Five online safety tips for business

Safer Internet Day LogoToday is “Safer Internet Day” when campaigners try to get us more focused on making the Internet a safer place. Much of the debate is about children and how parents can make sure their youngsters can use the web safely. Every year, though, it transpires that most parents fail to take any kind of protection for their children. The reason this happens is simple. Parents don’t know much about Internet safety, so how can they protect their loved ones?

Look at it like this. When a child asks to go out to the park on their own and meet their mates for a game of football a parent can assess the risks. The parent knows the local area and the potential dangers on the roads. They know whether the park is deemed a safe place to play, or whether it is associated with characters – such as drug dealers – who they wouldn’t want their children to meet. Plus, most parents have experience of being children who went to the local park, or one like it, so they know what their children will be doing.

However, when it comes to the Internet most adult parents have no experience of what it was like to use the web as a child – it was invented far too late in their lifetime for that to happen. Plus most adults inhabit areas of the Internet their children do not. As a result, parents cannot assess the risks their children face online due to lack of experience of the environment. Is it any wonder that children online face more risks than they might face in the real world?

But it is not just the issue of child safety that should be an adult concern. Most adults have much less experience of the online world than they have of the real world. And this means it is not just their children who face safety risks online – adults too face dangers they need to consider.

So, here are five tips for increasing your online safety in business.

1. Assume the worst

If you use the Internet every day you can be lulled into a false sense of security. You don’t see problems or issues and you flit from website to website without any clear problems. Yet dangers lurk. For instance, do you know that every single member of your team is using the Internet wisely and safely? It only takes one error by one member of staff to open up the business to trouble. Similarly, are you sure that your websites are fully protected from snooping? Assume that other people are going to cause you safety difficulties and you will  be able to prepare better. True, most of the Internet is safe and good. But assuming you will not be hit by the weaknesses opens you up to potential problems.

2. Write down a safety plan

Having a written plan on how you business will stay safe puts people in the right frame of mind. It reminds them of the need to be vigilant and sets the tone of expectations. It shows that you expect your team to always have an eye on safety. Posters promoting your safety plan around the office could act as constant reminders. Similarly, you could also have a written guide about what you will do in the event of a safety issue arising.

3. Show your staff you are protecting them

People behave in safer ways when they feel cared for. In situations where people sense a safety issue they can panic or do the wrong thing unless they sense that the authorities are “in charge” and looking after them. By showing your staff that you take Internet safety seriously as a means of protecting them and looking after their own identities and reputation you will encourage them to behave in safer ways generally. In fires, for instance, people panic and put themselves in greater danger when they are alone. When the emergency services are present their behaviour tends to change to safer ways. Showing your staff you are on their side and that the policies you have in place are for their own protection will encourage them to behave in safer ways, thereby protecting the business too.

4. Have regular safety reviews

Perhaps once a month or once a quarter you should have regular reviews of your company’s safety position. Have new services or subscriptions been added recently that pose potential risks? Do new staff need a safety training session? Is the security information about all your online accounts up-to-date? Without a regular, periodic reviews that assesses the current online safety situation for your company you could easily expose yourself to risks without being aware of them.

5. Have physical security in place

Much online credit card fraud happens not because hackers invade an e-commerce system, but rather because unscrupulous members of staff print out credit card details and take them out of the building, unchallenged. On a lesser scale, some people write down their passwords in their diary allowing anyone who sees their diary or notepad to log into their business accounts. Many online safety issues happen as a result of lax offline security. If people feel the need to write down passwords because they cannot remember them, that suggests you need to have an encrypted password storage system so that you can remove the offline threat of written passwords being stolen. Similarly, if you have staff access to sensitive data perhaps you need in place airport-style physical security measures to prevent things slipping out, even accidentally. Internet security and safety is not just an online issue – it involves our offline activities too.

So, there you have five tips which should help you make sure that the use of the Internet in your business is safer and more secure.

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I am an Internet Psychologist studying how people behave online, enabling businesses to find out more about customer and consumer behaviour. I am the author of "Click.ology: What Works in Online Shopping" and 28 other books.

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