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11 Smart Ways to Secure Your Business Online in South Africa

Recent years have seen a sharp increase in cyberattacks on businesses worldwide. 

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, 71% of organizations across the globe have been victims of ransomware attacks in 2022. 

In addition, the University of Maryland has reported that 2,244 cyberattacks are happening on average daily! 

Protecting your business from these serious threats is the #1 priority. 

Thankfully, you can take several simple steps to secure your business online. 

This article will outline 11 key strategies and tips which can help ensure the safety and security of your business data and systems here in South Africa.

1. Create a Strong Password

Let’s start with the most simple tactic: crafting a strong password.

But how?

The key to creating a strong password is using a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols that would be difficult for an attacker to guess. 

To do this, use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters, and make it at least 12 characters long. 

For example, “C0mpl3Xp@$$w0rd!” is a strong password that follows this formula. 

Don’t be lazy, though.

Avoid using easily guessable information, such as your name or common words. 

Instead, use a passphrase made up of random words or characters.

At the same time, do not use the same password on multiple accounts or systems, as this could leave your business vulnerable if one account or system gets hacked. 

To manage your passwords, use tools like LastPass or 1Password.

They can also help generate secure passwords and store them in an encrypted vault so that they can be easily accessed but still remain safe from cybercriminals. 

2. Use Two-Factor Authentication

Nearly half of all cyberattacks target small businesses. (Source: Cybint Solution)

With this alarming statistic in mind, securing your business online in South Africa is essential before it falls prey to such threats. 

One way to do that is by utilizing two-factor authentication (2FA). 

2FA requires two separate credentials – typically a password and an additional form of authentication such as a biometric scan or one-time code sent via text message – to access an account or system. 

By doing so, 2FA can help protect against unauthorized access and data breaches since attackers must possess both the password and the second verification step to gain entry into the system. 

It can also prevent account takeovers where attackers gain control of accounts by using stolen passwords or phished information. 

One of the best 2FA apps is Google Authenticator, which is available for both Android and iOS devices. 

It generates temporary one-time codes that are used in addition to your password when logging into online accounts or services, thus providing an extra layer of security. 

It also allows you to add multiple accounts for different services, making managing your authentication codes easier and more convenient. 

3. Update Your Operating System & Software

61% of attacked websites are outdated!

As such, keeping your operating system and software updated is crucial in securing your business online in South Africa. 

If you are using wordpress, follow these steps to activate auto-updates for both plugins and installed themes:

  • Log in to your WordPress dashboard.
  • Go to Appearance > Themes.
  • Click on the theme you want to enable auto-updates for.
  • Click the “Theme Details” button.
  • Under “Update Options,” check the box for “Enable Automatic Updates.”

Alternatively, you can also use a plugin like Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades, allowing you to enable auto-updates for all your themes and plugins in one go.

Be sure to have a backup of your website before you enable auto-updates in case anything goes wrong.

Besides your site, ensure the latest security patches are installed on all of your devices, including computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. 

You see, regularly checking for updates will help protect against new threats and vulnerabilities. 

Installing the latest version of popular software such as web browsers and media players can also help protect against malicious attacks which might exploit outdated versions. 

In addition to installing updates from your operating system provider, you should also consider downloading regular security scans or antivirus programs to provide additional layers of protection. 

Running a scan regularly can identify malicious activity and alert you to potential threats targeting your business’s data or accounts. 

4. Implement Firewalls and Antivirus Software

These are the essential tools for keeping your business secure online in South Africa. 

They are your first line of defense!

Firewalls serve as a barrier between your computer and the internet, blocking malicious traffic while allowing legitimate data to pass through. 

On the other hand, antivirus software scans incoming data, identifies viruses, and prevents them from entering your system. 

By implementing both of these tools, you can protect yourself from malware that could otherwise compromise sensitive customer information.

But their effectiveness is as good as the solution you get!

When selecting firewalls and antivirus software, choose products regularly updated with the latest security patches. 

These updates ensure that any newly discovered vulnerabilities can be addressed quickly before they become an issue for your business. 

Additionally, it is wise to invest in high-quality solutions from well-known providers in order to receive the best protection available. 

5. Backup Your Data

According to Statista, there were 236.1 million ransomware attacks in the first half of 2022.

That’s 14.96 attacks each and every second.

Ransomware is when an attacker takes your files hostage and demands payments to release them.

How much?

The average ransom payment increased by +8% from Q1 2022 to $228,125.

Can you afford that?

The only solution is to have a backup!

Regular backups are crucial for preventing the loss of important files and documents due to malicious or accidental damage, like ransomware. 

And when backing up, you should store copies of all files in different locations (e.g., on the cloud, hard drive, and external storage device).

This is to protect against potential system failure or destruction. 

Also, back up frequently enough so that any changes made since the last backup will not be lost should something go wrong. 

If that sounds like a lot of work, consider automating your backups with a cloud-based service such as CrashPlan or Backblaze.

This enables continuous backups with the minimal manual effort required from you. 

Also, such services provide encrypted data storage and offer easy access to multiple versions of backed-up data in case of emergency recovery scenarios.

6. Secure Your Wireless Network

Securing your business’s wireless network is essential to protecting sensitive data, such as financial information and customer records. 

First, a strong password should be chosen that is complex enough to make it difficult for hackers to guess or crack. 

Enabling encryption will also help protect the data being transmitted over the wireless connection. 

