Here are 10 important cybersecurity tips for startups to secure your website, computers, and data in recognition of National Cyber Security Awareness Month.
We all know that cybersecurity is critical for startups, but it sometimes takes a back seat due to financial constraints. That’s understandable given the high cost of hiring cybersecurity experts and purchasing sophisticated protection software. This is where knowing some cyber security tips can come in handy. There are some stuff you can do for free (or at a low cost) to improve your startup’s cybersecurity.
In this post, we’ll show you some ready-to-use tools and techniques that you can use right away in your startup. Any cybersecurity tips would necessitate a basic understanding of programming. But don’t worry; we’ll include links to some excellent tools where you can simply copy and paste codes.
Achieve Cybersecurity for Startups With These 10 Cyber Security Tips
Whether it’s due to budgetary constraints, a shortage of staff or other tools, cybersecurity is a vital feature that several startups overlook. That’s why we’re here to assist you in getting back on track as soon as possible.
Antivirus and anti-malware protection on endpoint devices are two things that any startup should be doing now. There are, however, additional steps you may take to protect your network, computers, website, and data.
Links to tools, apps, applications, plugins, guides, and other resources are included in each of the ten cyber security tips for startups below. There are a mix of free, “freemium,” and low-cost (paid) tools.
Install a Malware Scanner & Web App Firewall on Your Website
These scanners keep an eye on your website for cyber-attacks and malware insertions at all times. They keep an eye on your website 24 hours a day, detecting, blocking, and advising you on how to delete some of the most dangerous cyber attacks.
Naturally, not all scanners and firewalls are created equal, which is why you can only use a reliable and trusted one. Comodo’s cWatch Web, for example, is one of the most effective and cost-effective controlled monitoring services for websites and apps available. Website scanning, malware removal, and advanced threat defence through a web application firewall are among the company’s extensive security-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings (WAF).
Secure Your Website’s Login Fields
This next cybersecurity tip for startups is one that is frequently ignored. It’s possible that your website has a large number of users and stakeholders with accounts. Employees, clients, distributors, manufacturers, and others may be included. Hackers love to take advantage of insecure username fields to get through the authentication system and into your website. As a result, you must follow these cybersecurity tips for startups to ensure that your login fields are safe.
Include Your Login Portal or Fields on HTTPS Sites Only
One of the most common blunders people make is hosting their login portal on an unstable page. Make sure you’re using a safe, encrypted link, whether it’s a standalone login page or a field on your site’s home page. Any login details or other data you or your customers enter on your website would be vulnerable to hackers if you use an unreliable HTTP domain.
Install an SSL/TLS certificate on your website to prevent this issue. Later in this post, we’ll go over SSL/TLS certificates in greater detail.
Force Users to Create Strong Passwords
People have a habit of creating passwords that are easy to guess and weak. What is the reason for this? Because it’s easy. To make matters worse, according to Google and Harris Poll, 66% of people reuse passwords across multiple accounts! So, how do you make sure that you and your staff are using the most secure passwords possible? For ideas on how to make them create strong passwords, check out these resources:
Using plugins like Password Policy Manager or Force Strong Passwords on WordPress sites to ensure users build strong passwords.
On the following sites, below are several valuable and informative tools for implementing strong passwords:
- Web Host Manager (in cPanel)
Limit the Number of Login Attempts Allowed
Every year, data breach events reveal billions of credentials. According to Riskbasedsecurity.com, 8.1 billion documents were exposed in the first quarter of 2020 alone. To carry out brute force attacks, attackers purchase millions of credentials from the dark web (often for very little money). A hacker uses a bot to auto-fill login fields with a pre-guessed database of user ID and password combinations before it finds a good combination in this form of cyber attack.
Limiting the number of login attempts a user can make in a given time is one of the best ways to defend against a brute force attack. After a predetermined number of unsuccessful login attempts (usually between three and five), the device blocks the user’s IP address for a fixed period of time.
Check out the following tools for limiting logins using plugins or code:
- Use plugins including Limit Login Attempts, Loginizer, or WPS Limit Login for WordPress pages.
Another excellent resource is: Haveibeenpwned.com will help you determine if your (or your employees’) company email addresses have been compromised as a result of a data breach.
Implement 2FA/MFA or Passwordless Authentication Solutions
Even when the limit login attempt function is activated, some sophisticated cyber-attacks, such as botnet attacks, can circumvent the authentication mechanism. Furthermore, attackers steal users’ passwords through social engineering and phishing attacks.
