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Online Privacy: How Secure Are You?

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With so much concern about malicious attacks, online privacy has become one of today’s hot topics. It applies to every size of business, from the home office to the enterprise, and the extent of the risk involved seems to have little bearing on what type of business you are engaged in or what industry category you fall into.

Every day, we see evidence of how our personal information can be leveraged without us even being aware of it: from AdWords to remarketing campaigns, our online activities seem to follow us no matter how hard we try to stay anonymous.

The biggest threats sometimes originate closer to home

On a more insidious level, computer vulnerabilities and even software that we know and trust can make the issue worse by exposing our personal information to people or entities we’d probably not share with given the choice. It would seem that some of our biggest threats come not from cybercriminals, but from our own government, our social networks, even our own devices.

The good news is that, for the most part, there are plenty of ways to protect ourselves from prying eyes. New tools, of both the hardware and software variety, help us to take control of our online privacy. Whether the need is to protect one user and their various computers and devices or to enforce complex privacy and security rules at the enterprise level, there are solutions that do the job nicely.

A wide range of business-grade solutions

While no one security solution is the answer to all online privacy issues, choosing one or a combination of several based on your needs can help deliver the results you want. Let’s take a look at some of the currently available online security solutions and what they offer:

Firewalls and Antivirus

Firewalls and antivirus software are staples of online security. A firewall helps keep malicious intruders away from your personal data, but it’s not bulletproof–it can only protect against what it recognizes, and new threats are evolving every day. A firewall comes standard with Windows operating systems, and it is a component of the Mac OS as well.

Antivirus, on the other hand, is a separate piece of software that must be installed independently. Some of the options available include Malware Bytes, Avast, Norton Antivirus, and Kaspersky, but there are plenty more at prices that range from free to a license fee of so many dollars per month, per user or per device. (For business applications of any size, going with a free version is never recommended.) Be sure to keep your antivirus software up-to-date to stay protected against evolving threats.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to mask your online activities. Depending on the type of VPN you deploy, you may appear invisible or you might simply appear to be surfing from a different location. Essentially, when you are signed on to the VPN, you are using their network resources, including their IP addresses. Your device’s IP address along with your personal identity is masked.

A VPN is incredibly useful for travelers. When in transit, you’ll find that many of the Wi-Fi networks available to you are open networks—meaning they lack even the most basic security. This means that hackers on the network can see your device and potentially access your personal information. When the VPN is deployed on any network, your device, as well as your identity, will remain safe and anonymous. It will also allow you to access geo-blocked or censored content by spoofing your location.

There is a range of VPNs available on the market. Most individual licenses will cover up to five devices. Among the top contenders are Anchor Free Hotspot Shield Elite, Pure VPN, NordVPN, and Private Internet Access VPN.

Data Encryption

Online security is greatly enhanced through encryption. Many highly-regulated industries, such as healthcare, banks, the government, and the legal profession, use advanced encryption to protect personal information as well as intellectual property, financial information, and sensitive information stored in apps or documents.

You could think of encryption as a secret code, as it converts your documents and communications into a format that is only decipherable by either an authorized user or a piece of software. Hackers may be able to access the data, but they won’t be able to read or do anything useful with it unless they have the code. You see encryption in action when you are asked to enter a password, which is essentially a decryption key.

Files, volumes, folders, or entire drives or networks can be encrypted, as can removable drives and any data that you store in the cloud. In order to protect your company’s data, make sure you have an encryption tool deployed on all of your laptops and devices so that if they are lost or stolen, thieves will not be able to access company data.

BitLocker and Apple FileVault are system-specific encryption tools for Windows and Apple, respectively. Most antivirus programs include encryption with their security packages, or they can be purchased as a stand-alone.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) uses more than one method to authenticate a user and their access level. For instance, most systems use a username and password combination. With two-factor or multi-factor authentication, the user is asked to provide additional identifiers. These could be biomarkers (like iris scans or fingerprints), specific security questions that must be answered correctly, or SMS or email requests to prove who they are.

While many businesses may at first resist the added effort of MFA, citing interrupted workflow or inconvenience, MFA is an excellent way to protect online data. Many business and enterprise MFA solutions are available in both on-premises and cloud configurations. Some of the top players in this space include Symantec VIP, VASCO, Dell Defender, and CA Strong Authentication.

Which online security solution is right for you?

To sum up, there is a wide range of solutions that can help protect your business’s online privacy. Depending on what data privacy compliance issues you face in your industry, one of these or a combination may be appropriate.

If you are an Arkansas business that is actively searching for online privacy solutions, reach out to Business World today, or call us at 501-214-5482 to schedule a no-obligation consultation.

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