How to avoid getting hacked as a startup

Written by Gary Stevens

Congratulations! Your startup is – finally – off the ground and the future is looking bright.

As every founder knows, getting started is just the first step in a long journey, complete with many challenges. Today, one of the most common – and unfortunate – challenges faced by startups is the threat of being hacked.

Many startups think that they won’t be targeted because of their size, but that is actually what makes them more vulnerable. Hackers know that they have low budgets, ‘cheap’ security software, or poor data practices, which makes them prime candidates for hacks, and appropriate measures must be taken to prevent them from breaching your servers.

1. Password Managers Are a Must

A password manager is software that you install on your devices that collects all the passwords from every employee, and stores them away in an easily accessible virtual “lockbox.” This prevents situations such as an employee forgetting their password for a program they have access to.

One master password is used to access the password manager, so it is suggested to entrust this only to a limited collective of qualified personnel and change it immediately in the event one of those people leaves your employment.

There are many different password managers on the market, so it’s of the utmost importance to use one that is suitable for the needs of your business.

2. Provide Access With Individual Passwords

When it comes to data management and protection, many startup entrepreneurs will have established a managerial hierarchy and different roles for their staff members.
Allowing employees to have their own unique, individual passwords can organize who has access to what based on their respective job roles. Individual passwords are also helpful to make employee turnover a simple process.
When someone leaves the company, you can simply deactivate old passwords and re-assign new ones when needed. When updating passwords, make sure to follow strong password best practices.

3. Tighten Security With 2FA

2FA, which stands for ‘two-factor authentication’ compliments the use of alternative measures in addition to a username and password. 2FA can take the form of smart cards or credit card-sized cards and have an integrated circuit chip embedded in them.
Some businesses may use a keyfob – a small security hardware device that displays a unique authentication code in a series of numbers that changes every thirty seconds to a minute.
Other 2FA solutions include a verification code sent via text message to a user’s mobile device to ensure that the user logging on is indeed them.
More advanced verification options such as biometric scans, which require thumbprint or even retinal scans. Taking advantage of these technological advancements in cybersecurity can make this process easier for you and harder for hackers.

4. Use a Secure VPN

The use of virtual private networks (VPNs) in the early days of the internet were only reserved for tech-savvy corporations, illegal downloaders, and skilled hackers. Although, in the wake of modern data leaks, privacy invasion scandals, and the widespread censorship of the internet by oppressive governments of countries such as China and North Korea.
The best VPN services today use AES encryption, which shields your online connection from geographic restrictions and allows for anonymity with the use of servers from all over the world to help block your exact location

However, a VPN isn’t a 100% guaranteed method for keeping hackers at bay.

5. Encryption is Best Served in Your Server

Encryption is the lifeblood of your startup’s online security system. It’s what makes 2FAs, password managers, and VPNs such effective tools against cybercrime.
Full disk encryption ensures the secure management of your business devices and personal devices employees may use to access company resources, such as their own cell phone or a laptop. Full disk encryption also known as whole encryption – is the most effective way to prevent confidential data from being stolen if an employee loses or misplaces their laptop or phone. Without an encryption key method, access cannot be gained.

6. Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket

Money is the bread and butter of any startup business. No matter how careful you are at tracking your transactions through secure and innovative methods like decentralization and blockchain technology, it matters little if everything is poured into a single bank account. Storing your finances in one place not only makes the hacker’s job easier, but you have no back-up if your account falls victim to fraud.
Having separate bank accounts is a great strategy to keep your money safe from the unthinkable.
It’s recommended you have a business checking account for basic business operations such as bills, payroll, and emergency repairs. Other accounts can be allocated for profits and savings, and an account put aside for taxes.

7. Educate Yourself On Prevention

In the event of your startup being hacked, you need to know what to do in an expedient and efficient manner. Having a backup plan can be your savior in the event of an emergency.
If your company falls victim to a cyberattack, informing the authorities is your first step. Contacting your legal counsel to clarify the appropriate data security and privacy laws for your specific state and industry can set the foundations of a security breach back-up plan. Conducting interviews with the person or persons who discovered the hack and turning off all affected devices as soon as possible are other suggestions that can make a solid plan. The security of your startup might be tight as a drum, but without a plan in place, your company could suffer more damage as a result.
Online vigilance is the key to business integrity. With a trusted password manager that keeps every employee’s password secure, and two-factor authentication to verify their identities, they can safely access your trusted VPN that’s been fully loaded with the encryption necessary to defend your startup from cyberattacks. Lastly, a solid backup plan that is ready to be implemented can ensure you are prepared and ready to act in the event of a data breach or cyberattack.