Cyber crime, hacking and online security breaches have become everyday, standard news. More and more criminals are using illegal online activities to steal money. And the type of people that are targeted has changed too. Once, criminals were concentrating more on the big companies with huge finances. Now household devices are being targeted to extract money from anybody who uses the internet. Phishing scams to trick people into revealing bank account details, or to persuade people into paying money are increasingly regular. So it is more important than ever before to be vigilant around your online activity. 

If you receive an email that asks for your account details, then you should be hearing alarm bells. Phishing scams can be really sophisticated with your bank’s logo on and contact details so you still have to be wary of emails that appear to look legitimate. If you are ever in doubt over a text or email claiming to be your bank, you should always call them back and use the contact numbers that are listed on their website. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

There were some hugely high profile cyber security breaches in 2017 and an alarmingly large amount of breaches overall. Stats from the government show that 46% of businesses identified at least one breach or attack in the last year. Fraudulent emails accounted for 72% of those figures, viruses and malware for 33%, organization impersonation 27% and ransomware 17%. So that gives you an idea of what kind of methods and the scale of problems we are facing.

If you run a business of any size then this is going to be of great concern to you, so it is advisable to get up to speed with the latest trends in cyber crime and to invest time (and unfortunately money) on beefing up your online security. Many businesses pay for a cyber security consultant to help them to identify risks and put measures in place. However, this can be quite costly, so if you cannot afford this option then you should find out more about the security options available.

Here are some precautions you can take and further resources to help you to improve your online security:

Visit the Cyber Aware site – The government has invested a lot of money into trying to help businesses counteract cyber crime and the Cyber Aware site is a great resource to find more information and guidance on the topic. The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign is doing well to raise awareness and you might be able to use it to help raise awareness amongst your employees and customers.

Avoid non-secure websites – Secure websites start with https (the ‘s’ stands for secure). You will probably also see a little padlock indicating that it is a secure site. You should never provide any personal information through a non-secure website. Be extra vigilant when making card payments and try to only use websites that you recognise where possible.

Beware of public WiFi networks – Public WiFi networks can be really handy if you are short on data but they come with big security risks. Public wireless internet isn’t always secure, so if you do use one, do not use online banking or anything that puts your security details at risk.

Update your systems – Operating systems like iOS are provided with regular updates that often include improvements to security features. So staying up to date with the latest version will help you to keep up to date with security updates. For websites, talk to your web host to find out the security features that they offer.

Use strong passwords – A surprising number of people use passwords that are easy to guess or use the same password for each account. That obviously means that if a hacker manages to work out your password, they will be able to access all of your accounts. Always use a password that is very strong, using a mix of numbers, letters and symbols and avoid obvious things like your name, or information that is easily available on your social media accounts.

Install powerful security software – You can keep your systems more secure by installing high-quality security software such as antivirus and ransomware software. Both Norton and McAfee are both good options. 

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