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Year: 2016

Read Now If Your Employees Are Using 123RandomWord As Their Password

Ever since the internet rose up from the mists of nowhere, security breaches have been a source of big news, terrifying news. Whether it is the likes of Yahoo being hacked, or Election Results being tampered with, hacking scandals seem to be rearing their ugly heads more often than not. We read story after story about security leaks and each one ends with the same paragraph, the same foregone conclusion; businesses and business leaders need to up their game when it comes to protecting the sensitive data they hold. That is the common message from security experts, and yet so many businesses still don’t prepare themselves properly. Because they have been targeted and affected, they don’t take it seriously enough to seek out the weak links in their business, research the most recent trend in threats, and thus fail to protect themselves and their clients/customers from any breach.

Don’t believe us? Well, the recent State of Risk report concluded that a majority of businesses – big and small – have not invested in a system that will protect, control and track the sensitive data they have been entrusted with. The majority have no or only a partial, system in place. Trust us, if Yahoo is struggling to hold their defensive line against hackers then, chances are, you are going to struggle too. That’s why it is imperative to invest in security. Put it this way, the average cost incurred by a cyber breach on a small or medium sized business is £325,000.

I thought that would grab your attention.

So what preventative measures can you take? How do you best protect yourself and your customers? How do you make sure you are doing all you can to prevents a security breach? How do you stop your sensitive data getting into the wrong hands? Well, we have conducted thorough interviews with security experts to hear what they say, and have compiled a list of the most common areas of weakness in most businesses.

  1. On The Go Tech

In the early 90s and before, a data hack would mean someone would have to hack into your servers or break into your premises in order to access your sensitive data. But these days are gone, and data theft has been made so much simpler by the rise in mobile technology. Simply put, mobile devices increase your vulnerability and thus increase the risk. Of course, mobile devices are a must-have for all employees these days because it increases flexibility and productivity, and reduces the issue of wasted time and resource. However, the more your employees use these devices to share data and access your servers or fail to change their passwords, the more risk you are at. In fact, mobile breaches account for almost three-quarters of all breaches, a rise that mimics the rise of the bring your device to work policy that so many companies are embracing.

As such, it is imperative that you renew your BYOD policy so that it carefully spells out certain rules and expectations. This will better educate your workforce on the risks. A great way to make this more effective is to relate security breaches at work to the risks they face at home; make it relatable to personal risks like using ATM machines. You should also ensure that you have the capabilities to better monitor mobile devices. This way you will be able to quickly pinpoint any breach or any weakness.

  1. Uneducated Employees

We don’t mean uneducated in terms of schooling, we mean uneducated regarding security, and that means your training program is letting them down. But, yes, all too often your employees are a security risk. It could be that employee leaves their laptop on a table in Costa as they nip to the bathroom, or a smartphone gets left on the subway, or in a taxi. All of these pose serious threats to your security. But it is not just about exposure outside the office. Too many employees are not educated on the importance of a strong password, what constitutes a strong password or how often they should change their password. This leaves you exposed on the inside. The same goes for training on what to look out for when it comes to suspicious emails.

Cyber attacks have got more and more sophisticated. The phishing techniques have improved, spear fishing is now called upon, unauthorized websites are now able to install malware without the user knowing, and all of these pose a serious threat to both your systems and your data. That is why training is so important, and regular training too, as this will allow you to renew their understanding as different trends arise. A great way to do this is to approach digital learning companies who have experience in this kind of training. This will offer you a cost-effective means of training that is not just interactive and engaging but offers an audit trail too. They will know how to teach your employees about passwords, phishing, keylogging and much more.

  1. Inside Jobs

It is hard to say exactly where an internal attack originates, but it is typically unhappy or disgruntled employees. What’s more, these account for a seriously high number of breaches. Of course, any inside attack will require in-depth knowledge of your IT systems and will require someone to have access to all areas of your network, which is why most inside attacks come from within the IT Department. A disgruntled employee working within IT support can create a huge amount of problems.

How you can prevent this weakness is a challenge, but it requires mitigating any chance of employees in this sector becoming disgruntled. This is not always possible, so it is crucial you identify all those that have access to all areas of the server, this way you will be able to act quickly should an event happen. Another step should be to terminate access to anyone that no longer works within this capacity as soon as possible.

  1. The Cloud

The most effective way to protect all data that is stored in the cloud is to encrypt any access at ground level. Different experts suggest different encryption software, but all suggestions usually represent the gold standard in this field. We can’t stress enough the importance of investing in this kind of security. Since the cloud first originated, a high proportion of cyber attacks have been made possible by companies not using data level encryption devices to protect data stored up high, so make sure you invest well and invest fast.

  1. Third Parties

There are a few reasons why outsourcing has become more and more attractive. It is cost-effective, it frees up resource time, it allows experts to address what is becoming a more and more complex area. It could be you outsource the maintenance of your server, or your point of sale system, or a myriad of other things. However, while they may be experts in protecting you, third-party providers sometimes don’t follow best-practices themselves. It may be they use one password to connect to all of their clients, for example, which poses a threat should that password be hacked.
As such, you should always ask as many questions as you possibly can. Make sure they follow the best practices of remote access security, and enforce stringent policies for their workforce to uphold, and use sophisticated authentication techniques to ensure there are unique credentials required for each user. The other step you must take is to know which third parties you are using and then terminate their access as soon as their contract runs out or as soon as they no longer require access.

