The recent hack of Sony's systems have been in the news like so many other hacks. What makes this one different is the information that has been made available. While other hacks were about national security or personal debit or credit card information, this hack stems from a movie that Sony produced. The emails that have been released have been perhaps the most damaging since they contain personal opinions and commentary from everyone at Sony up to it's executive leaders about actors and even the President.
One would say that smaller businesses are more vulnerable since they may not have IT security measures or software like Sony so all of their information could be attained by a novice hacker. There are a couple of lessons from all of this.
1) Business emails should be all business. Because the line has blurred between our personal and professional lives we may get complacent and mix our content with our communication channels. Never add personal thoughts about others like coworkers, vendors, competitors or clients. Remember also that emails can be admissible in court for cases such as slander. In this case it's best to follow your mom's advice, 'if you can't say something nice about someone...'
2) Be selective when emailing. Remember, an email travels along a long path passing many different servers and equipment before reaching it's intended audience. Google, Microsoft and ISP's are always scanning emails for marketing opportunities so hackers may be able to as well. If a phone call or face to face would be appropriate for the information that needs to be relayed use those channels instead.
3) Have a policy or rules for emails. Setting up some rules about the appropriate use of email in a work setting is good especially if you have employees. If you are a sole proprietor or smaller organization make sure to keep your business and personal communications separate and be mindful of the information you transmit.
4) Most importantly, never ever click on links in emails that appear suspicious from unknown persons or vendors/clients. Hackers are getting more and more sophisticated with this process. They will send an email with malware that will collect your contacts and email them so your contacts believe they are getting an email from you when in reality they are getting an email from the hacker. Always check the address that it is coming from since this can be a dead give away (ex. the name display is John Smith from ABC Company but the address is firstname.lastname@example.org) As always, if you know the person and are not sure about the email you can call them to verify whether it is legitimate or not.
While it appears that anyone can be hacked, keeping business emails, business can help prevent alienating others around you, damaging your small businesses reputation or brand or opening your or your small business to slander and defamation.
With the move to mobile devices applications are turning smartphones and tablets into productivity tools for your small business. Need to fax something or scan it? No problem, just take a picture with your phone and send it via email or text. But what other functions can you perform on your mobile device that may be beneficial to your small business? Here are a few mobile apps that are available.
Need to store files but keep them accessible? Dropbox is an app where you can store files in a cloud and easily retrieve them. Dropbox provides 2 Gigabytes free and the app is free as well.
Need to jot notes or ideas? Try Evernote. Again, the app is a cloud based app that allows you to save notes and not only retrieve them later, but allows you to search by keyword or tag.
Need to process a credit or debit card? Apps such as Square allow you to plug in a small swipe device and your mobile phone becomes a credit card processing machine. Several of the apps charge a percentage of the transaction amount and the app and sometimes the dongle are free.
Need to have a virtual meeting? Skype and WebEx allows for virtual meetings. Skype allows for face to face and WebEx gives you the ability to share files so that those you are meeting with can view the files as you review them.
Need to review files created in Office? Docs to Go is a mobile app that allows you to open, Word, Excel and PowerPoint files and even allows you to create Word and Excel documents.
Too many passwords to remember? Password Keeper and other applications like it have the ability to keep user id's, passwords and even the website url giving people the ability to store all their passwords in one application. So instead of trying to remember all your passwords or having a list, you only need one password, the one to get into the password keeper app.
With mobile technologies capacity continuing to grow the mobile platform will have continue to see newer and better applications that can help with running a small business.
Technology has made it easy to save and access our information. We are instantly connected through our mobile and other devices. The new technology makes it easier to manager and run our businesses and to provide goods and services to our customers.
But what happens when you lose your device or it is stolen from you? Suddenly anyone with your device can access your small businesses information. Securing your business devices is important. With the work that you do for your small business and the information that is accessed your devices can become a treasure trove for hackers and thieves. What are some things you can so to protect your information?