How to avoid cyber fraud

Prevention’s better than a cure

Cyber crime continues to develop and expand alongside technology as criminals find new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in new systems and hardware. Most businesses, regardless of size, store sensitive information such as client lists, personal data or credit card numbers on multiple computers, networks and online spaces.

Effectively protecting your business data and your systems from cyber fraud is down to preparation and planning. The better your protection is, the less likely you’ll be the target of an attack.

Review bank and credit statements regularly

The impact of identity theft and online crimes can be greatly reduced if you can catch it shortly after your data is stolen or when the first use of your information is attempted. One of the easiest ways to get the tip-off that something has gone wrong is by reviewing the monthly statements provided by your bank and credit card companies for anything out of the ordinary.

  • Ensure you have a good accounting system in place that keeps records of your bank and credit statements.
  • If you spot something amiss in your financial statements, inform the bank immediately and have your accounts locked or frozen if necessary.

Keeping an eye on your accounts and credit cards is good business practice, not just for spotting any signs of fraud, but for maintaining a good overall knowledge of your finances in general.

Install anti-virus and anti-malware software

Most small businesses won’t bring in an IT security specialist to safeguard their systems, as they can be very expensive. And in fact, you can make use of the internet and the free security software available to protect your computers yourself.

  • There are several effective and free anti-virus software options available online. The Top Ten Best Free Antivirus Software reviews some of the best choices.
  • It’s also a good idea to install anti-malware software. Often, the anti-virus option you’ve chosen will do this, but specialized software such as Malwarebytes can provide additional protection.

Software like this usually requires you to run regular scans, so it’s a good idea to create a calendar reminder on a weekly or monthly basis so that you don’t forget.

Keep your systems current with the latest patches and updates

These days, updates usually happen automatically as most operating systems are connected to the internet. However if you receive a notification letting you know that an update is available, it’s a good idea to click Yes and allow your system to be updated.

This is also true of software that may be installed on your computer. For instance, the accounting option you’re using will probably require you to update it regularly, although if you’re storing your data in the cloud, you won’t need to.

Choose strong passwords and keep them safe

When you create a password, keep the following in mind:

  • Choose a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Or consider using a pass-phrase, which more people are using these days since they’re harder to guess.
  • Don’t choose a password that’s easily associated with you, such as a birthday or your kids’ names.
  • Avoid using the same password for everything. It’s worth making the effort to remember different passwords for different logins. That way, if your password is compromised, it will only be for one login.
  • Change your passwords regularly.

Develop an IT security policy

An IT security policy contains clear guidelines for protecting your critical information from cyber threats. Making staff aware of the ways to secure data, as well as knowing how to recognize threats such as phishing and email viruses, not only safeguards your best kept secrets but increases staff IT skills and confidence online.

Your policy should include:

  • Regular backups. Part of your daily security maintenance should be backing up critical data. This means it’s retrievable in the aftermath of a cyber attack and gives you a line of defense against hard drive failure, human error and natural disaster. Think of it this way – if something crashes your system, could you cope with no customer or product data, as well as the loss of all your orders and processes?
  • Cloud options. This is a good way to back up your data. Keeping it in the cloud as well as on hardware increases your chances of recovery. Cloud systems have robust security in place that doubly protects your data.
  • What to do if your systems are attacked. If you think your IT systems have been compromised, take steps to minimize the damage. Contact your bank to let them know, and cancel your cards. Update your systems with the latest security software, run any necessary scans and fixes, and change your login information.

Summary

As with most things in business, successfully protecting your systems against cyber fraud is down to preparation and planning. Regular checks of your financial statements, as well as keeping up to date with anti-virus scans and software updates will mean you’re well-placed to not only spot trouble, but to minimize any potential damage.

Next steps

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