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Cats’ Mischief Can Disrupt Your Workday, but Hackers Can Disrupt Your Business Growth

We could talk about all the ways cats can cause trouble for you ahead of Global Cat Day, but it’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month. So, we’d rather show you ways to avoid malware, ransomware and all the other troublemakers trolling your business.

Some mischief is kind of cute…if it comes in fluffy, purring form. But the not-so-cute kind can destroy your hard-earned business in a matter of minutes (even if it’s masked by a cute meme or a picture of an even cuter cat). Hackers, phishers, and other bad actors pose a security threat to any business using devices and networks to collect and store information about customers, inventory and more. And since you’re reading this, you’ve just confirmed you have a computer or smartphone connected to the internet – and most likely a very exposed wireless network. (Forget what you think you know about the definition of “secure.”) Now, we realize it’s quite possible you’re still using good ole’ pen and paper to keep your books. But since we live in a digital world, you don’t have an option to retreat to the stone age to hide your entire business operation from hackers. It’s time to face the music. People are tuning in more to businesses that sell online. So, it’s better to be prepared now by learning how to protect your business than to be sorry later.

Think your small business isn’t vulnerable because it’s, well, small? As in, *just you* small. Well, you might be more of a target than you think.

Approximately four-in-10 cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses, and nearly half of small businesses say they have been the victim of at least one successful attack. Almost as many have experienced two to four attacks. In fact, did you know small businesses with less than 500 employees paid an average of $2.98 million to deal with data breaches in 2021? Even if your business is only worth a tenth of that right now, that’s no excuse for taking a cat nap on the matter. Mischief doesn’t sleep, and customers will hold you responsible when their data and bank account information is making some very bad stranger behind a computer very rich. So, here are a couple things you can do to give yourself a fighting chance in this cat fight against troublesome cybercriminals:

1. Secure your wireless network, devices, and servers everywhere you work.

If you run your business from home or remotely, it’s important to protect your technology. This includes your personal and professional computers, smartphones, tablets, artificial intelligence (AI) bots, servers, and printers. (Yes, printers. Just read this if you don’t believe us.) Don’t forget to tighten the security on your Wi-Fi networks, either. Drive-by wireless attacks are a real thing.

It’s also better to use pass phrases versus passwords. If that sounds too complicated, just make sure you don’t oversimplify and use your birthday or the word “password.” And if you are going to use your cats’ names (we’ve been there), at least capitalize a letter, use a special character, and add a number somewhere in the (meow) mix.

Additionally, we know you are using a cycle of three different passwords for everything right now. Don’t try to deny it – we know. Do yourself a favor and try shaking up your passwords like a bag of cat treats to reduce your chances of a data breach. And try to avoid relying on your web browser to store all your passwords for you. Convenient? Yes. But if just one feisty hacker breaks into that hub, they will have your confidential Etsy account login…and free reign to roam around your house. Quite literally. How many cameras do you have throughout your house right now? I know at least one…it’s probably staring you in the eye. (Close that laptop camera shutter.)

Just as importantly, they will have total access to everything in your life, including your playlists, bank accounts, social media, and (you guessed it) business information. That means they will have the power to wreak havoc in the homes of anyone and everyone on your contact list: customers, prospective customers, suppliers, partners and friends. You do not want to have to claw your way back into their lives after that. So, keep passwords stored in a trusted, secure software app or offline in a very safe location. It’s also a wise idea to use a Wi-Fi router that has strong security and firewall capabilities. Once combined with a complex private network password, it will start to become safer for you to perform your at-home business functions.

Another key line of defense to put in motion for your business endeavors is multifactor authentication. It’s basically like adding a chain lock to your already locked door. You enter your login and password as normal, but before getting full access, the system will prompt you to provide a second factor of identity authentication. This could come in the form of a mobile text or phone call, or even a face or fingerprint scan depending on your devices’ capabilities. Just don’t stop there.

Multifactor authentication is also a smart option to turn on for any cloud-based programs or services, as they are exposed to the world, giving the bad guys even more bandwidth to access private information that others have entrusted to you. Even if you’re just selling jam at the farmer’s market on the weekends using a Square or other mobile payment solution, you must go above and beyond (meaning all the way to the cloud) to keep your business securely grounded. Two-factor authentication can help secure customer credit card information, which is a pretty crucial aspect of becoming a trusted seller. We know a second step of verification might seem like an annoying extra element every time you need to wake your mobile device from sleep mode on a busy Saturday. But you can rest assured knowing you’ve made an extremely smart choice by integrating it into your systems.

*Bonus Tip: Cybercrimes can start with a stranger’s innocent-looking glance at your device screen when you’re taking payment from a customer. Don’t let anyone see you put in passwords, credit card info, or even someone’s personal contact info. And put your device to sleep as quickly as you can after each transaction. It doesn’t take long for a lookey-loo to take a quick pic of your screen.

2. Be selective of your third-party services.

If your business uses third-party services, you must ensure the third party is reputable and taking action to secure its networks and software. This is especially true if you’re setting up shop online via cloud-based platforms and apps. When using these services, take time to learn about their cybersecurity practices to ensure they’re doing all they can to protect you. Otherwise, you might accidentally make your customers’ data vulnerable.

Take supply chain cybersecurity attacks, for instance. Maybe you get your product from a vendor, and that vendor becomes compromised. This means the software the vendor pushes out to you is also compromised. From there, hackers can inject malicious code into the software your customers use to submit an order or make a payment with your store, which then compromises them too. And the beat goes on. The computer itself isn’t compromised – it’s the software, which is almost worse.

It’s these tactics that can make it easy for even more dire cybersecurity threats such as ransomware to spread like wildfire, especially among small businesses that aren’t protected because they think they aren’t targets.

Don’t Become a Cat-astrophic Statistic

Cybersecurity attacks can be so pesky, tiring, and expensive to deal with that we know all you dog lovers would prefer a cat’s mischief over a hacking breach (even if you despise cats). So, do what you can to protect your valuable business and customers from sneaky hackers while also shielding yourself from those sneaky kitties knocking over your water glasses. Mischief is everywhere! Be smart. Be safe.


Editor's Note:

Tune in to more Zebra ZSB blogs for the purrrrfect practices you should start implementing to become everyone’s favorite person and get business booming like a hundred squeaky toys in the night.