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If you are earning an income out of an online businesses, it is your responsibility to protect your business from a lot of possible mishaps that could happen.
Online Business Security is not limited to preventing hackers from accessing your financial information. Your business should also be protected from spam, poorly-made applications, theft, data loss, lawsuits, and a lot more internal and external threats.
I will cover some of the best practices today about protecting yourself and your business.
The areas I want to talk about are:
- Protection of your personal and financial info
- Protection and encryption of your online assets
- Password protection for everything
- Diversification of your portfolio
- Fraud preventions tips
It can do you wonders if you know what steps to take to secure your business, most of which are simple but effective practices that you can use to ensure that your business is nothing short of wearing a Kevlar vest.
Protection of your personal and financial info
While it is true that you are supposed to be transparent, you need to know that you have to protect yourself from bad people. You cannot just publish your online identity and expect that no one is going to try to steal it.
Let us take a look at the things you can do to protect your personal information and subsequently, your privacy.
Do not use your personal phone number
If you run an online business, you will find out that many times, you have to give your phone number to your consumers. In fact, a phone number is one of those things that make you credible.
Also, customers need to call you to talk to you.
It doesn’t matter if you are operating a small organization or a big one. You must keep your business number and personal number separate. The last thing you want is to get spammed and called by telemarketers.
This is why you need a private phone number that is exclusively used for business. This may involve a little more effort, but it will surely be helpful in the long run.
You can either ask your telephone company for another line or buy a spare SIM card. If you do not have time for these, you may consider some applications where you can buy a virtual phone number.
You can consider companies like CallHippo. Or you can get VoIP numbers from companies like Sonetel.
CallHippo only costs $14 per month, while Sonetel starts at $0.48 per month. Sonetel is a call forwarding option. Basically, you will get number from the US, and if someone calls, the call gets routed to your country.
Do not use your personal home address
Like business numbers, you’ll also need to give your customers your physical address. Most online entrepreneurs work from home. And if this is the case, chances are that you will be listing your address when you buy your domain name.
If you do not buy protection from your registrar, your home address is exposed, including your name.
Since you cannot own two houses, your best course of action is to buy Privacy Protection. All domain name registrars have this feature. Once you buy this, your protection is guaranteed. No one can see your identity even if they do a WHOIS lookup or search.
The other option is to buy a private mailing address. You can do this with companies like Ghost Mail Drop and iPostal1. They offer services where you can get US addresses even if you do not live there.
Protection and encryption of your online assets
Protecting your business is a much easier task compared to dealing with faulty consequences. Encryption, the process of turning your information to codes, is an effective way to prevent other people from accessing your files.
Let us take a look at some of the things you can do to protect your information and online assets.
Protect Your Domain Name
When you buy your business name as a domain name, you have to provide the registrar with your phone number and street or physical address. These data are then posted to a database of all website domains and owners called WHOIS. This database is accessible to the public.
Anyone who attempts to search the owner of a domain name will find out how you are and where you live. We have already talked about the cons of posting your private contact details and how dangerous it is for you if the public is to know.
Privacy protection is available to all registrars that sell domain names. When enabled, the domain name registrar will input their information instead of yours.
This is not free. As you can see from the screenshot below, my privacy settings are turned on.
This prevents people from seeing the owner of my website. However, you can bump up your protection if you buy full protection where you can also protect yourself from domain hi-jacking.
Use VPN if using public WiFi
As an online businessperson, you may access your business no matter where you are. Sometimes, you may get tempted to log-in by using public WiFi networks.
This is dangerous. Many hackers lurk in these places. If the WiFi is free, then it is easily hackable. The last thing you want is to make your information accessible through public WiFi.
Your only option is NOT to use public WiFi. Or you can use a VPN.
A VPN is a device called Virtual Private Network. It masks the real IP address of your device. VPNs are so sophisticated that you can even make other networks believe that you are in another country. What I personally use to protect myself is ZenMate.
Use a VPN to mask your location and the identity of your device. VPN also allows you to bypass restrictions and censorship. For example, a website may only be accessible in the UK. If you are from the US, you cannot access this website.
If you have a VPN, then you can enable our VPN, and then make it look like you are from the UK. Thus, you can access the UK website even if you are not physically in the UK.
Make sure your devices are encrypted
Having a password does not mean you are already secured. Someone only has to take your computer’s hard drive to get access to your files.
These files include website bookmarks, documents, and even passwords.
Data encryption must be applied not only to your passwords but also to your devices. This will make the data useless to hackers unless they can decrypt your password.
What is encryption anyway?
Encryption means that the computer is going to jumble all your data into an unintelligible format. Only you or the website’s computer has the key.
Watch this video from Mashable to understand encryption better:
Make sure your website is encrypted
All online stores, whatever their product is, has the responsibility to protect their customers’ information. Using self-hosted platforms like WordPress and the likes, you’ll need a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate for your store’s platform.
Adding SSL to your site will secure all al data exchanged between you and your customer. This makes it more difficult for other people to steal customer information.
Your store is encrypted if the protocol is HTTPS instead of a simple HTTP. You can view this in the URL.
There was a time when you could build a website without SSL. Now, it is pretty much a standard process. While you can still build a website with no encryption, many browsers no longer allow their users to access sites without SSL.
Password protection for everything
Prevention is better than cure.
This statement may be overused, but it can never be wrong, especially considering the risks you need to take in managing a business.
One of the things you mainly need to take care of is your passwords. This is your first line of defense against unauthorized people.
Choose an effective password manager app
Using different marketing platforms and services require passwords. Because of this, it may be hard for you to keep track of each and every one of them. It is also recommended that you use different passwords for every platform to be more secured.
To manage these, you can use a password manager to store your passwords.
