It may be one of the most unnerving experiences you can have, that creepy realization that someone hacked into your business. It leaves you wondering how much the hacker knows not only about your business, but also about your personal details. You may begin to question your safety, and the safety of your employees and maybe even your family. The hacker might steal your identity or infect your computer infrastructure with a virus or some other malicious attack. It can make you feel violated and vulnerable, and you don’t have to be a management expert to see how it can affect your employees. Instead of remaining a victim, or becoming a victim, take some steps now to protect your business from hackers.

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH HACKING?

It’s sad that these hackers, who are obviously individuals with so much intelligence, use their abilities for evil instead of good. Why do they do it? Various security professionals and investigators say hackers operate their nefarious activities because they can, for the thrill of it all, to prove a point, and/or for truly despicable reasons, such as identity theft, monetary theft, or to purposely plant malware or a virus. An increasing number of individuals as well as small and large businesses have become hacking victims in the U.S. over the past few years.

Consider these alarming statistics:

– In 2011, approximately 71 million people were victims of hacking, suffering about $21 billion in damages, according to Huffington Post Tech author, Gerry Smith.

– During the first half of 2012, hacking attacks more than doubled against small businesses with 250 or fewer employees, resulting in average losses of over $188,000 per business, according to Yahoo Small Business Advisor and award-winning journalist, Dan Tynan.

– In 2012, the annual Verizon report revealed more than 600 confirmed data breaches and a shocking 47,000+ “security incidents” across a wide range of industries, including financial firms, retailers, restaurants, manufacturers, transportation, utilities, and information and professional services.

The alarming sources of the majority of these breaches and incidents originated from China and Romania, accounting for more than half of the incidents at 30 and 28 percent respectively, followed by the United States at 18 percent. Insiders only accounted for about 14 percent of all hacking attacks and data breaches, according to New York Times “Bits” Author, Nicole Perlroth

DON’T BE A VICTIM!

So how can you protect your business and reduce the chances of becoming a victim? Put safety measures into place NOW—don’t delay! Tech and security professionals and vendors offer these recommendations:

– Develop, implement, and monitor a cyber security plan;

– Encrypt data and secure all devices and connections in the company’s network, including wireless protocols and Wi-Fi networks;

– Adopt a security mindset with complex login and password management. Use lengthy passwords of 14-20 characters or more, and mix up letters (lower and upper case), numbers, and symbols.  For example, set up a password in this format: PasS20WoRd13 instead of password2013;

– Comply with regulations for secure sites whenever sensitive data is shared and stored, such as credit card information;

– Maintain regular software updates; install security, anti-virus, anti-malware, and anti-adware software; and ensure firewalls are set up properly;

– Train employees to recognize phishing attempts, spam, and unsolicited emails, and to NOT click on links in emails or open suspicious attachments;

– Install intrusion detection software;

– Regularly backup data and test backups;

– Secure your hardware and lock your network;

– Hire Internet-based data security vendors;

– Hire a “white hat” hacker to test all your systems for any weak points or areas for potential breaches.

BE PROACTIVE

Whether you have already experienced a hacking attack, or have been spared so far, be proactive and implement safety measures today. The time and expense of safeguarding your business and its data will be well worth the peace of mind you will experience.