By Cindy Bates
Many will recall 2014 as the year of the data breach. From individuals to major brands, it seemed that no one was immune to the threat of a cyber attack. While 2014 was particularly worrisome, these types of breaches have been on the rise in recent years and are predicted to be a continued threat.
Between 2013 and 2014, nearly half of all U.S. adults had their information hacked and an estimated 432 million accounts were breached. In 2012, 29 percent of small businesses were victims of a cyber attacks. According to a recent study cited by the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology, roughly 60 percent of small businesses close within six months of a cyber attack.
While the breaches making national headlines are often the result of sophisticated hacks, far greater and more common threats stem from much simpler causes including employee or contractor mistakes, lost or stolen hardware and procedural errors. Thankfully, there are ways to help protect yourself and your business, starting with learning how to identify potential symptoms of online fraud. Here are four easy-to-follow tips:
- Look out for suspicious emails, which will often include unfamiliar addresses, generic salutations, alarmist messages or requests, grammatical errors and misspellings or account-related requests. These “phishing scams“often include offers for rogue security software, fake tech support, fraudulent contests and financial requests.
- Identify theft by diligently checking bank and credit card charges, and take notice of slow computer performance or frequent crashes as well as offline pop-up windows which can be clues that your system is corrupted. Take steps to educate your employees as well so they can learn to quickly identify a threat.
- Act Immediately. Check and remove viruses instantly from your computer using your own computer-scanning tool, or by using Microsoft Security Scanner. Talk to an expert about how modern technology can help protect your business.
- Ensure and Insure your business. Invest in modern technology equipped with the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware tools. If you don’t already have a security program, you can install Microsoft Security Essentials, a free program to help protect your PC. Insure your business with Allstate Data Compromise insurance, which can protect you by providing coverage for approved legal costs, IT review of the breach and a personalized case manager if a data breach occurs.
For more tips on protecting your business, check out this great post from Allstate Business Insurance. We’ve partnered with their experts to offer a free, online fraud webinar, which discussed this important issue for small businesses and can be viewed here. Share your tips with me on Twitter @Cindy_Bates or by using hashtag #SafeguardYourBiz.
Vice President, Microsoft U.S. SMB group
Cindy Bates leads the company’s efforts to help SMBs realize their full potential through the use of technology. This blog is where she shares SMB stories, technology insights, and business strategies for SMBs.