That’s why, in your login fields, you can allow two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA). Any time a user logs in, they will obtain a one-time password (OTP), a hidden pin, or a unique connection to their registered mobile phone or email address.
To allow 2FA/MFA, you can use tools like Google 2-Step, Google Authenticator (WordPress plugin), Twilio, Authy, and others. Learn more about the technological aspects of implementing two-factor authentication on your website.
Biometrics, QR codes, and hardware protection tokens are some of the other passwordless authentication methods available. It’s worth noting, however, that while some of these choices are pricey, not all of them are. Client authentication certificates, for example, can be inexpensive (more on that later in the article).
Prevent SQL Injections
SQL injection attacks are a huge source of concern for site administrators and owners. In reality, they’re one of OWASP’s top ten security flaws. Hackers embed malicious code in input fields to gain access to your databases. SQL injections are the name for this procedure. The hacker may use SQL injections to inject malicious code into your databases, steal data, or even hijack the database for a ransomware attack. The input values on the fields must be restricted.
To begin, use an open-source framework like SQLMap to scan the system for SQL vulnerabilities. Then follow the cybersecurity guidelines outlined in this article to avoid SQL injection attacks.
Secure Data and Communications with Encryption
This is the most important tip on our list of cybersecurity tips for startups. Customer details, confidential information, trade secrets, and other forms of data are all important to the company’s success. Employees’ office computers, such as PCs, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, hold much of the sensitive business details. As a result, you must use encryption technology to secure these computers.
We’ll go over how to encrypt files and directories in this section. In subsections 4 and 5, we’ll go over how to secure your data when it’s at rest and in transit.
How to Lock Files and Folders
Teach your staff how to encrypt important files and directories. Free encryption applications such as Folder Lock, 7-Zip, VeraCrypt, AxCrypt, DiskCryptor, and others can be used for this.
You can also encrypt files and directories using Windows’ built-in encryption feature:
- Go to the folder or file that you want to encrypt.
- Select the object with a right-click. Then select Advanced from the drop-down menu under Properties.
- To secure data, check Encrypt contents.
- After that, click OK and then Apply.
- Windows will then ask whether you want to encrypt either the file or its parent folder and all of the files inside it. Proceed by selecting the required alternative.
How to Lock Windows Using BitLocker
- Navigate to the Control Panel.
- Select BitLocker Drive Encryption from the drop-down menu.
- Click “Turn on BitLocker” next to the drive you want to encrypt (generally C: and D:).
- Start the encryption process by entering a specific password or passphrase.
You can also use BitLocker to encrypt the USB drive: Learn more about BitLocker and how to encrypt USB drives.
How to Encrypt Mac Laptops and Tablets
- Go to the Apple menu.
- Select System Preferences from the drop-down menu.
- Then choose FileVault from the Security & Privacy menu.
- Enter the admin ID and password by clicking Locked.
- Switch on FileVault by clicking the button.
Notice that there is no separate encryption option for iPhones. Your iPhone automatically unlocks the encryption function when you set your password or fingerprint lock.
How to Encrypt Email Communications
In 2019, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received approximately 24,000 company email breach (BEC) reports, totaling $1.7 billion in adjusted losses. Phishing emails may be used by hackers to impersonate one of the company’s staff or executives. They can also intercept email content when it is in transit or if it is not encrypted while it is stored on the email client.
Installing email signing certificates on all of your employees’ computers is the safest way to secure your email communications. These certificates, also known as personal authentication certificates or PACs, are low-cost but extremely useful in terms of protection. A digital signature may be attached to email messages using an email signing certificate, which cannot be repeated, deleted, or otherwise tampered with. As a result, sending an email with an email signing certificate ensures the recipient that you are who you say you are.
You may also use these certificates to encrypt your email data before sending it. This method helps you to send encrypted emails quickly and easily as long as your recipient also has an email signing certificate. Since the data is “at rest” (sitting) on your organization’s server, this keeps your email content safe and away from prying eyes.
Encrypt Data Transmission Between Your Website Visitors and Server
Your customers’ data (such as their names, email addresses, passwords, payment card details, tax-related information, and so on) is sent in plaintext when they send it to your site. A hacker can break through a poor internet link and intercept all data as it is in transit from the user’s browser to your website’s server. A man-in-the-middle attack is what it’s called, and it can create a lot of issues for you and your customers.
Remember how we discussed adding an SSL/TLS certificate to your website to make it more secure earlier? Customers and other site visitors can link to your site using a free, encrypted connection thanks to this certificate. (Have you ever seen the “HTTPS” in your browser’s web address bar? That’s what we’re worried about.) Basically, it uses public key encryption to encrypt data in transit.
