The following Guest Post is from Cassie Phillips:
Online marketing is a wild rat race of information gathering and analytics. We compile data, we send emails, we look at SEO figures — all in our feeble attempts to slowly climb in page rank and reach as many readers as possible. It’s always an uphill battle, and the challenges aren’t just linked with getting the edge over your competition.
Reaching out and networking with other sites to build your link profile is a long, tedious process, and one that is fraught with its own complications. There’s a lot to be said for having an efficient process for your outreach, but there are also some things to consider on the cybersecurity side of things.
Before you dive too deep into the far corners of the internet in search of leads and your next leg up on the competition, run through this checklist, and make sure you’re not setting yourself up to be the next hack-attack victim.
1. Don’t Throw Your Email Address Around
It should go without saying, but your email address as an online marketer is akin to your personal phone number. It’s not information that needs to be shared freely and publicly, particularly if you’re using it for business purposes. If you do need to have an email address on your site, make sure you use a separate, secure account for that purpose alone.
Not only does having your email address publicly available set you up for the predictable storm of spam, but it also invites a lot of speculation about your accounts and how that information can be used by people other than yourself. Be particularly cautious about daisy-chaining accounts together. Make sure that a hacker can’t get access to one by infiltrating another.
2. Be Wary of Phishing Attempts
Working in this industry, your inbox no doubt fills daily with correspondences from other sites, people offering services, software companies. There’s a lot to sift through, and sometimes it’s hard to make yourself take the necessary precautions to ensure it’s all legitimate.
However, email phishing is extremely common and getting more sophisticated all the time. Make sure you’re using anti-virus software that scans webmail, and never follow links in an email. Oftentimes, they lead to fake forms designed to trick you into giving up login information. Always type the URL into your browser yourself.
3. Let Your Anti-virus Software Do Its Job
Speaking of email scams, it’s also important to remember that some hackers don’t want to steal your information at all. They just want to trick you into downloading malware. It should be second nature to take these kinds of precautions, but in case it’s not, make sure your anti-virus software is looking out for you by scanning any attachments that come through your email.
Some webmail services can identify suspected malware in an email, but it’s best to only download attachments from trusted contacts. Also be aware that many times these downloads are actually hiding in what appear to be hyperlinks. When you go to click a link, it could inadvertently start an automatic download. Always hover over a link before clicking to make sure the destination is the same as the link text.
4. Practice Commonsense Network Security
Despite the numerous warnings of the dangers of public and unsecured WiFi networks, a surprising number of people still use these networks without any kind of protection to conduct important business. Your website is your reputation, and you are ultimately responsible for securing that data and protecting your customers’ personal information.
It’s fine to use a public network, but take some basic precautions first. Disable settings on your device such as “Network Discovery” and “Public File Sharing”, which allow other network users to spot your device and check out your public folders, respectively.
These are only measures to protect your device from basic privacy breaches though. To ensure your data isn’t intercepted, you need to take things a step further and encrypt your connection. The easiest way to do this is to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your device. When you connect through a VPN, your data is fully encrypted and secure from hackers.
5. Secure All of Your Accounts with Solid Passwords
Those of us in the business of promoting content often use an arsenal of tools to get the job done, and many of those require logins and provide us with intimate looks at our site’s performance. Think of all the sites and services you log into in a day—maybe it’s your email, AdWords, WordPress, Ahrefs, Paypal. How many accounts do you work with on a daily basis? How secure are they?
One of the biggest problems with account security for people managing online businesses is that they have so many passwords and logins to remember, they often recycle that same information over and over again. This means that if a hacker gets ahold of one password, they effectively have every password, and everything you have has become compromised in one fell swoop.
Always use a unique password, and never count on just security questions alone to protect your account. Many hackers use social engineering to get this information and use the “forgotten password” loophole to infiltrate accounts. If possible, use another means of password recovery, and never give this basic personal information out to anyone you don’t know.
If you have a hard time remembering passwords and are a little frustrated by having to keep track of so many, there are secure, reliable password management systems out there designed for people just like you. Using one secure master password, your login information is automatically stored and entered, so you can make passwords as random and secure as you want.
You Are Liable for the Security of Your Site
The bottom line is, even if you have the mentality of ‘it’ll never happen to me’, hacks happen to the majority of users, and at some point or another, it’s incredibly likely you’ll be hacked. If your site is responsible for processing payments or stores any information of any kind for customers or readers, you have a legal responsibility to make sure you’re taking adequate security measures.
As cybercrime continues to push the envelope and evolve, business owners are being held to higher standards by courts, and those with lax security practices can actually be found partially responsible for data breaches in which their users’ data is stolen. This was a hot topic during the Ashley Madison hacks of last year, in which the hackers reported that it was as if the site “wasn’t even trying” to keep their customers’ information private.
Don’t set yourself up for a reputation-destroying legal mess. Take basic security measures now to avoid headaches down the line, and get serious about incorporating common sense security practices into your marketing routine.
About the Author: Cassie Phillips is a writer and researcher for cybersecurity site Secure Thoughts, where she puts important information on online privacy and security in terms the everyday user can understand. She frequently posts about privacy software and ways internet users can protect themselves.
Cassie wrote, “I’d just like to thank Mac Lawyer for publishing this post on their site. This blog brings a brilliant perspective on the changing climate of cyber security and online privacy to legal professionals, and provides some great food for thought.“