Common Web Design Mistakes You Need To Avoid

The internet has had a massive sway over businesses and creatives trying to make it big for a long time, and this certainly isn’t going to change any time soon! With this in mind, if you haven’t taken a long, hard look at your web strategy for a while, it may be time to change a few things! Despite how accessible and widely practiced it is these days, there are still a lot of web design mistakes many people are making…

Absent or Poor Call to Action

Image: Flickr

If you’re hoping to make any money from your website, and you’re missing a call to action, you can pretty much kiss those aspirations goodbye! This is especially true when it comes to ecommerce websites, where cart abandonment is one of the major causes for these businesses folding. The user checks out your marketing materials, browses your products, fills their shopping cart with the stuff they want, and then just disappear right at the checkout page! You may have done a great job of selling to your target market, but if you’re not telling your customers exactly how to convert, they’re not going to!

Not Keeping Up with Standards

Image: Pixabay

 

Website standards, like a lot of things, are in a constant state of fluctuation. What may be considered professional, relevant and current today has a fair chance of being totally obsolete within a year! Even though it doesn’t have that much to do with how well you run your business, it’s very important to make sure your site is staying up-to-date on aesthetic and interactive design features. One thing that’s going to characterize the foreseeable future is a trend for darker aesthetics and more minimalist graphic design. Aside from that, emerging features such as interactive 360 videos and live broadcasting through companies like Iris live video are quickly gaining popularity, and may well become the standard in the near future. Yes, it’s good to do something to set your website apart. However, before you do that, you should build a foundation by playing ball with whatever current trends are. Fail to do this, and you could seriously harm the air of professionalism your website holds.

Weak SEO

Image: Pixabay

 

You might have the most attractive and functional website to come along for years. However, if no one’s able to find it, it’s not going to be serving its purpose. I’m sorry to tell you this, but there’s no universal formula you can use to ensure you get good search rankings. You’re going to need to find the right balance of keywords, backlinks, title tags and so forth in order to dangle your landing pages in front of your website’s target audience. Set some time aside to assess your current digital marketing efforts, and then set out a plan for improving them if you come across any glaring holes. It may help to outsource the whole issue to a firm like Victorious SEO while you find your footing. Posting high-quality content, fostering social engagement, and improving your standards of keyword research will all make a huge difference.

We Cut The Cord!

cable tv photoAbout 3 weeks ago, we decided we were done paying Charter $120/month for the highest level TV package they had. When Rachael and I sat down to think about it, we realized that we really only care about a few things:

  1. College basketball (well, for me, anyway).
  2. HBO shows we like
  3. Jeopardy!

Everything else was peripheral, and we felt like we could live without it. We imagined more free time, more book reading, and more chances to talk to each other and interact amongst the family.

The New Way

I set out to find out the best way to go about this. After quickly discovering the Cord Cutters sub-Reddit, I was pretty well set. Here’s what we ended up with:

  • SlingTV account for $25/month (base package + extra sports channels). This covered most all of my college basketball needs, live CNN, and some other channels we don’t really care about.
  • HBONow through SlingTV for $15/month. While I signed up for this for one month, I think we may go to the HBONow version available through iTunes. That way, we can watch it on either of our AppleTV’s, of which we have two: one in the living room and one in the bedroom. The SlingTV app doesn’t provide for this. Either way, it’s $15/mo., and we can cancel it during the dry months when our favorite shows aren’t on.

That’s it for paid TV. We are at $40/month, and we will cancel Sling once college basketball season is over. That puts us at $15/mo for HBO.

What Else We Are Using

In order to use SlingTV decently, I hooked up my old Mac Mini to our main TV in the living room. I just launch the SlingTV app and we can browse through it with a wireless keyboard and mouse. This comes with the added bonus of doing whatever else we might do on a computer with the TV as the monitor.

I also found a website called USTVNOW.com that gives you all the broadcast networks for free. The local news is based in Philadelphia, but you get all the programming of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and a few others. So we get Jeopardy!

USTVNOW.com does require you to be in another country, as it was geared towards US military and government people overseas to be able to get TV from the States. All I had to do was log in once from another country (thank you Tunnel Bear) and now it lets me in every time, at least until the browser cookie expires, but that is easily resolved.

We also have a Chromecast and the two AppleTV’s I mentioned before. The Chromecast makes it easy to watch Youtube or whatever we might have from another computer or a phone. The AppleTV’s let us watch Netflix ($9/mo) and we might sign up for Hulu ($8/mo).

Lastly, I found an AppleTV remote app, a remote mouse app, and a custom remote app for my phone that let me control my TV, AppleTV, and the Mac Mini, all from my phone.

Getting Used To It

The only qualms about all this have been some moments where the streams were jittery (especially USTVNOW during NFL playoffs), and not being able to channel surf the way we used to. However, we still get to watch the shows we like, I have yet to miss a Louisville basketball game, and the other benefits I mentioned have been working their way into our lives.

There have been some moments of frustration while we try to get used to this new way of life, especially during those “just want to veg out and channel surf” moments, but we are adapting, and realizing that there are better uses of our time.

Summary

We reduced our Charter bill significantly by going down to internet-only and ditching cable TV. It is 2/3 cheaper now!

Even if we pay for SlingTV, Hulu, Netflix. and HBONow all at the same time, we are still looking at less than half the cost of what we were paying to Charter.

This is an endeavor I highly recommend!

Photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com