A few applications that are popular in the market are:
Forgetting passwords may result in making new accounts and data loss which will probably stress you a lot.
Always use Two-factor Authentication
Apart from using strong passwords, you have the option to use the second level of password to access your accounts. It is one of the best methods today to improve your security.
2FA involves a second layer of identity authentication on top of your password. This is required when you login onto your account. If used, there will be one-time codes to be sent to your number even after inputting your password.
Watch for Phishing Emails
Phishing emails are fake emails that were created to look like a legit one. They even have domain names and email addresses that look real.
These may seem like they came from a service that you are using and will ask you to login in the site they sent. What you enter in the site is then accessed by the people who sent the emails.
Spam controls are built-in in most email providers. This anti-spam software help protects you from spammers and from getting hacked. However, you still need to make sure that you only open links from authorized emails. If you’re not confident, log in the service using the URLs they use in browsers.
One of the words things that happened in clicking a phishing email was the Bangladesh bank heist, which you can watch below. This heist resulted in a loss of almost $1 billion. The banks got lucky most of the money was retrieved,
Utilize Alias Email Addresses
If you want to have better security, you can consider buying and also using email aliases. These are emails that forward messages t your original email, but the people will not find out your real email address.
This way, different email addresses will be used in different accounts and will serve as a hidden password of your account.
Use Disposable Emails
Emails are important. You should keep into consideration how or where you use emails, especially now that there are a lot of services you want to test. Using disposable emails is a way to save the hassle of receiving spam notifications from services you didn’t like.
You can use disposable emails from Gmail and Yahoo! If you are just merely logging in or creating a new account to test new software services.
Another thing you should consider for online business security is backing up your data. Data and information loss is a common problem. This may cause you a lot of problems and hassle.
Therefore, as a business owner, it will be your responsibility if information about your product or service gets lost. This may result in going back to square one.
In order to prevent this, you need to make sure that everything is backed up. This way, you can be assured that you’ll always have access to your data.
The files you need to back up include:
- Computer Files
- Password Manager Archives
Some applications have backups within their platform, regardless; it’s still a best practice to do manual back-ups from time to time.
Diversification of your portfolio
As an entrepreneur, there is an age-old saying which tells us not to put all our eggs on one basket. Many people think that this only applies to investing.
Nope. This applies to online businesses, too.
Market in different online places
If you market on different channels, you are giving yourself a chance to earn from different places. Diversification means broadening your channels to reach a larger market. This way, you can avoid counting on only one platform to generate traffic to your store.
Try to make money in different ways
Traffic generation is as important as generating income. Having more revenue streams make your cash flow consistent and more immune to the constant changing of the world’s economy.
There are a lot of ways to broaden your sources of income.
Sell in different marketplaces
Do not just sell your products in one marketplace like Amazon. It is advisable to also build your own online store. If Amazon decides to increase fees or shut you down, you have a backup store. You can sell on other sites, too, like Etsy and Wish.
Selling does not need to only reach one line of your target market. You should consider options that will widen your customers.
One way to do this is to try selling directly to suppliers and being available for wholesale and resell orders. Practicing this will involve a larger market and more continuous cash flow.
Selling to only one country make you miss a lot of opportunities. A lot of things can also happen like global policies on trade, which can negatively impact your business.
Giving your customers an option for international orders will make your business more exposed. As such, you can expect to make more sales. It also makes your business more immune to economic and seasonal changes.
Fraud preventions tips
Fraud can take your entire business out in just a snap. Fraud includes deceptions, swindling, and many more, that will horribly affect your livelihood. Not only will the consequences cost you a lot, but they may also damage you and your business reputation.
Buy insurance for your business
Online business has financial risks. It is rare for an online business to get sued. Your online business also is not likely to catch on fire.
Here are the types of business risks I want to talk about.
- Liability of the Products – you are liable if what you sold caused harm to your customer. For example, you sold an e-cigarette that blew up. You can get sued, and you may lose everything that you have.
- Stolen goods – if your products are stolen, you have nothing else to sell. This is why you need to buy insurance for your business. If you are in the business of dropshipping, then this should not be a problem.
Register your work as a patented work or copyrighted work
Trademarks, copyrights, and patents are all a form of insurance and protection for a business. Let us first take a quick look at the differences between the three:
- Trademarks – Trademarks are used to protect your brand name and logo, like McDonald’s and the golden arch.
- Patents – this is used as a protection for things you invented, including machines.
- Copyrights – this is a protection for things you thought of, like books and methods.
Your best bet is to talk with a lawyer who specializes in the protection you’re looking for to better understand exactly how much it will cost you.
Learn to Identify Fraudulent Orders
Fraudulent orders, in simple terms, are fake orders that do not only take your money but your product, too.
You have to learn how to determine which are legit and not to prevent it from happening right from the beginning.
Here are some red flags to look for when reviewing orders:
- Different shipping from the credit card billing address
- The IP address of the order is different than the region being shipped to
- Addresses are different on big-ticket items
- Customer does not respond
- Repetitive orders
- Big-ticket orders overseas
- Shipping address looks odd
- Express shipping
Second-guessing and following up with each of these red flags can help you prevent being deceived and will keep you on good terms with your credit card processor.
Summary: Online Business Security
Online business is easy to build. As you grow, you may expose yourself to fraudsters. There are also those who are just waiting for you to make a mistake, and then they will sue you and bleed you dry.
Building your own security wall around your business and platform will not only benefit you. It will also help your market and will help assure them that your store is a safe place.
It does not matter what kind of business you are operating. There will always be risks and dangers ahead. You just have to be knowledgeable on how to avoid, and if ever, get past them.
WATCH: A Basic Security Model for Small Businesses
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