Digital security checklist: 5 simple steps to protection

6 min read
Marc Saltzman

Scan today’s headlines and it’s easy to be concerned about digital security: High-profile hacks that expose tens of millions of credit records; malware (malicious software) that targets the most popular mobile operating system in the world; data breaches on social media that compromise your privacy; and “phishing” scams that dupe your employees into revealing sensitive company information.

Businesses and consumers alike could benefit from a few safety reminders.

A website is often a very important part of any small or medium-sized business. Having an online presence opens you up to a much larger audience that can really help your SMB grow. And the prospect of a cyber attack should not deter you from getting online.

As long as you take the necessary precautions to safeguard your information, you will dramatically reduce the odds of an attack.

5 easy ways to improve your digital security

Digital security isn’t hard, but it does take effort. Here are the five most important pieces.

  1. Have reliable anti malware.

  2. Update your software & Operating System.

  3. Use strong passwords & two-factor authentication.

  4. Secure your website.

  5. Back up your files.

Whether you’re a small business or just run a personal website, follow these simple steps to protect yourself from a digital attack.

1. Have reliable anti malware

Digital Security Open Window
You wouldn’t leave your window open when you’re away. The same goes for website security.
Photo: Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Just as you wouldn't leave the front door to your home unlocked, you shouldn't leave your company’s network and devices vulnerable to attacks, whether it’s a virus that sneaks onto your device or “social engineering” that deceives you into divulging confidential information.

Reputable anti malware software on all your devices — laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones — can identify, quarantine, delete and report any suspicious activity. The best ones offer a suite of services, including a web application firewall (WAF) and encryption options. For example, GoDaddy offers daily malware scanning and automatic removal to help keep your site safe.

2. Update your software & Operating System

If we’ve learned anything from last year’s massive WannaCry ransomware debacle, a global attack that infected some 230,000 Windows machines running an out-of-date Operating System, it’s to set your software to automatically update. This way, you don’t have to remember to update manually and you always know you have a current operating system.

Updates typically close newly discovered security gaps that attackers can use to break into your system.

Set up automatic updates and use a reliable ongoing monitoring service that covers your Operating System, browser, plug-ins and other software. Set it to update when you’re not working on those devices.

For software that doesn’t allow for automatic updates, check them regularly.

3. Use strong passwords & two-factor authentication

One of the biggest digital security mistakes is using the same password for all your online activity. Why? Because if one service is hacked and your password is exposed, cybercriminals might try it on another account. If you use the same password for all your accounts, they now have the keys to your kingdom.

Digital Security House Keys
Using the same password for all your accounts is like handing the keys to hackers.
Photo: rawpixel on Unsplash

Not only should you use different passwords for all accounts (password manager apps like LastPass are a handy way to keep track of them all) but you should also use a passphrase instead of a password. A sequence of words and other characters, including numbers and symbols, is much harder to guess.

What’s more, make it even harder for the bad guys to access your data by adding a second layer of defense.

Two-factor authentication (sometimes referred to as “two-step verification”) increases security by requiring two login steps:

  1. Enter your password or passcode (or possibly a fingerprint or facial scan),
  2. Then type in a one-time code that’s automatically sent to your mobile phone.

Because it requires knowing the password and possession of your mobile, two-factor authentication diminishes a hacker’s chances of taking over your accounts.

4. Secure your website

Proper digital security measures for your online home are incredibly important too.

Without an SSL certificate, the number of people who click through to your website could be reduced.

Digital Security Https
Digital Security McAfee Secure Seal

Not only is it affordable to encrypt your website with an SSL certificate, so it displays that little green lock in the browser bar, but Google Chrome now clearly marks sites that don’t have them as “Not Secure.” This could easily stop someone from giving you their credit card — or visiting your website at all.

A GoDaddy SSL certificate tells site visitors you’re protecting their data with strong SHA2 and 2048-bit encryption. Available in a variety of validation levels, all boost GoDaddy SSLs boost your site’s Google ranking and come with a McAfee SECURE trust mark. Extended Validation SSL certificates turn the visitor’s browser bar green to confirm to shoppers your site is a safe place.

5. Back up your files

It doesn’t really matter how you want to do it — a free or paid cloud service, external hard drive, USB thumb drive, or what have you. So long as you’re proactive about backing up your important files regularly, you’ll minimize the damage if hit with a direct or indirect attack.

Benefits to cloud backup include:

  • Off-site protection (in case anything happens locally, such as a fire or flood).
  • You can access your data anywhere in the world and on virtually any device.
  • You can easily share large files with clients.
  • Employees can collaborate on documents in real time.

Local storage options such as thumb drives or external hard drives, on the other hand, are less expensive overall (especially when you’re talking lots of data). You don’t need the Internet to access your information, and you’re not entrusting another company with your data.

Pro tip: Hedge your bets by having both offline and online backup.

Your digital security checklist

As you can see, these are five relatively simple steps — but they can make a huge difference for your business and customers! Some of them fall into the category of making your website a less-appealing target, while others focus on repelling (or cleaning up after) hacking attempts. Taken together, these strategies can help keep your business thriving for years to come.