Staying Safe Online: Protecting Your Business

15 de mayo de 2005
Resumen Installing the right security software and following several key safety measures can help keep your small business’ information secure as you conduct business over the Internet.

In this age of technology, the Internet is vital to most small businesses on a day-to-day basis. You may be making business purchases and other transactions online that involve sensitive information, so implementing some security best practices is critical.

Measures to Protect Your Business

Taking precautionary measures can help you ensure the safety of your online business transactions. Here are several important steps you can take:

  • Check for encryption: Encryption is the process of encoding data, making it difficult for unauthorized parties to interpret. Encrypted Web pages offer enhanced data security to protect information as it is transmitted over the Internet. Before entering any of your business’ financial information such as credit card numbers on a Web page, for example, you should verify that the page on which you are entering the data is encrypted. Check for a padlock icon on the status bar of your Web browser. By placing your mouse pointer over the icon (or double-clicking on it, depending on your browser), you can see the level of encryption on the page. You can also right-click on the Web page and select View Page Info and then click on the Security tab to review the encryption. Many sites offer 256-bit encryption, also known as high-grade encryption. Additionally, you may want to look at the Web address since many encrypted sites begin with https – the letter “s” stands for secure.
  • Check for authentication: Since there are imitation Web sites and other fraudulent company sites that trick users into entering sensitive information, it is important for you to check the authenticity of a Web site prior to conducting any business online. Reputable online sites will have digital certificates to confirm their identity. A digital certificate is a certificate issued by a third-party to verify the identity of a Web site. The third-party, such as VeriSign, takes steps to establish the authentic identity of a company’s Web site before issuing a certificate. You can access information about a Web site’s certificate by going to the Options selection from the Tools menu of most major Web browsers, or by right-clicking on the Web page and viewing page information.
  • Read privacy policies: All major companies have privacy policies that outline exactly how they intend to use your business’ information. If the privacy policy does not clearly state whether that information will be made available to additional parties, or if you are uncomfortable with the terms of the privacy policy, you have two choices: Refrain from giving out your information online and call the company instead, or find another company whose practices you are more comfortable with.
  • Be email savvy: Infected messages, phishing attempts, and spam are ways in which email is used to transmit viruses and other security breaches. Be a savvy email user and delete emails and attachments from unknown or suspicious addresses, and also scan attachments for viruses and download them only if they are clean. Also, be alert for phishing scams – unsolicited emails that appear to be from legitimate organizations that try to persuade or trick you into providing personal or financial information. To help ensure that your business is protected, it is important to create an email policy which includes specific guidelines as to how your employees may use their business email accounts and instant messaging applications, etc.
  • Create Strong Passwords: When you open business accounts for online transactions, it is important to create strong passwords. Hackers try to gain unauthorized access to accounts by cracking passwords, so it’s important that passwords include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers, and is at least eight characters in length.
  • Install and update antivirus software: Antivirus software protects your computer from viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. Cybercriminals and hackers have the potential to shut down business operations by transmitting viruses, which can cost your small business a great deal of time and money. You can protect your computer systems by installing antivirus software on all computing devices connected to your network (including PDAs) and performing regular virus scans.
  • Update your Web browser: Major Web browsers have built-in security features for safer online transactions. Make sure you and your employees regularly update your browsers to accommodate the latest security features.
  • Install a firewall: To protect your network from unauthorized users from accessing your business data, it is important to install a firewall. A firewall allows you to keep track of users by their login information, which they use to enter and exit your network. In addition to a network firewall, you should install a firewall on each remote device for an additional layer of security.

Additional Security Measures

  • Use credit cards rather than debit cards for added protection: According to current laws, credit cards offer more protection than debit cards, should they be stolen and used. Additionally, according to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), an individual’s maximum liability for unauthorized charges is $50. However, even when using credit cards, always make sure that you are comfortable with the site that you are entering information into and if you have any questions, call the company to confirm before providing financial or customer information online.
  • Track online accounts: Check your business’ banking, credit, and customer accounts on a regular basis, in order to identify any unusual or unauthorized activity. Make sure to carefully track all purchases, sales, and other business activity you conduct online, and follow up on any accounts you have questions about.

Conclusion

The convenience of doing business online inherently involves risk. The good news is that you can conduct business online more safely by staying informed about the latest threats and implementing the security measures discussed in this article.