CYBER SECURITY | 4.5 MIN READ
In today's fast-paced digital world, hackers constantly evolve the techniques they use to steal your personal information. Learning how hackers take your business' personal information is crucial if you want to stay one step ahead of them. Read more to learn the common techniques hackers use as well as how you can better protect your business' personal data.
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How You Can Protect Your Personal Information
Security gaps hide in even the smallest of places in your network. Whether you have open ports on your copiers and printers or holes in your firewall, a hacker can use simple network tools to uncover and exploit any un-patched security flaws.
For instance, if your printer has a "print from anywhere" feature turned on, a hacker can find the open port on your printer that enables this feature, and can then remotely hack into it.
Once a hacker leverages these flaws to gain access to your network, they can look at all the files you have stored on your computer, or if they hack into a printer, they might be able to see the files that have been printed or scanned on it.
Weak passwords are one of the easiest ways to allow a hacker to access your network and steal your personal information. A single individual with a simple password for their computer, email, or other company program can put your entire company at risk.
Hackers can figure out your passwords by stalking your social media profiles to find information commonly used in passwords such as children's names, or they can simply try out a list of commonly used passwords until they hit the right one.
Even if you have a strong password, if you write it down anywhere, whether that's on the Notes app on your phone or on a sticky note at your desk, you run the risk of somebody finding and exploiting that information.
Phishing schemes prey on human error to let a hacker access your personal information. In a phishing scheme, a hacker emails you what appears to be an innocent message, sometimes posing as a business or person you know.
For instance, you might receive an email that appears to be from Facebook requesting that you click a link to update your password.
These emails contain a link or file that, once clicked or downloaded, puts malware on your computer. This malware essentially opens a hole in your cyber security that the hacker can then use to access your network and steal files containing personal information.
If you're a business, you likely work with multiple third party vendors. Even if your network is secure, you can't guarantee that your vendors' are. These vendors, who could have personal information ranging from medical files to company credit card numbers, pose a threat to your business' safety.
If any of these vendors are hacked, all of your company's information could be taken too. If you're part of the healthcare industry, any stolen patient information could put you in violation of HIPAA, which comes with a host of consequences.
The dark web, a hidden corner of the Internet infamous for its illegal activity, is a marketplace for more than just drugs. Sometimes, hackers sell lists of personal information, knowing that the information could be a gold mine for anyone who knows how to exploit it.
While buying a list of social security numbers poses an obvious threat to your privacy, sometimes these lists contain even more harmful information − account passwords.
Passwords let a hacker access programs like your accounting software, email, or banking account. Additionally, if a hacker accesses a database that contains information on clients or other employees, they could now have access to a widespread amount of personal data.
If a hacker bought a list containing your email password, for instance, they could wreak havoc on your network. They could send out phishing emails posing as you to other employees, taking more and more personal information as they go.
If you're a business that emails invoices to clients, a hacker could look at these invoices, replicate them and change the routing number, and send fake invoices to clients, which now allows them to take your client's personal information too.
Passwords to valuable databases such as HR platforms could let a hacker access everything from social security numbers to banking information. The dark web is a personal information marketplace, which is why you should take special precautions to keep your information from ending up on it.
How You Can Protect Your Personal Information
Secure Your Network
Closing security gaps in your network, whether that's through a firewall or your office technology, can stop hackers from breaking into your network and accessing files of personal data. If you want to get inside the mind of a hacker, use network scanning tools. These are what hackers use to find open ports in your network.
If you use these tools, you can find any open ports that need to be secured. If you want to go the extra step to address security gaps in your network, limit who has administrator privileges on your network. The more people that have these privileges, the more opportunities a hacker has to find and exploit an end user with these privileges.
Create a Password Policy
Weak passwords are one of the easiest ways to give a hacker access to your network. Establishing a password policy within your organization helps foster a culture of personal accountability.
A main focus of a password policy should be to limit how much passwords are written down, whether they're on a sticky note, an Excel spreadsheet, or in the Notes app on your phone. Writing a password down anywhere leaves it susceptible to being found by hackers.
To maintain strong passwords, create ones that don't use easy-to-find information such as birthdays or your children's names. When creating a password, make sure it's long and complex.
To make your passwords more complex, try creating a "passphrase" instead. Passphrases involve picking a meaningful phrase that you can remember, and making the first letter of every word the password.
Additionally, install two-factor authentication on your devices if possible, seeing as it's a widely used secure method of protecting accounts.
RELATED: How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks [8 Quick Tips]
Get a Dark Web Scan
Even though it is almost impossible to remove your information from the dark web once it's been posted, learning what kind of information is already out there can show you what security gaps need to be addressed.
Dark web scans search the dark web for any company information like account passwords and can sometimes show the date of the data breach and what company the data was taken from.
If you learn, for instance, that account passwords were taken from your credit card company during a data breach, then you know to immediately cancel company credit cards and contact your credit card company to see how they're managing the data breach.
Consider Managed IT Services
Managed IT services are an external cyber security provider that can help put all of the above suggestions and more into action to protect your personal information. Managed IT services layer your cyber security infrastructure with the latest hardware and software, and then employs a team of IT experts to address any threats or issues that pop up.
They can conduct phishing tests to find employees who fall for phishing traps, and then educate those employees on how to recognize and avoid phishing attacks.
A managed services provider can work with all your third-party vendors to take workload off of you while working with these companies to ensure that your data is always secure.
MSP's can also conduct dark web scans to help you identify what personal information is already online. Then, they can help you create a password policy to reduce the odds of more information being taken again down the road.
Don't wait until you're the victim of a ransomware attack to improve your cyber security.
Worried about keeping your data off the dark web? Read our definitive dark web guide now to get all your questions answered.
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Posted by Erica Kastner
Erica Kastner is a lead Content Specialist at Standard Office Systems as well as a University of Georgia graduate. She aims to use her passion for problem-solving to help businesses understand how to better leverage their cyber security infrastructure.
IT Solutions, cyber security solutions for small business, small business cyber security,small business cyber security solutions
Posted by Erica Kastner
Erica Kastner is a lead Marketing Specialist at Standard Office Systems as well as a University of Georgia graduate. She aims to use her passion for problem-solving to help businesses understand how to better leverage their network infrastructure.