Browsers can show a padlock sign in front of your domain name after you instal an SSL/TLS certificate, indicating that your website is safe for data transmissions.
All browsers will show a “not secure” sign in front of your domain name in the address bar if you don’t have an SSL certificate. As a result, any data exchanged over that insecure link is vulnerable to hackers who could use it to launch ransomware attacks, commit financial fraud, or steal identities. In this case, this is bad news for both you and your clients.
Enable DNS Filtering to Protect Your Network & Devices
Since it includes the domain name system, or DNS, the next cybersecurity for startups tip is a little more technical. The DNS is the method by which you navigate the internet’s websites. Every website has a unique server IP address, but these numbers are difficult to remember, so we use domain names like domain.com instead. As a result, if you type in a website address (such as SectigoStore.com), your browser automatically connects to the site’s corresponding IP address using DNS servers.
DNS filtering is a DNS-level function that removes malware-infected, spammy, and phishing websites. This protects the organization’s network and connected devices as a result of the trickle-down effect. You can do this by creating blocklists or allowlists that, depending on the settings, will either block or allow the website to load. You have the option of filtering by domain name or IP address.
You can select from a variety of commercial and free DNS filtering services. For example, you can use DNSFilter, WebTitan, or Darklayer GUARD to adjust the DNS settings, or you can pay for DNS filtering tools like DNSFilter, WebTitan, or Darklayer GUARD. These service providers keep track of malicious websites. You may also add websites to your block list. DNS filtering is used by some businesses to block social media sites and other sites that may confuse employees.
DNS filtering is necessary because certain websites are so unsafe that they download malicious drive-by malware such as viruses, ransomware, spyware, and the trojan horse onto users’ computers without their knowledge.
When a hacker infects an employee’s computer with malware, the hacker can:
- Intercept sensitive information,
- Keep an eye on what you’re doing.
- Send phishing emails to anyone using the business email addresses of employees.
- Credentials are stolen.
- Infect other connected devices with malware, as well as cause a variety of other types of harm or damage.
Use Vulnerability Scanners to Identify Gaps in Your Cyber Defenses
Without damaging the website, a security scanner simulates cyber attacks on the server to identify vulnerabilities in the server, website, programmes, plugins, and databases.
Vulnerabilities are flaws in a software’s security protections or code that cybercriminals may take advantage of. Vulnerability scanners examine your servers, databases, and other systems for vulnerabilities, allowing you to remain one step ahead of hackers. This allows you to fix any bugs before they are discovered and exploited by hackers.
For vulnerability testing, use applications like ThreatRunner, WireShark, or Zed Attack Proxy.
Note: If your website accepts online payments, you’ll need a PCI-compliant scanner like HackerGuardian.
Use Passwordless Authentication Methods to Authenticate Employees Remotely
This little-known tool for securing startups is a real gem. There is a way to restrict access to your website or network so that only your employees have access. All of your remote employees’ devices should have email signing certificates installed.
But wait, didn’t we just mention that email signing certificates could be used to sign and encrypt emails? They are, indeed. These certificates, on the other hand, have another function: client authentication. As a result, email signing certificates, also known as personal authentication certificates (or PACs), are also referred to as:
Client certificates, Device certificates, and User certificates are the three types of certificates.
These certificates ensure that only workers who log in from computers that have the certificates enabled can access the company’s resources (and the corresponding private key is stored). As a result, even if hackers steal the passwords of remote workers, they won’t be able to access anything on the company’s server because they won’t have access to the certificate or the private key. (Because authentication is performed using private keys that are only kept on the employee’s official computer and cannot be easily compromised or guessed.)
Authenticating with a client certificate eliminates the need for a password. As workers attempt to access the company’s locked tools, the server uses the client certificate to verify the device. According to Tim Callan, Senior Fellow at Sectigo, combining a client authentication certificate with a TPM (trusted platform module) makes authentication more reliable than using phone-based MFA methods.
Be Vigilant About Network Security
Securing your network is something you can never forget when it comes to cybersecurity for startups. With an SSL/TLS certificate, you can secure contact between your users and server, but there are some other internet security flaws as well.
For the best network security practises, follow these cybersecurity tips:
- Block unused internet ports on the router and disable network bridging (to prevent outsiders from breaking into your network using your internet connection).
- To prevent data leakage, allow encryption on your router.
