4 Simple Ways to Help Protect Your Business From Cybercrime

01/16/2016 09:09 am ET | Updated Jan 19, 2016

Years ago, if we wanted to protect our homes and our businesses from theft, the main thing we needed to do was install good locks and security cameras, purchase insurance, and be aware of how to avoid hold-ups. In today's technologically-driven world though, it's not that simple. These days, global cybercrime requires individuals and companies to be wary of thieves who operate from the relative safety of their personal location, and who can simply sit behind a computer to steal personal data, trade secrets, and money.

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In fact, when it comes to businesses specifically, cyberattacks generally cause small and medium-sized firms to lose around $200,000 on average each year. Many of these companies (around two-thirds) actually end up forced out of business within just six months of the attack, because it takes such a toll on the organization. Similarly, on a personal level, even tech products and apps created by giants such as Apple can come under threat, with a recent malware attack on the iOS app store being evidence of the issue.

If you want to do what you can to help protect your business, it pays to stay up to date on the best ways to go about it. To really study the area, you can learn about the history and current trends in cybercrime by enrolling in an online cybersecurity degree or encourage one of your IT employees to increase their training. If you just want some quick takeaways that you can implement today to help keep your business protected from online thieves, read on for four main ways you can keep confidential information away from prying eyes.

1. Choose Good Passwords
One of the most basic things to do in order to protect your systems from cybercrime is to make sure your employees select secure passwords that can't be easily guessed by hackers. Even though you might think people know better, the most common passwords used around the world today are still things like "123456" and the word "password."

If you want to be smart about your business's digital security, make sure that employees use passwords that contain a combination of letters (both lower-case and capital), numbers, and symbols. Ideally, passwords should be between eight to 12 characters in length, and should avoid referring to personal data such as the name of children, partner, pets, or family birth dates.

In addition, encourage that employees try to vary passwords on different devices and for different websites, so that they don't just have the one code used everywhere. This way, if a password does happen to be hacked, a criminal won't be able to access all of your accounts. Furthermore, you should also have your employees update their passwords on a regular basis, around every eight to 12 weeks.

2. Install Protective Software and Firewalls
Another simple yet effective way to protect your data and systems from being accessed is to install protective software and firewalls. Purchase anti-spam and antivirus software and spyware, and then install it on every computer and other Internet-connected device in your office. This protection helps to avoid malicious viruses and software from getting into your systems via a Wi-Fi connection, websites, or spam emails.

Unfortunately, many hackers use malware that gets into computer systems and then installs codes that run in the background on your computers. You won't even know that your keystrokes and all your login details are being captured by this code and then relayed back to cybercriminals, but it's actually one of the biggest money and information-generating techniques used by hackers. If you install (and keep updated) proper protective software though, you should be able to stop this malware from doing harm.

Firewalls are also a must, especially for businesses who take customer data and other sensitive information via Internet-based programs. Firewalls are designed to protect computers from thieves who try to access things like credit card numbers, passwords and personal details. You can potentially turn on the firewalls that come already installed on many operating systems, or else choose to purchase a more comprehensive third-party version.

3. Keep Computers Updated
Another safety technique you can employ is to ensure that all of your business computers' software and hardware is updated regularly. You'll find that the latest versions of operating systems are the safest, and are the ones you should be utilizing. In addition, if you update programs often, this will help to identify any security holes or other potential issues that sometimes pop up when programming changes are made or new software is installed.

4. Educate Staff
Lastly, if you run a business, you should also discuss cybercrime with your team. Educate your staff on common hacking techniques, and require all employees to update their logins on office software and hardware on a regular basis -- with, of course, only strong passwords!