In 2013, my brother and I co-founded a luxury men’s accessories business called La Matera. We registered our website domain through GoDaddy. Emails were sent through Gmail. We hosted the e-commerce site on Shopify. Used MailChimp for email marketing. And we used Zendesk and Google Forms for customer support and returns. So if you take away admin services, we effectively used Shopify, Mailchimp, and Zendesk. Yes, it was a simpler time. We weren’t even considering cybersecurity as first time business founders.
A changing landscape for cybersecurity
Today, a new business owner will be faced with a dense forest of specialized software tools to choose from. The explosion of SaaS companies and internet growth led to a mind-bending increase in cybercrime. The internet is now a spider web of cybersecurity threats knocking at every digital door. Inaction and ignorance are no longer acceptable excuses for becoming a victim of common hacks and phishing scams.
It’s horrifying to admit, but in 2013 we used the same password for every one of our business accounts. Yup, it was the name of the company with a sneaky “12” added to the end: “La-Matera12.” Don’t worry, when concern arose, we did the smart thing and added a “!” to the end. We knew that exclamation point would be more than sufficient for preventing any hacker from cracking our code. It’s this kind of thinking that is what makes it so important for cybersecurity to be taken seriously for business founders.
Brand fallouts after cyber leaks
I can laugh at this foolishness in reflection, but if it happened today, it wouldn’t be that funny. As a business, your brand reputation is critical to your long-term success. If customers lose trust in your business, they’ll replace you with an alternative at the drop of a hat. There are countless examples of this in recent years:
Misconceptions about consumer cybersecurity
Many first-time founders of small businesses are apprehensive about adopting smart cybersecurity practices. The perception is that all cybersecurity measures are complicated and technical. They’re not. As a not-so-savvy internet user myself, I’m confident that the majority of people I know can improve their personal or business cybersecurity with minimal time investment. Cybersecurity for business owners is even more important than for personal purposes because you don’t only have your own data to lose, but your company’s as well.
Prepare today for peace of mind tomorrow.
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Easy ways to improve cybersecurity for business founders:
- Start using a password manager. Not only is setup easy, but it makes your entire experience across the web light years nicer. On every website you visit that you have an account with, the password manager will autofill the complex password. No more scratching your head and trying each of the five passwords you’ve used forever. I’ve tested a bunch of options, and Dashlane is my favorite and what I use.
- Go into your email accounts and turn on 2-factor authentication (2FA) right now. It only takes one minute. You should use an authenticator app for this, but I’ll let an SMS code slide for now, as long as the 2FA is on.
- If you are the admin of your business email, then go into settings and make 2FA required for all other company email users. This takes three minutes.
- Don’t use the Wi-Fi router provided by your cable company. We use Eero. It’s easy to use and much more secure than the provided box. There are more advanced routers, but Eero will get the job done for most families and businesses.
- Don’t store any personal information or any of your business’s client information on your desktop. Keep everything in the cloud where it can be encrypted.
- Use a VPN while traveling and when using public Wi-Fi. A VPN will keep your IP address hidden, and more importantly, it will prevent trolls on the same open network from hacking into your computer and gaining access to your hard drive. I really like NordVPN.
- If you don’t want to have to remember any of this and just want one solution to take care of everything, then Aura is for you. It would also be prudent to send Aura to your parents. If your parents are like most people’s, they need an easy service to improve their cybersecurity.
Takeaway lessons for new small business owners
- First, it is mandatory for small business owners to proactively adopt a cybersecurity-first mindset. The risks are too great and too prevalent.
- Second, it is a misconception that cybersecurity tools are reserved only for engineers. Most are commonplace. All seven of the recommendations listed above are intuitive, fast, and either free or cost under $8 a month.
- Lastly, make your adoption of cybersecurity protocols a point of pride that you share openly with your customers. The more people trust your brand, the more successful your business will be in the long run.