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Recent cyber attacks, like the most recent ransomware attack, remind us that hackers are a real threat, and cyber security should be a high priority for everyone. Whether it’s a Denial of Service attack, or a data breach, and whether you’re a small startup or a major corporation, cyber attacks can shut your business down and cost you millions. Depending on the attack, it can have severe repercussions for other businesses or even your customers.

Everyone is at risk, but there are simple steps that every business can take to protect themselves against cyber threats. Below is a list of some of the things that will help your business stay secure, and minimize risks with regard to electronic malice.

Update Your Software

One of the simplest things you can do is make sure your software is up to date. It may seem annoying how often your programs and apps are updating, and you may be tempted to turn off automatic updates. Doing so is a bad idea, though. Updates do several very important things, perhaps most crucial of which is upgrading security.

Developers use updates to patch holes in security, and more often than not when hackers backdoor their way into a system, it’s because the system hasn’t been updated recently enough. The ransomware referenced in the link above was only effective against window users that hadn’t patched within the previous month, as an important security update protected against a crucial vulnerability. So keep your software up to date; you’ll be thankful in the long run.

Secure Your Passwords

You may not know it, but most passwords are impossibly easy to guess. Password cracking is usually done by a computer program, and they use a “dictionary” of common passwords and conventions to do most of the work. So if your password is “Chrispratt2017” you’re in a little bit of trouble.

A good strategy for secure passwords that are easy to remember is to choose a string of four or five random words. Even if all the characters are lowercase, the password length will make it nearly impossible to crack. And if you’re having a hard time keeping all the passwords straight, try using a password manager like LastPass or 1Password.

Educate Employees

Along with unpatched software vulnerabilities, probably the most common way hackers gain access is via phishing, malware, and other forms of “wetware” hacking, where access is granted to a hacker by tricking a user. Educate employees about the dangers of opening or downloading suspicious files and programs, and it will go a long way towards protecting your system.

Respond Quickly to Breaches

Remember, cyber attacks are crimes. You wouldn’t wait to report a theft, just to see if things turn out okay. If you are the victim of a breach or other form of attack, report it, and get help.

Work with a Cyber Security Firm

Outsourcing your cyber security is sometimes an excellent option, if you’re a smaller business that can’t really afford to field a full team yourself. Expecting your lone IT guy to “handle it” isn’t really a feasible long term solution, as he has other things on his plate, and security is a big job that requires expertise. Just be sure you do a little research, and pick a team with a good reputation.

Do Business With Secure Partners

It’s important to remember that your data is vulnerable regardless of where it is. If you share data with a business partner, and that partner is vulnerable, then your data is vulnerable. So whether you’re dealing with an IaaS cloud service, or order management services, be sure you do business with someone who’s likewise security minded.