Protecting your business from spyware

A beginner’s guide to protecting your business from spyware.

Spyware: what is it and how to prevent it

You’re on top of it all: marketing, sales, customer service. You’ve sorted your online presence and your business is ticking along nicely. But before you settle back, there’s one other area to take care of – cyber security.

Cyber security doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Naturally, when you’re hungry to get your business off the ground, securing your defences isn’t as front of mind as, say, enticing new customers.

Nevertheless, no matter the size of your company, there can still be security threats. And the risk of this may grow as your business scales.

The best thing you can do is consider cyber security right from the start. Understand the threats, plug the gaps in your defences so that you have peace of mind and can concentrate on what you set out to do – grow your business.

Rooting out the spies

Spyware is a sneaky piece of software that nestles quietly into your systems, spying on you and taking note of valuable information, sending it onto fraudsters. It can swipe passwords, capture financial information, or even take control of your webcam.

The consequences can be far reaching. Stolen cash is the most obvious concern, but business down time and reputational damage are also likely.

How are cybercriminals breaching systems? They have a number of strategies – and understanding them can give you the upper hand in thwarting their efforts.

Phishing emails is one notable tactic. Bad actors will send emails with malicious attachments or links that will secretly download spyware onto your device. Sometimes, criminals impersonate senior stakeholders in order to do this.

‘Spear phishing’ is similar but targets an individual rather than the workforce en masse.

In some cases, criminals can compromise otherwise legitimate websites. These ‘watering hole’ attacks involve attracting unwitting employees to these websites and fooling them into downloading harmful software.

And finally, there’s ‘sideloading’. This is when you download an app to a device without going through an official app store like the Apple store or Google Play.

These stores screen their apps for malicious content, so by downloading an app from an unauthorised site you put yourself at risk of encountering malware, like spyware.

Staying ahead of the game

There’s plenty of quick, easy wins that can mitigate risk and keep you one step ahead of criminals. These include:

  • Making sure all your devices are running up-to-date operating systems

  • Checking all your firewalls are set up and properly configured

  • Getting the latest anti-virus software

  • Cultivating a culture of cyber security

This last one is important. We often underestimate the value of our “human firewall” – employees themselves – but often that’s exactly where criminals target their attacks.

Whilst working from home in particular, we’re forced to rely on emails which are prone to phishing attempts. Many of us also need to use personal devices and networks, both of which could be vulnerable.

Training employees is a great start. Ensure that, no matter where they work, they are actively aware of suspicious emails and dangerous sites. Employees who know how to react in the event of a breach are a powerful asset.

By combining the right culture with basic cyber-hygiene, the risk of being infected by malicious software can be dramatically reduced. And while the threat will never be defeated entirely, you should be able to outsmart the spies and keep the focus on growing your business.

Want more help and support? Speak to our expert V-Hub Business Advisers, who offer tailored guidance on a range of topics.

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