Tech Safety Strategies for Small Business

While watching Katie Couric’s show, I was amazed by the stories of three young ladies who’s computer webcams were hijacked by a creepy hacker…whom they knew. It started me thinking about my own computer use and how I properly use (or don’t use) security features. My readers know I’m very open book for the most part. If I share it online it’s because I don’t mind others knowing. But what these girls experienced crossed the line so far that I hadn’t even considered it could happen to me. Hopefully it won’t, but now that I’ve heard their stories, I can pass along some wisdom to you. Just because I choose to share some things, doesn’t mean anyone has the right to invade my personal space or privacy by attacking me (or you) using a computer. I’m not trying to freak you out or make you paranoid. But this information is important, especially if you work from a home office.

I consider myself tech savvy. I tell people I’m an old tech mack from way back,having my first Tandy 128K computer way back in the 80′s. Yeah, yeah, I’m dating myself. While I’ve been mostly an end user and a recruiter of tech talent, in the last few years I’ve been making an effort to understand the back end of technology. I’m pretty good with web design, WordPress, Magento (ecommerce), php, html, a little javascript, and stuff like that. I do a pretty good job of managing the social media stuff too. But I never got too much into security and deep development. But I’ll tell you. After hearing these stories, I’ve made it my business to become more cyber security fluent.

But while I’m catching up, this is a great time for you to start thinking about and implementing safety for your computers.

  • Please remember that just because your webcam light is off, doesn’t mean it isn’t on. Hackers can hack into your computer without you knowing and command control of your video and audio and be able to bypass the light function so you don’t know you’re being watched. Anytime you use any program (Skype, Google+, Spreecast, Facebook, etc) that has a video chat function, make sure you completely turn it off when not in use. And to be extra safe, place a stickie note over your webcam if you suspect you’ve been hacked. I know, but it’s an effective low tech trick.
  • Change your passwords often and clear out your history and cookies daily. I try to clear mine out daily. I used to tell my son that I can always track where he’s been online when he was younger and didn’t understand how to erase history. I know cookies help you so you don’t have to remember logins. It’s a pain in the ass for me, but I don’t care. I never use any auto login for any of my social media and I don’t ever check “remember me”.  And I also don’t use those one stop logins. If a site asks me to only sign up using Twitter, Facebook, etc, I don’t do it.
  • Create a separate user for your computer besides Admin. At home you probably assign your kids a different user and password than the main login. The admin on a PC is easy to hack. If you look up on Youtube or Google how to access your computer without a password, there are plenty of tricks to get into the admin. Once someone has control of that main access, they can commandeer your entire computer. Create a separate login even if it seems redundant and don’t use the same password. In fact, change your passwords often.
  • Disable Java whenever possible. I know for PCs there are constant updates to Java and we automatically accept it because it’s ingrained in our minds.  But guess what? Most sites don’t need it. It can be a gateway for hackers and the security expert on Katie’s show suggested you remove Java and see just how many sites you can still access without it. Since I’m not a Java expert, I can’t say whether this is true or not. But if Java isn’t necessary, don’t install it. 
  • Change your social media passwords often and don’t make them all the same password! I used to have the same password for all of my social media profiles.  Not any more! If they hack into your Facebook, what’s to stop them from hijacking all of your social media profiles? Passwords should be difficult to guess and not the obvious like birthdays or names. Most profiles signups will have a password strength indicator. Generally changing your passwords quarterly is good enough, but I know people who do it monthly. If you worry about remembering, keep a list of your passwords somewhere easily accessible but only to you.
  • When getting those annoying seemingly spam email from friends, they couldn’t been hacked. Instead of just deleting or complaining, notify the person that you believe they could have been hacked. Sometimes they don’t even know they’ve been hacked. I used to get annoyed with those Twitter DMs and would unfollow or block people until I realized they had no idea.
  • And finally smart phones are a lot “smarter” than you realize. Any fool can create an app that could double as a tool for doing harm. So don’t go downloading any old junk apps just because they look cool. You can’t take it on face value that Apple or Google/Android properly vet these apps. And take the same kind of precautions with your phone and tablet that you would with the computer. And as an aside, we live in a voyeuristic society. People are recording just about everything these days. Pay attention to your surroundings and make sure nobody is in a position to record you.

We have a responsibility to keep ourselves safe, but also to protect our employees clients and families as well. Do you have a safety plan in place? Have you articulated it to your family and employees?

Please share your security experiences below in the comments section.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham
Be careful out there in cyberspace!

 

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Adrienne Graham is the Founder & CEO of Empower Me! Corporation (www.empowerme.org), a Growth Strategies consultancy with brand extensions in media, publishing and small business & entrepreneurial education. She provides Strategic Business Growth consulting services to companies with high growth potential to assist clients in creating processes and strategies to effectively run, grow and position their business for success. She helps clients get paid more by giving away less for free, allowing them to be more profitable and NOT be a broke brand. She is the host Views From the Top Radio Show the publisher of Empower Me! Magazine, and the creator Empower Me Institute, Empower Me! Radio, Empowered for Growth TV & Next Level Business Strategies. Her writing and shows focus on Career Management, Networking Strategies, Entrepreneurial Success and Small Business Management. Check out her company The Red Shoe Agency, which helps companies recruit & retain talented women in technology & engineering, and helps talented women in technology & engineering grow their careers.

 

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