Last year we all spent a lot more time online than ever before. Lockdowns meant we worked, shopped and even socialised from our homes… Some people even had their work Christmas parties via Zoom! 

But spending more time online means your risk of falling victim to a cyber-attack grows. Online security is something that many of us don’t consider or take for granted. However, if you are successfully ‘phished’ or hacked, you could be in for a rocky ride. If hackers gain access to your device or profiles, they could access your money, personal data or even ruin your business.  Thankfully, here at TPPR we know some rather wonderful people who can help us!

Black Nova Cyber security experts

Danielle, Kyle and the rest of the team at Black Nova Designs have oodles of expertise in all things IT, from web design and hosting to Wi-Fi and CCTV installations. But did you know Black Nova is also officially recognised for their expertise in cyber security? In 2020 Black Nova applied for and received Cyber Essentials accreditation. This is a Government-backed scheme which recognises businesses with up to date and effective cyber security practices. It means Black Nova Designs is perfectly placed to support business like ours and yours with online security. We asked the team there to put together seven steps you can take to stay safe online this year and here’s what they said:  

1. Have a separate password for your email account

Think of your email account a bit like a secure safe, with all your most important information hidden in it. You need to secure it with a strong password that’s totally different from any others you use. If a hacker or criminal gained access to your emails they could change your passwords for other key apps and accounts. So, choose a strong password and change it regularly.

2. Back up your data

We talked to Black Nova Designs about data backups and why they are important here, but they are relevant to cyber security too. If you were unfortunate enough to be hacked, you know there’s a recent version of all your data somewhere safe. You can then use that if the worst were to happen and someone stole your data. With most operating systems you can turn on automatic updates to the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to do it. 

3. Create different passwords for all your apps and accounts

Even the biggest businesses can suffer data breaches so your passwords for all different accounts should be different. That means social media, online shopping, banking, utilities and subscriptions – everything.  That means if you are unlucky enough to be hacked, they won’t suddenly be able to access lots of different types of your personal information. Here’s a tip for creating a strong password. Combine three random short words together using letters, numbers and capital letters.

Cyber security Black Nova Designs

4. Turn on two-factor authentication where possible

What is two-factor authentication, you might ask! It’s where an account asks for a passcode and a pin, or a password and a biometric input such as a thumbprint! You might have that already for internet banking. But did you know that you can set up two-factor authentication for lots of other sites including Gmail, Facebook and Instagram? Check their help pages for instructions for how to set it up. It’s well worth doing if your business relies totally on your emails or on leads coming in from social media! 

5. Use a dedicated password manager

We mentioned having a different password for all accounts, but that can present a problem when you need to remember them. It’s why so many people use the same password for nearly everything. Top tip – use a password manager like https://www.lastpass.com. They allow you to save all your passwords in one easy to use place – just make sure you use a strong and secure password for that! Other people save their passwords to their browser which automatically fills them in. If you do that, it’s essential to have a strong password for the device itself. Otherwise, if someone stole your laptop, they could log anything they like without even needing to hack your password. 

6. Update your devices 

Dare you guilty of ignoring your computer when it asks to install an update for software, apps and operating systems? If so, then you’re making your information easier for someone else to hack! Companies and app developers fix weaknesses in their code by releasing updates to help keep hackers out. They also help programmes run as they should. Turn on automatic updates for everything you can, so you don’t have to remember. And please, please don’t ignore the manual updates as they will keep you safe online.

7. Watch out for phishing emails 

Phishing emails and text messages are when cyber criminals contact you pretending to be a person or an organisation you can trust. They look like a real email or text but always have a link or attachment in them. The aim of a phishing email or text is normally to get you to click that link to a website or download an attachment. Both of these actions could risk a virus or other malware on your device, allowing criminals to access passwords and other private data. Be very careful with emails from unknown people or organisations. Also, be wary of emails which appear to be from big brands, but that look strange and/or contain spelling errors. If you get a phishing email, then you can send it here – [email protected]. Suspicious text messages can be forwarded to 7726 (for free!) free-of-charge which enables your provider to investigate the origin of the text.

What to do next…

Thank you to Black Nova Designs for that cyber security information. It’s so worth taking some time to run through these steps, whether you have an online business or not. It looks like we will be relying on the internet for a lot for a few more months yet, so it really is important. If you would like to add an extra layer of protection, why not explore anti-virus software? Black Nova Designs is an authorised ESET reseller, which means they can offer you total peace of mind. They use ESET Endpoint Protection, incredibly cost-effective cloud-based software. Take a look here: https://www.blacknovadesigns.co.uk/anti-virus/