As busy entrepreneurs, we’re all concerned about protecting our businesses from harm. It’s not enough to focus only on office technology safety; we all use our computing devices at work and at home nowadays. As a busy entrepreneur with two young children, I know the pitfalls. Here are my top five ways to protect your family and business from compromise:
Stop posting your location without knowing it
For many of us (and our kids), social media is a big part of our daily lives. Personally, I don’t always want everyone to know where I am or where my family is. Apps like Twitter attempt to make things convenient by automatically posting my location when sending a tweet. And there are others that have similar functionality.
Solution: Turn off the location-sharing functionality for social media apps. This prevents them from showing a location automatically. What I prefer to do is to show where I’ve already been. For example, I recently spent the day at Disneyland with my family. I simply sent a tweet once we had left, rather than when I was still there.
Be aware of juice jacking while traveling
It’s an amazing convenience, isn’t it? Those cool mobile device chargers you can find at the airport or airline lounge. Here’s the problem: If you just plug in your USB cable without using the electrical plug at the end, you open yourself up to potential compromise. Hackers can literally hop onto your device via this straight USB connection. From here, it’s easy for them to access important business or personal info on your family’s devices.
Solution: I always bring an electrical plug that attaches to the end of the cable. Do not plug your USB in directly. Or, bring an external battery-charging unit. These are inexpensive and very convenient.
Protecting your family from prying eyes
I spend a good deal of my time meeting with clients who are concerned with their IT vulnerability. Unfortunately, these entrepreneurs don’t always realize that their home network is also vulnerable and that they need to take steps. There are thousands of websites that are specifically designed to steal your data (called “phishing”). Criminals use these sites to infiltrate your computer, and once they do, they use malware to steal passwords, credit card numbers, etc.
Solution: I recommend (and personally use) a content-filtering service to protect my business, my computers and my family. Content filtering helps me protect my children from the multitudes of inappropriate and harmful data and images that I do not want them unknowingly pulling up on their devices. I suspect you have the same concerns.
Companies like OpenDNS (which I personally use at home) even have free services to get you started, and if you’re not using one, I strongly request that you start ASAP. With features like parental controls and the ability to block harmful phishing sites, this is a no-brainer. Setup is easy, too. Just update your home firewall to point at OpenDNS, and it’s done!
Added benefit: OpenDNS is a great way to protect your own computer while travelling, too. You can do this by updating the DNS settings on your laptop to filter internet traffic through OpenDNS.
Use a password protection system
Are you using the same password for multiple websites? Does it contain an easy-to-remember word or a family member’s name? Let’s fix this right now! You know better than that. I see folks get hacked all the time, and it can be a devastating experience. If you are unlucky enough to have a piece of malware get installed on your computer, Cyber Criminals can easily hack your simple passwords in a very short period of time. Once they have it, they can use it with as many websites as you’ve used it with. Don’t make it easy for them.
Solution: Use a password generation and safety program, such as Lastpass or 1Password. Using 1Password, for example, I can have the software generate long and complex passwords automatically. The program will then remember this password and automatically log me into websites. I no longer have to remember a lot of passwords— just one. At home, you can share sites and passwords with your family, keeping everyone safer.
I often use this analogy when working with clients: If I have a complex home security system on all of my windows and doors, I would feel very safe. The system is monitored 24/7 and an alarm will sound if anyone tries to break in. However, if a criminal were to ring the doorbell, and my child believed them to be harmless and opened the door, what good was my expensive security system? The whole system was bypassed in an instant. The same is true for cyber security. I have seen this happen for my clients, too, and most of the time it was simply because someone clicked on an email that they thought was harmless. In reality, however, they were fake.
Solution: Whether it be for the home or the office, it’s important to take time to educate. In addition to their botnets, zombie computer attacks, etc., they also use something called Social Engineering, a combination of lies and manipulation designed to trick people into giving them the information they want. Phishing is a form of social engineering, delivered in the form of email or pop-up screens. There are plenty of examples available from companies like Webroot, Symantec and others, that you can review with your family and/or employees to give them an idea of what to look out for. I recommend doing this quarterly as the landscape changes and new threats are introduced constantly.
These five steps are a start. Stay alert, stay focused and continue to educate yourself on the cyber threats that exist in your local area. For many, ignorance is bliss. For most of us, so much of our lives run on our digital devices. Please take the time to protect yourself.