Running an online business can be a very rewarding opportunity. Due to the potential savings for the business owner from not paying for a physical storefront, online businesses can often offer services and products for a better price to their customers or, at the very least, afford to offer free shipping. Both can drive a lot of business to their websites from those looking for a deal or those who simply do not have the time to shop at their local stores.
The main problem lies in the fact that running an online business can bring about security risks, not only to your customers, but also to yourself. No one online is immune to cyberattacks, and many aren’t even aware of how to protect themselves online to begin with. Though data breaches could still happen when you’re well protected, it’s very rare, and by following some simple security tips, you may never have to deal with the devastating effects of a security breach at all.
Here are a few ways you can better protect your online business.
Virtual Private Networks
One of the main things that can protect your business online is security software. Most have already heard of an anti-virus program, but it’s not as common to be familiar with what a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is. In basic terms, VPNs are encrypted remote servers through which you route your internet traffic.
Since you’re routing your internet traffic through the VPN, your connection also becomes encrypted. Your IP address (which is used to determine your location) is masked as well so that it appears as though you are located in the city of the VPN’s remote server. This allows you to unblock content online (which is very helpful when traveling) and also helps to protect you from hackers and malware.
There are many different VPN providers available, with services costing under $15 per month, but a few companies stand out in the crowd. One of such companies is ExpressVPN, which offers 24-hour customer service (even via live chat through their website), a 30-day, money-back guarantee, and unlimited bandwidth and speed. According to Secure Thoughts, ExpressVPN’s software is universally compatible with all operating systems, so you won’t have to exclude it from any of your devices.
The Good Old Anti-Virus
Nearly everyone knows that anti-virus programs are a good idea, but it’s not necessarily common knowledge that they can be found for free and used on more than just your PC. Anti-virus programs can actually be used on your mobile devices as well, making it much easier to avoid malware while on the go.
This can protect your online business because it’s likely that you are storing business related information on your devices or even accessing or updating your website on them. Malware and viruses can create an issue by basically hijacking your device and even spying on your activities (in the case of spyware). It’s important to utilize your anti-virus program frequently, completing a full virus scan at least once or twice a month.
Since you are running a business, you may even want to upgrade for additional protection, but if you really can’t spare the cost, free versions offered by Panda or Avast! should do the trick. Just remember to have them installed on all of the devices that will be used to access your company’s website or store and/or share any information related to your business.
Passwords are extremely common when dealing with anything online, and they’re the most basic form of protection when it comes to your accounts. Unfortunately, they can also be easily stolen or even guessed. To prevent this from occurring, it’s important that you use strong passwords that contain a combination of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters and symbols (when possible).
All of your passwords should also be at least eight characters long and never reused for more than one account. Changing them at least every few months is also a wise idea. Of course you should also avoid using any sort of personal information or business related information as your password as well.
Another issue could arise when you’re sharing your passwords with your employees. For example, perhaps you had to let someone go, and they decided to sabotage one of your business accounts. To avoid this from occurring, consider using LastPass, which is an online service that will allow you to grant employees access to accounts without giving out your password.
Limiting Credit Fraud
Credit fraud can be a costly for your business and may threaten both your inventory and your reputation. To keep your business safe from this unscrupulous practice, there are a few steps you can take. Keeping your website’s software up to the latest version is one of the most important things to stay on top of.
You’ll also want to ask customers for their three or four-digit security code to verify any transactions, as well as their billing address and phone number. Verifying a card’s billing address with the credit company can help detect fraudulent transactions, as stolen cards frequently use incorrect billing addresses.
Be on the lookout for unusual orders; if your typical sales range in the mid to low hundreds and someone places an order without prior contact for several thousand dollars’ worth of merchandise, you may want to investigate the order by emailing or preferably calling the supposed recipient.
Remember your target market. If the majority of your goods are designed for customers in the US, an order with a US credit card to a foreign county should send up warning flags. Cybercriminals frequently use rush shipping to reduce the likelihood of being caught, particularly for large orders.
Consider screening for other suspicious activities, such as credit cards whose owner differs from the shipping address or whose account uses multiple different cards. Even requiring accounts to make orders can help keep track of who is ordering what and may deter more sheepish criminals.
Services also exist to act as gateways before your website’s checkout. While processors will cost some money, they can save you a lot in the long term by helping you avoid chargebacks.
Just be sure not to take things too far. Being vigilant for criminal activity is good, but hassling your customers too much can lead to a loss of business. Use discretion, and be courteous when dealing with customers, even if you suspect they may be perpetrating a crime.
Protecting Your Online Business
Internet security does not have to be a complicated matter, even for those who have a reputation to protect. Common online security mistakes are easy to avoid if you know what you should be looking out for. By implementing security measures of any sort, you’ll be much better off than if you were to leave your company unprotected online.
Most of all, remember to work diligently to protect your customers’ information. Your customers are what keep your business running smoothly after all!