WPA2 is the most secure option and should be selected when possible. 

Besides encryption, you should get a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

A VPN helps establish an encrypted connection between two locations, ensuring that all data sent over the network remains private and secure. 

Lastly, ensure that only trusted users have access to the network by implementing measures such as user authentication and disabling guest access when not needed. 

Taking these steps can help keep your business safe from online threats while allowing employees to remain remotely connected. 

7. Educate Your Employees

In any business in South Africa, employees are the backbone of operations. 

Educating them on the proper steps to take with regard to cyber security is critical in ensuring your business remains secure. 

95 percent of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error. (World Economic Forum).

By providing them with guidance and information on topics such as data protection, password practices, and phishing attacks, you can help protect your business from potential risks. 

Also, your employees should be aware of the latest threats and how they can avoid becoming victims of these malicious acts. 

Providing ongoing training can help keep their knowledge up-to-date and ensure they remain vigilant when using online services or sharing sensitive data. 

Create a culture where security is taken seriously to encourage employees to think twice before taking any action that could lead to a data breach or other types of attack.

Afterall, they are the ones doing the tasks daily.

Let them know what’s out there, what to do and what not to do.

8. Monitor Your Network

Securing your WIFI is not enough.

Monitoring your network is an critical part of securing your business online in South Africa. 

To do this, employ the use of intrusion detection and prevention systems.

They inform you of any malicious attempts to gain access to the system. 

Also, keep an eye on your traffic logs.

They can provide insight into which IP addresses have accessed your system and when it happened. 

This information can provide clues as to whether or not there has been any nefarious activity taking place on the network.

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor is one of the best tools to get this done.

It provides a comprehensive view of your entire network, including detailed performance data and alerting capabilities. 

You can also use it to monitor traffic between devices on the same subnet or different ones and track bandwidth usage patterns over time. 

What’s more, SNMP allows you to set up thresholds for various types of event. 

If these are exceeded, an alarm is triggered automatically which can be used for further investigation into possible security breaches.

Monitoring user accounts is also paramount in guarding against intrusions and attacks from external sources. 

YOU should review user accounts regularly and track who has granted permissions to view confidential information or data. 

9. Use Strong Passwords for Remote Access

Remote access can be achieved through VPNs, browser-based portals, or other systems used to access company data and networks remotely. 

Implement strong passwords if you are using such a system in your business.

As we discussed earlier, such should include a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters at least 12 characters. 

It’s also a good idea to periodically change the password on a regular basis to prevent unauthorized entry into your system.

In addition to using strong passwords for remote access, two-factor authentication can also come in handy.

Use it for areas where sensitive data may be accessed. 

This approach combines knowledge (a username/password) with something physical such as a security code sent via text message or email verification, before allowing remote access. 

10. Use Encrypted Communication for Transferring Confidential Data.

You must know of a threat called a ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack.

Here, a person (an attacker) intercepts the data between two parties in order to eavesdrop on their conversation. 

To prevent this attack and ensure that confidential data remains secure while transferring it over any communication channel.

For that to happen, you need encryption. 

Encryption works by encoding messages so only the intended recipient can read them, ensuring confidential data remains safe. 

Such systems work in layers.

As such, it’s a good idea to have multiple layers of encryption available, such as encrypting files before they are sent over email or across other networks.

This way, even if one layer of encryption fails, additional security levels are still in place. 

One of the best technologies to get the job done is SSL/TLS or IPSec protocols.

SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer / Transport Layer Security) ensures confidentiality by encrypting transmitted information with a private key and decrypting it with the corresponding public key. 

On the other hand, IPSec (Internet Protocol Security) is a protocol suite that provides end-to-end encryption of data between two nodes, using either symmetric or asymmetric techniques for authentication and integrity verification.

Related: What is an SSL certificate in South Africa?

11. Consider Cyber Insurance To Protect Your Business From The Financial Losses Associated With A Data Breach. 

That’s right, there’s insurance against uncertainties of cybersecurity!

Cyber insurance is an important step to help protect your business online in South Africa. 

You see, The average data breach cost was $4.24 million in 2021, the highest average on record. (IBM).

If that was to happen to you, it’d be devastating!

Cyber insurance helps cover losses related to data breaches, cyber-attacks, disruption of services due to cyber threats, and other similar incidents. 

It can also provide legal support in the event of a dispute or lawsuit related to a cyber attack on your business.

In South Africa, you can get Cyber Insurance starting from R256p/m.

When selecting an appropriate policy for your business, consider factors such as the size of your company, the type of information you store online, and the amount of coverage you need. 

Understand the terms and conditions associated with different policies so that you can choose one that provides sufficient protection for all areas related to your operations. 

Talk with an experienced cybersecurity expert or insurance broker who can advise you on which policy best suits your needs and budget. 

Final Thoughts

As the internet evolves and advances, so do its security risks. 

Businesses must stay ahead of the curve to protect themselves against cyber threats. 

Utilizing the 11 simple steps outlined in this article is a great way to secure your business online in South Africa.

By taking proactive measures such as setting up firewalls, using strong passwords, encrypting data, and creating backups, you can ensure that your business’s digital assets are safe from malicious activity. 

Don’t forget to educate your employees on proper online safety protocols so they can make well-informed decisions when interacting with digital systems. 

And regularly run software updates and invest in antivirus protection. They help keep your system secure from any new viruses or malware that may be released. 

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