By Laura Sherman
Securing your office space
As the owner of your business you probably also wear the hat of chief security officer. As such, it’s important to keep the Boy Scout motto in mind and always “Be Prepared!” By following these workplace security tips, common sense and a little planning, you can keep yourself and your business safe.
One very basic principle for any business is to secure all doors and windows before you leave the building. This may seem like a no-brainer, but employees have been known to forget from time to time. It is also wise to lock yourself inside the building if you or your employees need to work late into the night.
Since criminals tend to case out a building before breaking in, be sure you know everyone who steps foot inside your office. Post a “No Solicitation” sign and enforce it, only allowing people associated with your business to enter.
Having an alarm system is not only a good idea but a good investment. You can purchase a quality alarm system with a motion detector for only a few hundred dollars. Proudly post the signs that come with the system, letting would-be thieves know you are protected. You can monitor the alarm yourself or hire a company to monitor it for you.
If your small business has a number of employees, only give trusted, long term employees keys to the building. Consider spending a little more to invest in a lock mechanism where all copies of the keys must be authorized by you and locksmiths won’t make copies without authorization. And if anyone loses a key to your building, spend the money to have the locks rekeyed.
If an employee is terminated, take proper precautions to protect your business. Each employee should have a unique password for the alarm panel and computer access, so you can easily delete their codes when needed. Otherwise, a disgruntled ex-employee could become security risk.
If you have any confidential client information or valuable assets you must keep in your office, you’ll need a good safe. Keep in mind that if you don’t follow some common sense rules, even a safe can be easily broken into. Here are some basic tips:
• Find a good spot for your safe, keeping it out of sight. Place it so that it isn’t visible from any window or areas accessible to clients.
• Don’t put your safe against a wall shared with another business or the outside. If that wall is smashed, the safe can be pulled out from the other side.
• Use random numbers for the combination, ones that aren’t linked to dates associated with your business or life. And never write the number down. Memorize it.
• Invest in a heavy safe with thick walls. And if possible, bolt it to the floor.
• Limit the number of people who can access your safe to the bare minimum. Ideally, you would be the only one with the combination.
Your computer passwords are the high tech padlock holding off would-be cyber criminals from hacking into your vital accounts and databases.
Lists of the most common passwords are lists are commonly posted on the internet. “123456” and “password” war back and forth for the top spot. Needless to say, these aren’t good choices. Neither are other popular choices, such as “qwerty,” “baseball,” or “dragon.”
Although the best passwords have no pattern, most people don’t want to memorize a long string of random characters. If you fall into that category, here are a few tricks you can use to create a secure password that isn’t hard to remember.
Consider turning letters into numbers. For instance, the number 1 can be substituted for an “L” or the number 3 can be put in place of an “E.” Zero works for “O” and 5 can take the place of an “S.”
Next, it’s a good plan to insert a few capital letters randomly within the word. And remember, the longer the code the harder it is to crack. Finally, if you add a few random characters to the mix, your password becomes even harder to guess.
For example, say your pet turtles’ names are Samuel and Melody. Following these simple rules, SamuelMelody could become #5aMu31m310Dy&.” That’s a hard password to hack.
Another good technique is what is called a passphrase. Instead of just a word or two, simply pick out a memorable phrase from something you like. A line from a favorite poem or anything else memorable, the more unique the better. Here is a line from a Christina Rossetti poem that would be a good example (except that now I have used it here it isn’t anymore). Don’t forget to run it together. “Theuplandflocksgrewstarvedandthinned.” Why is this good? Because length makes it much harder to crack a password.
Most cyber security expects would advise that you avoid using the same password for different accounts. That way, if someone does hack into your Twitter account, they won’t have access to your bank information and email account as well.
A technique combining everything we have done so far is to take some piece of the site name, like the last five letters of its name and combine them with your usual password in some way. Using the passphrase from above this might be after the first two words. Your password for facebook would then be “Theuplandebookflocksgrewstarvedandthinned” and for Yahoo it would be “Theuplandyahooflocksgrewstarvedandthinned”.
Some sites ask you various security questions to ensure you are really you. If you don’t use real answers for these questions, a hacker will have a tough time impersonating you.
For example, if you’re asked for your mother’s maiden name, select the name of your first pet instead. Keep in mind though, this only works if you keep that name a secret. In other words, don’t chat about Spot on Facebook.
Passwords are important for all your devices, too. If your laptop, phone, or tablet gets stolen, all your contacts and personal information could be easy to access.
Antivirus and Malware protection
In February 2015, The New York Times reported that a band of hackers stole hundreds of millions of dollars from over a hundred banks around the world. How did they manage such a theft? It was through simple malware, opened by unwitting bank employees.
Modern malware can not only record every single keystroke entered on a computer, but they can take screenshots as well. The cyber-bank robbers had the luxury of time, as they sat back and learned the intricate procedures of the banks involved.
On a smaller scale, what could a cybercriminal do with the personal information stored on your computer? Certainly, they could gather all your passwords and transfer money from your bank accounts into theirs. They would also be able to tap into any confidential client information, as well as other sensitive data.
So, how do you handle this threat?
Install anti-malware and anti-virus software on all your computer systems immediately! And be sure to update the software regularly to keep on top of any new advances in malware. Also, don’t open any attachments you receive from an unknown source.
Back up important files and documents
All your important information needs to be backed up. If your computer has a meltdown, or any other emergency occurs, and you don’t have your files backed up, it can be disastrous, particularly for a business.
The most secure method for backing up your files is to use an external drive in addition to a cloud system, so that all bases are covered. It also doesn’t hurt to put important files on a thumb drive or an alternate computer.
Some people purchase a fire-resistant safe for their hard drives, protecting the data from any mishap that might occur.
If your company has a server, you’ll need to take extra precautions to secure that system as well. Keep the door to the server room locked and change the password for the network monthly.
Keeping your building, assets, and computer systems secure doesn’t have to be time consuming or cumbersome. If you follow these few simple suggestions, you will avoid becoming an easy target and will keep your business safe.