Cyber Security Awareness Month: Keeping your Site Safe and Secure
By: Leamon Crooms
October is Cyber Security Awareness Month and if you own a small business that utilizes a digital marketing strategy, the safety and security of your website, files, and information should be a top priority. Unfortunately, many small business owners assume that because they’re not a massive corporation, hackers won’t find them interesting. In truth, hackers often prefer small business targets because they’re easier to attack. This is due to lower cyber security awareness and less resources used to track down hackers. Here’s what we want you to know about small businesses, website safety, and cyber security this month and every month.
Common Cyber Security Threats to Small Businesses
Cyber threats are constantly changing as technology evolves, which means that no matter how up-to-date you try to be, you’re unlikely to remain ahead of the curve. Website security should always be a top concern, as it’s often the easiest door for hackers to open in order to exploit you. Some of the most common cyber security threats you may be aware of, while others are likely to be surprising. Here are the three biggest cyber security threats that small businesses are likely to face.
- Phishing Attacks: This is one scam that hasn’t evolved much since it first appeared during the infancy of the internet. A phishing attack is when someone seeks to get information such as usernames and passwords—not by hacking into your system, but by tricking you into willingly handing them over. One way they may do this is via email and phone call scams, where they pretend to be someone they’re not in order to get your confidential information.
- Ransomware: Ransomware attacks are relatively new and have hit companies large and small. In these attacks, the hacker holds something hostage—files on your computer or even access to your website—until you send them money. After they receive the money, they return the access to you.
- Various Website Attacks: While both phishing and ransomware can exploit your website in order to target you, they’re not the only ways website security (or the lack thereof) can hurt you. If your website doesn’t have multiple layers of security in place, it can also be erased by hackers or altered in a way that harms your brand. Customer information may also be compromised and your online presence penalized.
How Poor Website Security Can Damage Your Business
Small businesses must work hard to succeed. In fact, it’s estimated that only about half of all small businesses make it five years. This means everything you do needs to be well planned and thought through. Cyber security threats even have the ability to take out large corporations when scandal is associated with them. For a small business, this means a small leak could be enough to end your company.
Just because you aren’t focusing on website safety, however, doesn’t mean hackers will attack your business. It just means that the chances are much higher. Even if they don’t attack your website, your bottom line will most likely suffer if your website security isn’t top-notch, especially since 2017.
Why 2017? That’s when Google and its Chrome browser began flagging websites that lack certain security features—namely, SSL. Standing for Secure Sockets Layer, this widespread technology is designed to protect data as it travels between web browsers—Chrome, Firefox, Edge—and web servers—the machines that “host” the internet.
If your website lacks this basic security feature, customers are warned not to visit your website and are told it isn’t safe. According to HubSpot research, over 80 percent of customers surveyed said they would leave a site if told it wasn’t secure. In other words, if your website is lacking SSL, 8 out of every 10 potential customers may be leaving your website instead of browsing it, due to a security flag.
Google’s search engine algorithm and SSL will also affect your SEO and search results. Google automatically ranks websites lower if they don’t have SSL, much lower than those who do have it—which means that website security should also be part of your digital marketing strategy.
Is Your Website Secure?
If you aren’t the most technologically savvy person, you may be uncertain about your website’s security. Many small business owners design their own websites using free design programs and affordable hosts, most of which don’t secure these low-cost websites. While security isn’t the only problem with DIY website creation, it is a major reason to turn to professionals for assistance.
Before you contact a designer or sign up with a marketing consultant to handle that for you, you should know if your website is secure or not. Investigating this is a pretty simple task.
- If you use Google Chrome, simply type your website address into the address bar. If there’s no SSL certificate, you should receive a warning from Chrome telling you the site isn’t safe and cautioning you against visiting it. If you possibly told Chrome to hide this warning for your website in the past, however, you will need to look a little further.
- In case you use a different internet browser or possibly approved Chrome to visit your site, look up at the URL bar. Before your website address, you should see some letters and symbols: either “http://” or “https://.”
- The “s” is the difference here, and it indicates that a website is secure. If your website doesn’t have that “s,” this means your website lacks the SSL certificate, which in turn means you’re potentially losing customers and ranking lower in search results.
The Benefits of Securing Your Site With HTTPS
If you’ve discovered that your website is not, in fact, secure, Cyber Security Awareness Month is the perfect time to change that. Your website security can be revamped quickly by a professional as a stand-alone project or as part of your overall digital marketing strategy. Here are a few of the benefits you can expect once you make the change:
- Better Search Engine Rankings: The majority of top results in searches on Google and other search engines are HTTPS, not HTTP. To see for yourself, search for something on Google then click on a few of the top results. In nearly every case, you’ll find that these results are SSL secured.
- Reduced Risk of Scandal: How often do we hear in the news about large corporations having a data leak with millions of passwords and credit cards being compromised? It seems like there are a few of these stories every month. While international conglomerates may be able to weather this type of cyber security breach, small businesses will most likely be taken down by the scandal.
- More Profits: If your business sells anything through its website, you can expect to make the most sales if you have the SSL certificate. People are cautious about having their information stolen and tend to avoid the risk of making transactions on insecure websites.
- Improved Image: Having a website that’s insecure in this day and age can appear unprofessional. Similar to using an unbranded email address, when customers see a website that lacks security, it can be taken as a sign that owners aren’t taking their business seriously—which can trickle down to customer service. With the right security measures in place, however, your image will quickly improve.
Other Measures for Securing Your Website
Other things to consider:
- Update plugins and apps on your website to the latest versions, as security updates are made regularly for the best protection.
- Secure access to the dashboard of your website by using strong passwords.
- Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to prevent denial of service attacks.
- Research your website host to ensure they haven’t had security issues in the past.
- Educate yourself and your employees about cyber security measures and how to remain safe online.
Working with Cyber Security Professionals
If you’re ready to seek website or digital marketing assistance, be sure to contact us at Strategic Growth Advisors. We offer comprehensive solutions for all your digital marketing needs, including search engine optimization and website security. Solutions for your online needs and optimal growth are what we do best.