Our Increasing dependence on information technology and networks has brought tremendous efficiency to our work and personal lives, but with these efficiencies come risks; particularly risks from cybercrime. According to an October 2014 independent study conducted by Ponemon Institute, the percentage of businesses impacted by malware and other kinds of cyber fraud is up 144 percent, and a survey by Experian found that 60 percent of small businesses that suffer a cyber attack are out of business within one year due to the costs of customer notification, lawsuits, etc. Small and medium-sized businesses can be especially vulnerable since they often do not have the same level of resources as larger companies to defend their information technology systems and track their financial transactions on a frequent or daily basis. While protecting your business against cyber criminals may require a combination of special resources and a change in workplace procedures, here are a few basic steps that you can take at work and at home to reduce your risk of being hacked, spoofed, falling victim to computer viruses and Trojan horses or having your identity stolen.
- Keep your computer secure. Install and run anti-virus and anti-spyware and make sure you keep these up to date to protect against new threats. Use the latest versions of Internet browsers, such as Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer, and make sure your operating system and applications are updated regularly.
- Use a separate, dedicated computer for online banking – this decreases your chance of infection with malware because you are unlikely to encounter these programs on trusted banking sites. Do not use this computer for general web browsing and email.
- Never share usernames and passwords –use strong passwords with a combination of lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols, and change your passwords if you suspect they could have been compromised. Use different passwords for the main applications you use. For example, your online banking password should be different than your email password.
- Use email safely. Don’t click on links within your email – instead, open your browser and search for the company that supposedly sent the link. Be cautious about opening attachments or downloading files from unfamiliar sources. These files can contain viruses or other software that can jeopardize your computer’s security.
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone or via email unless you have initiated the contact. Even if the email looks like it’s coming from someone you know, the person’s email may have been hacked.
- Never use unprotected Internet connections – In addition to using only secure connections, make sure websites asking for sensitive information are secure. These websites will show up in your browser with a lock icon in its toolbar that, when clicked, should display an info sheet, including the company’s name. Also, the URL should start with “https” instead of “http.”
- Educate your employees, family, housemates or anyone else who has access to your computer network and/or your financial information about cyber security best practices. You should also discuss monitoring account information and billing statements regularly for unauthorized charges and withdrawals.
- Do not keep your passwords on your computer in a Word document. While this practice is convenient for cutting and pasting and may protect against key logging software that can grab your keystrokes, this technique leaves the user vulnerable to clipboard loggers that capture the contents of the clipboard. Documents on your computer, even when password protected, are also vulnerable to skilled hackers. A better idea is to use a password manager program – some of which are free. PCMag.com offers an overview of these programs here.
- Ask your bank what they are doing to assist you in cyber fraud prevention. At The Biltmore Bank of Arizona, our online banking platform offers tools, such as Trusteer Rapport, which works alongside your current security software to add protection and decrease your susceptibility to criminal behavior, protecting you and your business from threats your antivirus cannot. We also offer features like Security and Transaction Alerts that can help clients protect themselves from fraud. Businesses using online banking also have access to security features such as dual control and user limits, along with Treasury Management products like ACH Fraud Protection, Positive Pay, and out-of-band authentication and secure access codes to protect ACH and wire transactions. And, we continually invest in back office resources to help detect potentially fraudulent transactions.
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