basis. These updates often provide patches to correct security problems.

Secure Your Wi-Fi: If you are using Wi-Fi in your office make sure that in order for anyone to access it they have to have a password.

Require Individual User Accounts For Each Employee: Setup a separate account for each individual and require that strong passwords be used for each account. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

Regularly Change Passwords: While changing passwords may seem like a hassle, when people use the same password for everything for extended periods of time, they become easier to hack. Make it a requirement that employees change their passwords at least every three months. Ratcliff admits, “I was using the same password for a lot of things for a long time. Now we have changed them all, and it’s a bit of a hassle, because I can’t always remember them, but I think we are safer.”

Oh No It Happened To Me!

Unfortunately, when it comes to cyber creeps it’s more of a matter of when they will succeed than if they succeed. So, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place to handle the aftermath.

Have A Plan In Place: Ratcliff says that we create action plans for all kinds of emergencies, so you should have one for when a cyber security breach happens. “Create a folder with all the names and telephone numbers of all the companies and people you need to notify,” she suggests. “That way when it happens you have one folder to pull and you can start calling immediately. It’s also a good idea to make copies of the front and back of all of your credit cards kept in a secure location, so you don’t have to scramble to look them up.”

Notify Law Enforcement: It may seem a little extreme, but if the compromise could result in harm to a person or business, you should call your local police department immediately. Report your situation and the potential risk for identity theft . The sooner law enforcement learns about the theft, the more effective they can be.

Notify Affected Businesses: You are not the only one who may be affected by the security breach. Inform any company that you do business with immediately…think banks, credit cards companies, and vendors.

Notify Your Customers: Once there is a breach, there is no telling what information the cyber creep gained access to from your system. Err on the side of caution and let your customers know that their information may have been compromised.

Paying attention to the security of your computers and network will help lessen the occurrence of security breaches, but can’t completely prevent them. The best thing to do is stay vigilant and be prepared for it when it happens.

Posted In: ACCA Now, Technology

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