- Since it has some established security bugs, disable Wi-Fi safe access (WPA). Instead, allow WPA2 / WPA3, which employs more stable encryption algorithms such as AES.
- Change the SSID broadcast name and the default login credentials.
Maintain Multiple (Current) Copies of Data Backups
Your backup is only as good as your files. If something goes wrong with your website or servers and you don’t have a backup, you’ll be in big trouble. In the case of a cyber attack or another tragedy, data backups are the only way to get your company back up and running.
Taking the website’s backup is different than taking backups of your PC or smartphone. When backing up your website and databases, you must take the following precautions.
Enable Automated Backups
When it comes to keeping current backups, don’t depend on your or your employees’ memories. Use a tool or solution that creates backups of your website’s files and data on a regular basis and also deletes old, obsolete backups.
Store Backups in Multiple Locations (Including a Third-Party Cloud Platform)
While providing backup storage on-site is beneficial, backups can never be saved on your public-facing server or on your/employees’ local computers. If an intruder has access to your server, they will have access to all of your records, including backup copies. This is why you can back up your data using a third-party cloud platform such as AWS, Google Drive, Dropbox, and others.
As part of your data security policy, follow the 3-2-1 data backup law. This rule (which is more of a strategy) states:
Make three copies of your data (one main copy and two backups), store them on at least two different types of storage media, and store one of them off-site on a stable third-party cloud server.
Scan the Data Before Taking Backups
Until taking copies, search all of the components and databases with a powerful anti-malware scanner. This is extremely important. Let’s say a hacker infects your website with malware, and you restore the site using the malware-infected backup by accident. In this case, your backups will be useless when you need them the most. This is why it’s important to use a backup solution that checks your website on a regular basis.
Recommendation: You can make this method easier by using a backup solution like CodeGuard. CodeGuard builds backups automatically, stores them on a secure third-party platform, and searches the website for malware before taking a backup. You’ll also get free storage on a reputable cloud platform, such as AWS.
Educate Your Employees About Cyber Security Threats & Best Practices
Next on our list of cybersecurity advice for startups is: Make your staff aware of cyber threats and encourage them to be proactive. A simple human error, a faulty click, or a faulty download is all it takes for your business to become a victim of a cyberattack.
Educate Employees About Phishing Attacks
Phishing attacks are when attackers pose as legitimate businesses or individuals in order to trick their targets into doing something. This may range from submitting confidential or proprietary information to giving them your login information.
Phishing can take place via email, SMS text message scams (smishing), phone calls (vishing), or fake websites. Teach your employees how to spot phishing scams and not to share personal or technical information or download anything to help your company avoid falling victim to these strategies.
Make Sure Your Employees Use a VPN
Hackers and marketers can monitor and eavesdrop on your or your employees’ IP addresses (such as by seeing what sites they commonly visit). Hackers may use these records to plan targeted phishing attacks, social engineering attacks, and other forms of cybercrime using these records. People will learn about your confidential suppliers, tools, plans, and much more by watching your employees’ online activities.
Installing a VPN on all employees’ computers and requiring them to use it is one way to avoid this. A virtual private network (VPN) is software that conceals your real IP address while also encrypting all of your online communications. VPN hides the original IP address behind a mask of a new IP address and sends data through an encrypted tunnel.
Inform Them About Trojan Horses:
A trojan horse (or trojan) is malicious software that masquerades as legitimate software. A trojan infects your computer, steals all of your data, and commits dangerous cybercrimes when you download it. Use this article to teach workers how to spot a trojan and avoid downloading it on purpose or by accident.
Keep Everything Patched and Up to Date
There is a common misconception that software updates are only intended to improve the appearance and functionality of the software. People often stop using updated versions since some free apps, plugins, and themes require users to upgrade from their free versions to paid versions in order to receive updates.
What people who believe these myths are lacking is that older versions of software also have security vulnerabilities that hackers can manipulate. Patches and new versions of the programme are released by the developers to address these bugs. As a result, installing new patched versions of plugins, programmes, themes, operating systems, and all other technological components as soon as new patches are available is one of the most significant cybersecurity tips.
Final Words on Cybersecurity for Startups
The cybersecurity tips mentioned above will assist you in avoiding some of the more annoying cyber attacks and strengthening the security posture of your startup. There’s no assurance that hackers won’t find new ways to hack your website even though you follow all of the cybersecurity tips for startups.
Cyber threats have previously targeted perhaps the world’s most prestigious organisations and businesses. That is why, in the event that anything goes wrong, you can always purchase cybersecurity insurance to minimise the harm and recovery costs.