A Handy Guide to Cyber Security and How to Keep Your Data Safe

lock represent internet security

In online data security, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure just like with medicine. To ensure you never fall victim, you want to protect sensitive information about you and your company.

That’s where best practices for cyber security and protection become your greatest allies.

We’ve created a handy guide to help you protect sensitive information online from threats like cyber-attacks and system malfunction. You’ll want to keep this guide accessible, so bookmark this page and refer to it whenever you hire new employees or consider giving out sensitive information over the web.

Improve User Habits to Protect Your Data Online

A combination of efforts safeguards your user information. By improving user habits and ensuring you use trusted software, your company can safely avoid digital calamity.

User information is incredibly valuable. With data like usernames, passwords and social security numbers, someone can use your credit profile to borrow money, open a mortgage, or engage in other fraudulent activity.

Many have already fallen victim to digital attacks, whether that’s suffering from a sluggish computer due to malware or stolen information due to identity theft. It’s not pleasant. Most people fall victim to attacks because they put themselves in a vulnerable position, either by installing questionable software or opening malicious emails or websites.

To protect yourself and keep sensitive company data out of the hands of attackers, make sure that you and your business make choices that reflect best practices against digital threats.

1. Use browser-based platforms

If there’s a browser-version to a desktop app, use it. Desktop apps often run in the background. They can sometimes release sensitive information without the user’s knowledge. Further, when you install applications onto your computer, you may give permissions that would otherwise be avoidable if you use the browser alternative.

Browser-based platforms are usually safe from over-imposing API and other processes that put your information at risk.

2. Uninstall suspicious apps

Some applications can use information questionably. It may seem obvious, but when you suspect an application for using information irresponsibly, stop using it. Uninstall the app and reach out to their customer support to completely remove your information from their database.

Use apps that you trust and have a history of putting users first. It is extremely important that a company’s goals are socially responsible and that their products reflect that sentiment.

3. Disable auto-confirmation

Confirmation queries protect users from accidently allowing permissions to malicious activities. For example, some websites prompt computers to launch local applications and auto-input details that can be damaging to the user.

A confirmation query gives users a second chance to review activities before engaging in anything that can be harmful, like allowing access to your webcam without your consent.

4. Use caution when navigating to off-site links

Like we mentioned earlier, websites can force your computer into engaging with malicious activities if you’re not careful. You may not experience a direct issue with your operating system, but malware can transfer from your computer to every other machine in your network. Make sure to take extra precautions when navigating to a website for the first time.

Web browsers like chrome have built-in safety features that warn users before navigating to a website. This protects users from accidently falling victim to pop-up windows and websites that trick users into clicking their link.

If a website looks questionable, you can always Google the website. Search for the community’s consensus to find the website’s credibility.

5. Keep a barrier between personal and professional information

This may seem like a no-brainer, but your employees behave differently on the internet when they’re at home than when they’re in the office.

Often, entertainment websites host advertisements that may lead to dangerous or fraudulent websites. Your business’s machines and network will likely have fewer security breaches if employees are not using company equipment for entertainment or personal errands outside of office hours.

This may go without saying, but if you’re on the clock, use your working hours appropriately and make sure the websites you navigate to are safe for work.

6. Do not send personal or sensitive information through email or unsecured chat apps.

One of the most common causes of security breaches is still the phishing scam. A phishing message makes fraudulent claims to trick users into disclosing passwords or other sensitive information about themselves.

As an example, phishing can take the form of a fake alias promising millions of dollars in exchange for your bank account number.

If an urgent-sounding message contains a phone number to call or a link to click for more information about a recent disaster, you should perform an online search for both the issue and your service provider. Typically, if there’s a scam message circulating, you’ll see that information circulating in articles and reports. If it’s a real issue, you will find a relevant number to call to fix your problem.

7. Use security and protection software

There are loads of companies out there driven to protect users against malicious attacks and system failure. You can install anti-virus software, back up your user information and enable firewalls to protect your data from breaches or mishaps.

Take advantage of security options like Norton and data protection clouds to safeguard company data and devices against everything from viruses to natural disasters.

8. Review privacy policies

When giving out your information online, privacy contracts protect you against misuse of your data. Those privacy policies are put in place to protect the user from exploitation.

