by Andrew Bagrin, founder and Chief Executive Officer of My Digital Shield (MDS)
With the holiday shopping season upon us, store owners and consumers alike are preparing for the rush. Behind the scenes though, cyber hackers have also marked their calendars in hopes of capitalizing on mass crowds hitting the sales – both in stores and online. As cyber threats continue to make headlines, it’s more important than ever to add a security checklist to your holiday shopping.
So in addition to clipping your coupons, follow these 4 tips to ensure the safety of your data and that you stay one step ahead of hackers:
1. Personal Password Policy.
In today’s internet day in age, it feels like we have a separate password to remember for almost everything. Between online banking to work-related logins, it’s no surprise that the simplest route is to use one universal password for everything. While this might be the easiest, it is also every cyber hacker’s dream – gaining access to your opentable.com login also means they’ll be logged into your Capital One account in no time at all. Instead, come up with a unique password policy based on a simple scheme (after all, you’ve still got to remember the password for it to be useful!). For example, if your bank is Capital One, make your password: COabc123; for Open Table, maybe OTabc123, etc. (abc123 should be more complex). The idea is still simple enough that you won’t have an issue remembering a million passwords every day, but still secure enough that you aren’t handing over the keys to all your information in the event that one of your passwords is compromised.
2. For Intended Use Only.
Simply put, use each device for its intended purpose – and only that. This rule of thumb applies especially to storeowners this season. If your employees are using Point-of-Sale tablets to accept payments, make sure they’re also not using it for the occasional surfing of the web. Opening this tablet to the internet (outside of its intended purpose) makes the device vulnerable to threats it otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. With the expected hustle and bustle of holiday shopping season, don’t fall into the trap of multi-tasking and putting your data and customer information at an increased risk.
3. Keep Your Bases Covered.
We’ve learned by now that there are many components to security and keeping your data far from the hands of potential hackers. Just as storefront owners take extra precaution to keeping out intruders with locks on their doors and security cameras in place, cyber security efforts must be multi-dimensional, too. For example, anti-virus protection is great as a first line of defense, but it shouldn’t be your only level of security in place. Take the time to invest in proper cyber security that will detect and fight off potential cyber intruders should they come knocking on your (cyber) door this season.
4. Always Approach with Caution.
As a rule of thumb, approach everything in the digital world with caution. Too often, humans are the weakest link when it comes to security. If a window pops up on your screen or someone calls asking for you to hand over login credentials, be skeptical. Taking the steps now to authenticate the source will likely eliminate an even bigger headache down the road should you make the mistake of accidentally handing over your confidential information to the wrong person.
So, despite the increased cyber security concerns we learn about day in and day out, it’s safe to say shoppers will still be making their way to the malls this holiday season. Take the time this year though to follow these best practices to ensure that your holiday shopping gets finished on time and without any unwanted hiccups!
Andrew Bagrin is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of My Digital Shield (MDS), a leading provider of Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS) for small businesses. With more than 17 years of experience in the IT security industry, Andrew started MDS in 2013 to bring cloud-based, enterprise-level security technology to small businesses at an affordable price.