As businesses move their sales processes and customer service operations online at rates no one could have ever anticipated just a few months ago in response to COVID-19, the threat of online security breaches is increasing exponentially.

Hackers are out there waiting for you — or the people who work for your business — to make simple mistakes that could allow them to shut down your sales, wreak havoc with your operations, steal your assets and do harm to your customers. It typically isn’t something big that causes this to happen. Little missteps could end up costing you thousands of dollars or more, hours in staff time to clean things up, loss of valued customers and harm to the reputation of your business it may never recover from. Those mistakes become more likely when people are tired or stressed out, as many are because of the pandemic.

Here are simple things you, and the people who work for you, may be doing that could put your operation at risk. Share them with everyone on your team to help protect your business from what could be a devastating online event, especially during already challenging times like these.

1. Not updating software regularly.

Business owners are busy people. Staff members are stretched to the limit more than ever because of COVID-19 restrictions. Add to this the fact that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis have left many operations strapped for cash. These things are keeping many businesses from regularly updating their security and other types of software.

While it may seem like a costly and time consuming thing to do, it’s actually one of the most cost effective and efficient ways to keep hackers at bay.

Cyber threats are escalating every day. They’re also constantly changing with data pirates finding new ways to attack vulnerable targets. The only way to ensure you’re leveraging the latest and best technology to prevent hacks is to consistently update your software. Updates aren’t just about improvements in features that could benefit your business — or not. They’re also about improving things you may never see on your computer screen, tablet or smart phone like closing cyber holes that could open up your business to hacks.

2. Storing top secret files on servers.

Do you have income statements, legal paperwork, budget reports, business plans or other information you don’t want people to see? It could be a smart move to store these things on multiple devices or systems NOT connected to your servers. This makes it harder, if not impossible, for hackers to reach them. Just make sure you have multiple backups available in case any device or system becomes corrupt.

3. Allowing untrained staff to handle security issues.

Have you put an admin or web designer in charge of your online security? It’s not uncommon for many small and mid-sized businesses, especially during times of economic stress when funds are tight. Even if you have security software running on your systems and a firewall in place, it’s not smart to hand over the management of your cyber security to untrained personnel.

Even the best software and systems have flaws, and the risks related to them cannot be understood or managed by someone who isn’t adequately trained. The issue is magnified when it comes time to deal with an actual cyber breach. Trying to handle one using untrained people can be a lot like putting out a four alarm fire with a bucket crew and a garden hose.

If you can’t afford to hire a full time tech expert, consider outsourcing the function to an experienced company like GeeksHD. It’s an efficient and effective way to get the help you need to protect the business you’ve worked so hard to build.

4. Not using strong passwords.

Sure, keeping track of strong passwords can be complex and cumbersome, and using them may slow down your operations.

However, passwords exist for a reason and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Follow instructions when software or systems instruct you on how to select strong passwords. Don’t use something like your business address, company founding date or owner’s birthday as a password. A password that’s easy to guess is like sending an invitation to hackers to enter your systems and do anything they want.

While you’re at it, make sure you update your passwords regularly, especially when prompted. It provides an added layer of security that will help you sleep better at night.

5. Depending on a single IT person.

Businesses need to run as efficiently as possible. However, depending on one IT person to handle all things technical within an organization could leave it vulnerable.

Even if your IT person is a trusted long term employee, you never know for sure, especially during tough times when money could be tight. When you allow one person to oversee all your software, servers and sites, you are trusting them with all your company’s most valuable assets and secrets, including your customer data. At any time, they could be lured by a competitor or other party to walk away with all these things or supply the information needed to hack your online operation.

Take steps to put in place checks in how your tech systems are managed. If you can’t hire multiple people, leverage services like those offered by GeeksHD to make sure someone is looking out for your security and best interests.

6. Forgetting to back things up.

Companies fail to do this all the time, and it’s become more common during the COVID-19 crisis, but it’s necessary to back up all records and systems regularly. It’s critical to have this backed-up information when your digital security is breached. It allows you to clean up and repair your systems after a breach, install new software and then use your backed up files to restore your business information.

7. Not getting a fresh perspective.

Is your company completely protected from a data breach? How do you know for sure?

With things changing as fast as they are, it can be difficult to feel confident that your business — and customers — are safe. It might be a smart move to have an impartial third party, such as GeeksHD, to come in with a fresh set of eyes. Our experienced professionals, who are aware of all the latest cyber threats and how they can be prevented, are able to find — and eliminate — vulnerabilities in your systems.

You owe it to the future of your business and the security of your customers to do all you can to protect valuable data from outside threats.