Most cybercriminals love their jobs. The payoff can be huge. They get to put their hacking skills to the test. In fact, many of them compete against one another to see who can hack into a network the fastest or who can steal the most data. They don’t care who gets hurt along the way. And in many cases, it’s small-business owners who are getting hurt.

Cybercriminals will do anything to get what they want, whether harmful or illegal. Some hope to create chaos, some want to steal data, others go straight for the money. These are the people who will hold your data hostage until you pay up. They install ransomware on your computers, and if you don’t pay, they threaten to delete your data. This is one of the many reasons why backing up ALL of your data is so important!

So, how do the bad guys get your data? How do they work their way into your network and find exactly what they’re looking for? Well, it’s much easier than you might think.

They count on you to have little or no security. This is why small businesses are such an easy target. They know most small business owners don’t invest in security or invest very little. Even if the business does have security, it’s generally not difficult for a hacker to break through. And they know a business’ data is critical to the owner and they are likely to pay up.

Then, all the hacker has to do is steal or destroy data, install malware on the computers and then wait. Because there are so many small businesses around the world, it’s just a numbers game for cybercriminals. When you attack many targets, you are guaranteed to eventually succeed in the attack.

Most cybercriminals don’t need to hack into your network or computer. They’ll let your employees do it for them. All the cybercriminal needs to do is get a hold of your company’s email list and then email your employees. Employee emails are often accessible on your website or elsewhere online. If they get access to just one, they can access the address book of that employee to gain access to the rest.

This phishing email may include a link or an attached file. The email may be disguised as a message from a bank, a retailer, co-worker – or another trusted source your employees are familiar with. The cybercriminal wants your employees to click the link or open the file, which will likely install malware on their computer. Once the malware installed, the cybercriminal may gain access to your network and be able to watch and steal critical data.

Hackers can also gain access to your network by exploiting outdated hardware and software.
They spend a lot of time looking for vulnerabilities in different types of hardware and software. When they find them, it opens up the general public to those vulnerabilities. In many cases, hardware and software developers work to fix these vulnerabilities and get updates out to users. But these updates only work if they are installed on your equipment.

If your equipment is no longer supported by the developers or manufacturers, that’s a good indication that it’s time to update. While the upfront cost can be high, it doesn’t compare to the cost you’ll face if hackers get into your network. This is a huge concern right now with Microsoft ending Windows 7 support as of January 14, 2020. This means Microsoft will no longer provide any security patches or updates, leaving businesses still running Windows 7 vulnerable to attack.

Many cybercriminals use password-cracking software to get past your password defenses. The weaker your password, the easier it is to break. In fact, with sophisticated software, hackers can often break simple passwords in seconds. This is why it’s so important to have strong passwords. Not only that, but all your passwords MUST be different from each other.

Here’s why you need unique passwords: cybercriminals aren’t just going after you. They’re going after everybody, including the services you use as a business. If those businesses get hacked, criminals can gain access to countless passwords, including yours. Hackers then can either attempt to use your passwords on other accounts you may have, or sell them for profit. Either way, if you reuse the same password on multiple accounts, you make yourself an easier and more productive target.

Use these four points to best protect yourself and your business from the bad guys. Do everything you can to implement stronger overall security. Prioritize stronger passwords. Keep your equipment updated. And most of all, educate your team about cyberthreats to your business! This can strategically be accomplished by working with a trusted IT partner.

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