You don’t have to read every word, but make sure to go over the content and find out whether the agreement protects your identity on the web or if you should look elsewhere for services.

Types of Vulnerable Information

To completely protect yourself, you’ll want to know which information is sensitive so you can avoid oversharing online. Here’s a list of sensitive information you’ll want to keep private.

1. Name, address and phone number

Business NAP information may be extremely important for local SEO, but it’s not something individuals should share over the web. Your name, address and phone number give potential attackers insights on finding your personal information, like where you live and who you’re related to.

2. Social Security Number (SSN)

Make sure only you and authorized individuals have access to your Social Security Number. Your SSN is usually only needed by employers for wage and tax reporting purposes and businesses to check your credit when applying for a loan, renting an apartment, or signing up for a utility service.

3. Usernames and passwords

You create private access information for a reason. You have sensitive data on several of your accounts across the web.

What’s more, you probably use your passwords for more than one account. Sharing your log-in information about one account gives hints to access information about another. Keep your usernames and passwords under wraps, and if you really need to share it with someone, tell them verbally rather than sending an email.

As a business, you may not have set aside a budget to deal with employee passwords. However, password management software can help with everything from shared access to creating and storing unique, randomized passwords.

4. Bank information and credit card data

Your banking information is one of your most sensitive pieces of data—it’s basically the key to most, if not all, of your finances. You don’t want that information floating around the web where someone can steal your identity and make fraudulent purchases on your behalf.

You can keep your bank account information safe by making sure to connect to secure Wi-Fi networks you recognize. Connecting to an open public Wi-Fi network when you’re checking on your account balances or making an online purchase can put yourself at risk. Your employees can help keep their company account data secure by following that same rule when they’re reporting on their expenses.

And, just like with login information, it’s a good policy never to send full expense account information by email. If you absolutely must share that information remotely, a phone call works.

5. Sensitive business documents

When you were hired, you probably signed confidentiality and non-compete documents that prevent you from oversharing company data. You sign these documents because company data is one of the most valuable things about your business. This includes not only company revenue data but also employee data and client account information.

Unique and valuable information sets businesses apart from another, which is why keeping that information protected is extremely important not only to you but to your company’s success as well.

Cyber Data Security And Data Protection

Many commonly get data security and data protection confused. However, there’s quite a distinction between the two areas.

Data security is concerned with preventing malicious attacks to a user’s online information. These attacks target a user’s data confidentiality, integrity, availability, or accountability. Attacks can consist of malware, phishing or data breach from an attacker. Data security software aims to prevent these types of attacks by helping users avoid malicious activities and scanning your database for malware.

Data protection deals with information dependability and guards against system malfunction and user-related faults, whether regarding the housing hardware or software. Users need their information to be accessible and backed up in case of any type of failure. Data protection programs function to help users avoid bugs and other related issues.

Both data security and data protection share the goal of preserving sensitive user information in case of digital loss of any kind.

Choosing Software that Protects Users Against Attacks

You’ve read the articles and you’ve implemented your data security program, and now you’re ready to surf the web, respond to emails and install a trustworthy application onto your PC or Mac. But how do you know who you can you trust? After all, even the most reputable companies like Facebook have been under fire for misuse of personal information.

It comes down to doing your due diligence and making the effort to find out as many details about the company as possible.

For example, you may see an advertisement for a mobile data security app with a five-star rating on the App Store, but if you don’t research the company on the web before subscribing, you may not realize that it’s a fake company who sends spammy emails every day.

A way to verify reputable providers is to ask how the company handles bugs or data breaches. You can do online research into how they’ve responded in the past. If a former client didn’t like how their data was handled, rest assured, they more than likely left a review to warn prospects like you.

What you’re looking for is a company that responds quickly with patches and maintains a policy of transparency–notifying their clients when a breach has occurred and keeping them in the loop while resolving the issue rather than denying any problems or responsibility.

Many become victims to attacks or system failure because of carelessness in handling their personal information online. Be sure to make the added effort to review applications, websites and companies before giving out your information.

StartMeeting prioritizes the user’s experience above all else. We make great efforts in keeping your information private and making sure you and your company remain secure whenever using our platform.

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By Resty Grey July 19, 2019.