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Keeping Things Cybersecure (Part 1)

Wi-Fi and computers are commonplace, but so are security risks

CHICAGO — As long as laundry businesses use computers in their day-to-day operations, or offer the use of Wi-Fi to customers laundering their clothes, they will be vulnerable to cyber threats.

The first step in improving your cybersecurity, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), is understanding your risk of an attack, and where you can make the biggest improvements. The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Homeland Security offer various tools and resources a laundry owner could use to assess the risk and help create a plan of action for their business.

Following are some tips from the FCC:

Train Employees in Security Principles — Set up basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords, and appropriate internet use guidelines that detail penalties for violating company cybersecurity policies. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.

Protect Information, Computers, and Networks from Cyber Attacks — Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses (harmful programs intended to spread from computer to computer and give cybercriminals access to your system), malware (software intentionally designed to cause damage to computers or networks), and other online threats, so keep machines clean. Set antivirus software to run a scan after each update. Install other key software updates as soon as they are available.

Provide Firewall Security for Your Internet Connection — A firewall is a set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network. Make sure the operating system’s firewall is enabled or install free firewall software available online.

Create a Mobile Device Action Plan — Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the corporate network. Require users to password-protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

Make Backup Copies of Important Business Data and Information — Regularly back up the data on all computers. Critical data would include word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files. Back up automatically if possible, or at least weekly, and store the copies either offsite or in the cloud.

Control Physical Access to Your Computers and Create User Accounts for Each Employee — Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and require strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted key personnel and IT staff.

According to the SBA, a strong password is made up of 10 characters or more and includes at least one uppercase letter, at least one lowercase letter, at least one number, and at least one special character (such as an exclamation point).

Check back Tuesday for more cybersecurity tips!