The initial emergence of the Internet saw the largest of companies truly succeeding online as skills were scarce and expensive, and knowledge on how to actually conduct business online was low. This, of course, is no longer the case as small and home-based businesses all over the world are establishing a strong presence online.

This explosion of wealth being traded online has a dark side as the Internet is a place where opportunity meets up with ignorance, and this breeds crime. If even the biggest companies can’t protect themselves from online security breaches, what chance does your small team have?

More of a chance than you think – and I’m not talking about hiring an expensive security team!

5 steps your home based business can take to increase online security

Cybercrime is becoming big business, and it profits off of ignorance and poor planning. Here’s how you can make business much harder for these crooks, and perhaps have them move on to the next, easier target.

1. Encrypt all digital data that you store

This advice applies to any type of sensitive data which is stored on a company device:

  • laptop
  • tablet
  • USB drive
  • smartphone
  • SD card
  • External hard drive

Or any other device you store digital data on. Unless it’s a floppy disk, in which case you should destroy it, throw it out, and step into the 21 Century already!

Conveniently, Mac OSX, Microsoft Windows, and Linux OS supported devices all support whole disk encryption. Some also have folder encryption right in their basic programming, but that depends on the version you have.

These tools are important due to the fact that the most basic type of cybercrime is connected to the most basic theft of all – stealing an object. If one of your devices is stolen and it doesn’t have encryption it is just as easy as turning it on and your data will be stolen. Good whole disk encryption will prevent this, and keep your data secure.

2. Invest in a password management tool

The rule about passwords is this: if you can remember it, it isn’t strong enough. A password tracking and management tool can help you track better passwords, create them, store them, and enter them.

An effective password manager will create a new random password for you each time you need to create an account, store it for you securely, and then enter it in whenever you go to the login page.

Turn to C|Net’s top six password managers for help: 1Password, Passwordbox, Keeper, Roboform, MSecure, and Dashlane.

3. Using a VPN provider for communications

The first VPNs were created by large businesses who saw the value in having their own private network to speak to remote employees, customers, and other partners on. Not only does it help cut down on man in the middle attacks, but it also cuts down on other forms of corporate espionage and outright data theft.

A VPN works by encrypting your data in packet. This packet of information is sent through a secure tunnel in the public internet. Anyone who intercepts these packets of information are not able to read them as the encryption turns them into a jumbled mess. This is the same idea as what is presented in point 1, but in an online context. Check out some our best ranked VPN providers over on our website to learn more about VPNs.

4. Use two-step authentication when possible

Two-step authentication is a sign in process which requires those who are signing in to your accounts and data storage apps to enter two passwords. The first password will be the same secure one every time. The second password will be a short code sent to your smart phone. Once you enter that code you will be allowed access.

The thinking behind this is that by connecting something the you know, like the password, with something that you own, like your smartphone, that your security level will increase. A number of websites, which you may use often for Cloud and data storage, that use two-step authentication includes:

  • DropBox
  • Yahoo! Mail
  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • PayPal
  • Evernote
  • GoDaddy
  • HootSuite
  • WordPress

These service providers are going to offer you the best level of security if you’re interested in what they have to offer. They may well be a much better option than a competitor that doesn’t have two-step authentication.

5. Stop storing information that you don’t need

If a third-party company has been hired to manage your customer transaction data, email address information, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data, do not store this information a second time yourself. More data storage centers means more opportunities for hackers to steal your data.

If you do have some sort of data storage needs for information that a third-party is already storing, try to store it on devices that are both not connected to the Internet, and not in your store or office. You will also want to use the same encryption protocols as described in point number 1.

Final thought on online security for home businesses

A company doesn’t need to have a big security team right away in order to stay secure. At first, these five tips will keep you secure enough that no one will want to bother hacking you as you’ve built up enough protection that it’s easier to try and hack someone else.

No system will ever be 100% secure, but adding layers of protection makes you look like a less appealing target, causing hackers to move on.