4 Ways to keep your business computer and smartphone safe

woman laptop phoneBeing someone surrounded and working with computers and technology, I feel a strong need to help other business owners who could use a tip or two about how to handle the security of their phone or their computer. Daily, I help business owners with their website and marketing. Security naturally comes up as I see someone struggle to manage their passwords or worse, their website got hacked into.

I assembled,  in real world verbiage, some solid ideas on how to keep you and your valuable information safe.

Manage your password smartly

I know it’s just easier to use the same password for each account you have. Maybe you have a system where you have a password for your Facebook and a slightly different password for your bank account. Guess what, that’s not safe, you should have unique passwords for each account. How the heck do you do it? With a password management tool like LastPass. I’ve been using LastPass for over 3 years and it’s been a life changer. I login once into LastPass and I’m able to access the rest of my passwords, generate unique passwords on both my computer and phone. I can share passwords safely to my husband, co-workers, contractors, etc (I have the option of allowing someone to see the actual password or not).

How are you using Wi-Fi in public places?

Many of you, like me, work all over, coffee shops, our repair shop’s lobby, our library, the grocery store, or perhaps a hotel lobby. When you are using their Wi-Fi, are you logging in with a password the business gave you? Are you just hopping on their network for free?

Here’s some food for thought, if you are just hopping on, without a password, who else is? If Wi-Fi is accessible to the public, without a password, it’s fair game and a easy way for hackers to intecept passwords and other valuable data. If you are using a Wi-Fi that asks you for a password, your info is still at risk. Look around and see how many other’s are sharing the same network or sitting outside in their car using the wi-fi.

This lifehacker article goes into some really great ideas I’ll cover in more detail you need to consider:

1) Turn on your firewall, Windows and Mac come with their own firewalls ( a firewall is a layer of security that designates what traffic is and isn’t allowed to enter your computer on a network. Generally, they let good traffic through, while keeping hackers, malware, and other unsavory traffic out.)

2) Turn off any kind of data sharing on your phone.

3) Consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Basically it’s a service that let you route all your activity through a separate secure, private network, thus giving you the security of a private network even though you’re on a public one. I use a service through my chrome browser (an extension I just added) called Tunnel Bear.

BEST OPTION: when in doubt, use your hotspot. I use AT&T and have a personal hotspot I have through my phone’s plan. I can turn it on and log onto my own phone’s wi-fi network. It’s great if I’m in a dead zone, trying to work outta my car or a hotel that wants to charge me for the internet, etc. The trick is to turn off wi-fi on my phone so I’m using the AT&T network. It’s not cheap, but has been a huge lifesaver at times trying to get an email out, etc.

Updating your Software or Ignore it?

Keeping your Software up to date is critical, this applies to your smartphone, website, computer, tablet, etc. One of the main reasons to update is to fix security problems. If you just leave your computer as is and don’t update it, lots can go wrong. It may not operate as smoothly, could get a virus, be hacked into, or just simply not work right. Luckily, it’s getting easier to update your software and it’s becoming more automated.

If there’s something you need to do on a regular basis, schedule it! Be sure to have it on the calendar, once a week or once a month and make sure it happens. If you are unsure what to do, ask for help.

Having backups or freaking out?

Backing up your computer/tablet/website/phone is just as important as updates. Things happen. Last summer, I was opening my old 3 year PC laptop on a Friday morning to use it and guess what I saw. The dreaded Blue Screen and guess what, I didn’t have a massive freak out. I just grabbed my backup computer and started working away because I had everything I needed backed up in the cloud (my preferred method of backups!)

There’s 3 ways to keep backups of your computer – Always have more than 1 backup
External Hard Drive

just go out and purchase one, they come in different storage sizes. You just plug it into your computer via USB and you can start syncing your files with the hard drive.

These hard drives are affordable and easy to manage. If you only have a few files and photos to back up, a 500GB or 1TB drive. These cost around $50-$100. If you near more storage, 1 TB-2 TB models start at $100+. Some external hard drives has extra features like a fireproof or waterproof case (great if you do a lot of traveling with a drive).

The drawbacks are that you have to manually set up the backups. Also the hard drives can randomly fail at any time.

 Flash Drive

Can be are small, portable drives that can be added to a keychain or easy stored in a bag. They are flexible and can be erased and reused to again and again. Simply connect a flash drive to your computer’s USB port (or a printers) and access the drive.

The Flash Drive is great for smaller projects since the largest size they go to is 256 GB. This is perfect for a photographer or a few website project files. Flash drives are given away at a conferences and very affordable. They start at a few dollars and can go upwards to $100+. The risk is that they can also stop working at any time and be corrupted.

Cloud Storage

My favorite option for storing backups is Cloud Storage.  (Cloud Storage is simply storing data in multiple locations.) It’s easy to sign up for a service such as DropBox. Once you have an account, login and and then you can start adding or removing files from the account. Cloud Storage is simply a remote server in a data center that stores files.

Dropbox offers a freeium option where you get a small amount of space for free and you can upgrade to a monthly or yearly cost to upgrade for more space.

What I love about DropBox is the different options I have with sharing my files. I use Dropbox as a space to share with clients so they can add files for a website project. I can then share files with them in a specific folder only they have access to, protecting other folders I own in the same space. I can also allow clients or contractors to have “viewing” or “editing” privileges as well on files.

Risks with Cloud Storage is

a) it can be compromised and your data can be hacked – this has been rare so far

b) the company you are using might go out of business, dissolving your account. Luckily this can be avoided by using bigger, well-known places such as DropBox for your storage options.

Being safe and secure on your phone and computer is simply being good about upgrading software, managing passwords, having backups, and using Wi-Fi smartly. If you follow these 4 guidelines, I bet the next time you have a problem, you won’t feel stressed out and have a solution at a hand. When in doubt, ask your tech friends and colleagues for help! That’s what we are here for!

 

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