The age of cloud computing and the internet is here to stay. That’s good news for you as a business owner because these innovations have the potential to maximize your efficiency and cost effectiveness while helping you get a head start against your competitors. However, if you don’t have strong security measures in place, the technology that once seemed like your best friend might just come back to bite you.
What You Have to Lose
Think of the internet as a wild frontier land, a place where laws exist but are not always enforced. Even when they are, sometimes new types of criminals come into town that the police have no weapons against. The land is beautiful and the potential for wealth is great, but law-abiding citizens must constantly struggle to stay ahead of the predators who have nothing but evil and mischief on their minds.
For you as a mobile business owner, this means that you need to do all you can to guard against violations of your privacy, liability, data breaches and damage to your reputation. Just one of these incidents could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars and could even bankrupt the business you have worked so hard to build. Although no security measures are foolproof, there are effective steps you can take to protect yourself from hackers and criminals.
Research and Implement a Mobile Device Policy
If you allow your employees to use their own smartphones or tablets to do their work, run transactions or to access company email, you have opened the door to numerous questions that need to be answered in a thorough and clear policy that is shared with everyone. Among other things, this document must address the following:
- What will happen to company data on an employee’s phone if they leave? Do you have permission to erase it?
- If an employee has work data on their phone and it is lost or stolen, can you remotely erase the phone, meaning that personal information would be wiped as well?
- Are employees allowed to take work home? This is particularly important to clarify if your business deals with sensitive health, insurance or credit card information. In fact, it may be illegal to exchange certain types of information on an unsecured device.
- What, if any, modifications to company phones can employees make? Are workers allowed to “jailbreak” a phone to circumvent any security protocols you have installed?
The clearer you are in the wording of your policy, the less vulnerable you will be to security and privacy breaches. Be sure that all employees receive and sign a copy of your policy and that you periodically review it with everyone.
Keep Mobile Devices Locked Down
No one loves passwords, especially now that we have so many unique strings of letters and numbers to try to keep in our heads. Even so, they are as crucial as locking your doors. Predators are far more likely to victimize an easy target. Using passwords that have at least eight characters and contain a mix of upper and lowercase letters and numbers with at least one symbol will help. Always require that a password is entered before your or your staff’s cellphones will unlock. These gate-keeping strategies, like your locked doors, can often be an adequate deterrent that will cause a criminal to move on to an easier target.
Obtain “Remote Wipe” Software
In spite of your best efforts, bad things still happen. Phones and laptops can get lost or stolen, and you need to have a plan in place ahead of time to protect your sensitive data should the worst happen. So-called “remote wipe software” allows you to totally erase all of the information on a device even if you don’t know its exact location.
iPhones come with a feature called “find my iPhone” that you can require all staff to activate if they have company information stored on their device. In the event that the phone is lost, it can be erased remotely from another iPhone or from a PC or Mac. Since many people also back up their devices to the cloud, chances are good that they will be able to retrieve most or all of it should the lost device either be found or replaced.
Do Not Allow Unauthorized Downloads
You have probably heard of various viruses that are spread when an unwary person opens an attachment that appeared to be from someone they knew. This malicious behavior goes on all the time, and the only way to protect your system, your vital data and your employees from a potentially fatal crash or worse is to strictly prohibit any downloading on your system. Be sure your system is locked down to the extent that only the administrator is allowed to add or upgrade software.
Keep All Systems up to Date
These days, everything seems to be moving at lightning speed, and that includes security breaches. As fast as a virus or piece of malware is neutralized, criminals come up with another that must be analyzed and obliterated. That’s why it is vital that you regularly upgrade all of your security software since it is constantly being equipped with the latest bug fixes and antivirus patches. If your employees use their own devices for work purposes, your best bet is to remotely monitor their phones and laptops to make sure they are being regularly backed up and updated. Of course, you need to notify all employees that this is one of the conditions to which they must agree if they wish to use their own devices for work reasons.
Take Precautions Before Accepting Mobile Payments
Using smartphones and other devices equipped with mobile POS card swipers is becoming commonplace now. And if your business is mobile, it’s a necessity. It’s a great way to streamline the purchasing process and is very popular with customers. Before you accept your first card, take these steps to maximize your security:
- Be sure that any mobile devices you use for this process are not “rooted” or “jailbroken.” Your carrier will not support a device that has been hacked into to allow for more customization.
- Update to the latest processing system, e.g. IOS, Blackberry, MS or Android, to be as secure as possible.
- Update all apps to their latest version and remove those you are no longer using.
- Install an anti-virus/anti-malware app for maximum protection. Many of these are free, and you can find customer reviews in your device’s app store.
While the internet may still be the Wild West, that does not mean you are unable to take full advantage of all its benefits. The process of protecting yourself is straightforward. By investing some time into securing your equipment, training your employees and establishing clear protocols, you can drastically reduce the chances that you will be the victim of cyber-crime.