In the online business world, security is everything. Just as you might invest in top-of-the-line security measures for a brick-and-mortar business location, online security requires a similar level of diligence and care.
Nearly every business has some kind of online presence, but not all of them have safety in mind. In the short term, this puts client and business data at risk.
But in the long term, more disastrous consequences may await. Without taking proper online safety precautions, you may face a loss of profits, customer trust, and data theft – which may compromise your integrity and everything your business stands for.
The risks aren’t worth it – but thankfully, the security options are. Here are ten things to keep in mind when assessing the security of your online business, brought to you by Yocale.
10 – Handling Public Health Information? Ensure HIPAA Compliance
Passed in 1996 by United States Congress, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) enacted certain standards for protecting patient data (typically referred to as public health information, or PHI). This only applies to public businesses that are storing client health information such as dental services, clinics, and massage therapy centres.
To ensure legal safety, it’s important to check whether or not the software your business uses is HIPAA compliant. If not, you may risk data theft and face eventual legal ramifications – so it’s better to evaluate this sooner rather than later!
For more on HIPAA and the standards associated with it, check out this blog post by TrueVault.
9 – Store And Manage Your Passwords Securely
Today’s average internet user has dozens of registered online accounts, many of which use the same password. While this might make account management easier for the user, the lack of password diversity poses a security risk and puts all of the user’s accounts in jeopardy.
That’s why services like 1pass, Last Pass, and Dashlane exist. Acting as password managers, they provide a secure environment for users to create and store unique passwords for all of their online accounts.
As an online business owner, you likely have many existing accounts for a variety of online needs. These might include your web hosting account, FTP, software accounts, and many more.
Compromising your online business by utilizing the same password across your accounts isn’t worth the risk. Password managers can save you a lot of trouble by preventing data theft and the financial loss associated with illicit hacking.
8 – Step Up Your Website Security With HTTPS
It’s true, your online private data is important – but so is the data of your clients and users!
If you haven’t already made the switch to an HTTPS secured website for your business, consider it an essential step. Not only does it provide user peace-of-mind by declaring that your site is secure in their web browser, but it also adds a necessary, functional layer of security for both you and your users.
By default, all websites use standard HTTP – or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. This refers to the method of data exchange between a user’s web browser and your site.
However, HTTPS steps things up a notch by allowing for additional encryption that further protects exchanged information, including sensitive data like passwords and payment details.
Whether you take online payments or not, becoming HTTPS valid is an absolute necessity and will establish an additional layer of trust with your users. Thankfully, it’s not difficult to set up, either – most web hosts can provide you with a valid certificate for a small additional fee.
Or, if you’d prefer, you can set yourself up with a free certificate from services like Let’s Encrypt.
7 – Build A Sensible, Solid Web Hosting Foundation
Think of web hosting like the underlying foundation for your online business. Depending on your needs and the type of hosting you choose, your foundation can either be sturdy and secure, or fragile and hazardous.
Cloud-based web hosting is all the rage right now, but there are valid concerns that it might be less secure than dedicated hosting. Basically, cloud-based hosting works by storing your site’s data across numerous servers, rather than a single dedicated or shared server.
However, for an online business that demands higher bandwidth and consistent service, cloud-based service makes a lot of sense. If one server goes down, the site can continue operating via another.
This is why a vast majority of big-name businesses go the route of cloud-hosting. However, if your businesses’ web presence is smaller and you aren’t relying heavily on online customer service, shared or dedicated hosting might get the job done for much less.
6 – Browse Safely And Securely
It might go without saying, but you’d likely be surprised at the number of internet users who are using outdated web browsers. Not only does this impair web development as developers are forced to cater to archaic software, but it also creates security risks for clients.
Even with the advent of automatic updates, outdated web browsing is still commonplace. A study in 2013 by StatCounter found that about 10% of Google Chrome users had apparently turned off automatic updates, and almost 20% of Firefox users were using out-of-date versions.
As for Internet Explorer and Safari users – the default browsers of Windows and Mac platforms, respectively – nearly half of their browsers versions were outdated.
Whether you’re the administrator for your own site or not, definitely make sure your browser is up-to-date and protected with automatic updates to ensure safety. Older web browser versions may not meet modern security standards, putting you and your business at risk.
5 – Boost Loading Times And Bolster Security With A CDN
Content distribution networks – or CDNs for short – are another favorite tactic employed by online businesses to improve their end-user experience.
In short, CDNs work sort of like cloud-based web hosting. By depending on a secondary set of hosting servers, the main web server can load content such as scripts and images separately without putting stress on itself.
The main advantages of using a CDN are faster loading times as well as improved security, but they’re not always necessary depending on your online architecture.
Check out CloudFlare’s post about CDN security for a more thorough weighing of the pros and cons.
4 – Hacker-Proof Your Operating System
We detailed the importance of keeping your web browser up-to-date – and the same philosophy should apply to your OS, too!
Some of us live by “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but this rarely applies to the world of technology. Hackers are always looking to exploit the unpatched vulnerabilities of software – and the more outdated the system, the easier their work becomes.
Take, for example, a concerning increase in cyber attacks targeting Windows XP users exclusively – an OS that Microsoft stopped supporting in 2014.
Invest in the security of your business and your clients by keeping your OS patched-up and secure.
3 – Keep Your Web Platform Up-To-Date
If your website runs on a platform like WordPress or Joomla, staying up-to-date with updates is a matter of enormous importance as well.
Just like running an outdated OS like Windows XP, platforms like WordPress are incredibly vulnerable to cyber attacks. And if your guard is down, hackers can quickly infiltrate your site and strip it of valuable data.
Thankfully, most of these web platforms have recently jumped on the automatic update bandwagon, so staying secure doesn’t typically require manual effort. Still, it doesn’t hurt to stay on top of your updates – safety first!
2 – Ensure Your Payment Processing is PCI DSS Compliant
Like HIPAA, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard was created to enforce online security. Only, in the case of PCI DSS, the focus is on companies that accept, process, and exchange credit card information via their websites.
If you’re an online business – chances are you deal with online credit card payment all the time, making it essential that you comply with these standards. The good news is that if you’re using a big-name online payment processor like PayPal or Stripe, you’re likely fine.
That said, if your business processes credit/debit payments itself without relying on a secondary service, you’ll definitely want to ensure that you’re in the clear. Check out this post for a more extensive breakdown of each PCI criteria.
By failing to meet PCI standards, you risk losing your ability to take online payments at all as well as additional fines and penalties. And trust us – it’s not worth the headache.
1 – Prevent Malicious DDOS Attacks
For an added layer of security, look no further than DDOS protection.
DDOS attacks – an abbreviation for distributed denial of service – occur when a high volume of requests are sent to a server with the intention of overloading the server, causing it to shut down.
Typically, DDOS attacks are performed by hackers who want to see a site or service shut down. However, the same scenario can arise from sudden and excessive organic web traffic, too.
Whatever the situation, preventing DDOS attacks is relatively straightforward. Many web hosts offer DDOS protection for an additional monthly fee.
If you’re running a large-sized online operation or every second of site uptime is crucial to your business, investing in DDOS protection is a good idea. It may not guarantee complete immunity from the most relentless of attacks, but having some defense is definitely preferable.
There you have it – ten ways to ensure your online business remains safe and secure!
There are many shortcuts one can take in business. But as we hope we’ve demonstrated, skimping on security measures isn’t one of them.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this post! For more on business strategy, online and off – keep up with us here, five days a week at the Yocale blog!