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6 important tips on protecting client information for small businesses

Cybersecurity is a serious matter that businesses must continuously and constantly work on.

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Chances are, you think twice before entering your credit card information online to buy something, watch out for malicious links in emails and keep your PC updated against viruses, spyware, and hackers.

However, how much thought do you put into your small business data security and protecting client information?

Hopefully, a lot, because according to Microsoft:

  • An attacker resides within a network for an average of 146 days before detection
  • The average cost of a data breach to a business is $3.8 million
  • The total cost of cybercrime to the global community in 2016 was $500 billion
  • 63 percent of attacks are the result of compromised user passwords and usernames

As these threats continue to become more sophisticated, legislation must too.

In Canada, many government departments such as the Department of Justice, RCMP, Public Safety Canada and Global Affairs Canada work together with international, federal and provincial law enforcement agencies against cybercrime.

That’s great, but you want to stop any potential attacks before your clients’ data security is breached!

And, if you’re thinking that your site is too small to appeal to hackers, think again. Sometimes a cybercriminal’s intention isn’t to gather sensitive content but to relay spam emails from your server.

Let’s use the example of a membership site for these small business cybersecurity tips.

A membership website has specific resources available for members who generally pay a one-time or recurring fee to get content such as videos, eBooks, articles or tutorials.

Because people are entering sensitive information such as email addresses, passwords and payment information to access my content, we need to be vigilant about how we keep them safe from online threats. (A secure site is also more likely to earn trust, which in turn can increase revenue.)

Business owners must be vigilant in protecting their users’ personal information. (Photo by Rawpixel.com via Shutterstock)

To help safeguard your clients’ data security, I suggest that you:

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1. Choose a reputable web host.

Don’t just go for the cheapest! I compiled a list of web hosting providers that I recommend; you can view it here.

2. Install an SSL certificate on your site.

This means having HTTPS vs. HTTP in the URL. This is the prefix to your web address, and the SSL provides additional security and makes it harder for hackers to access.

You can often add this service to your web hosting package for free, or for a small cost. An added bonus: a secure site can actually rank higher in Google.

3. As soon as you see a new software update, install it.

Many membership sites are built in WordPress, which lets you simply click the ‘Update Now’ button. This helps keep cybercriminals from taking advantage of security flaws in older versions.

Similarly, look for plugins to help manage online security.

4. Enforce complex passwords.

Request or even demand that users create passwords with a combo of upper and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. This will deter people from using ‘12345’ as a password.

You can also install a plugin on your WordPress site that only gives someone a number of tries to log in to before they’re locked out.

5. Approve comments manually.

Spammers love unattended comments! They can post links there that a) may drive traffic back to their site and b) may trick Google (however briefly) into thinking that their site has valuable content.

6. Clean up information that’s no longer relevant.

Previous members, people who have canceled, those who have completed your course… get rid of user info and payment info as often as you can.

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By following these small business cyber security tips, you can minimize the risk that your website is going to be targeted by scammers or cybercriminals.

Don’t cut corners when it comes to protecting client information, and you can create a safe space for loyal fans who feel comfortable handing over their personal and payment info.

(Featured image by Rawpixel.com via Shutterstock)

DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

Susan Friesen, founder of the award-winning web development and digital marketing firm eVision Media, is a Web Specialist, Business & Marketing Consultant, and Social Media Advisor. She works with entrepreneurs who struggle with having the lack of knowledge, skill and support needed to create their online business presence. As a result of working with Susan and her team, clients feel confident and relieved knowing their online marketing is in trustworthy and caring hands so they can focus on building their business with peace of mind at having a perfect support system in place to guide them every step of the way.

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