Seven Resolutions for 2016 That Will Help Protect Your Small Business Computers

This post is part of the series, SmallBusiness.com Guide to Business Computer and Tech Security: Advice, alerts and information about digital security threats faced by small businesses. You can browse other posts in the series below.

  1. IRS Issues Urgent Warning to Small Businesses: Beware of W-2 Phishing Scam Return | 2017

  2. Lynda.com Alerts 9.1 Million Users After 55,000 Accounts Are Breached | December 2016

  3. What Does HTTPS Mean? And Why a Small Business Website Needs the ‘S’

  4. Yahoo Security Breach is Another Reminder of Why Password Protection is Critical to Your Business

  5. Homeland Security Tips for Choosing Harder to Hack Passwords

  6. Passwords Are Stolen Everyday; How to Protect Yours From Being One of Them

  7. How to Recognize and Avoid an Attempt to Crack Your Two-Step Verification Passwords

  8. How Voice Recognition Software is Being Used to Detect Cyber Criminals

  9. How to Avoid a New Cyber Attack Attempting to Access Small Business Bank  Funds

  10. Seven Resolutions for 2016 That Will Help Protect Your Small Business Computers

  11. Top Ten Free Antivirus Utilities For Your Small Business | 2016

  12. Most Small Businesses Have No Cyber Attack Response Plan

  13. If Your Business Bank Account Gets Hacked, Your Bank May Blame You

  14. Why You Should Still Use a Password Management System, Even if You Heard One Was ‘Hacked’

  15. Advice From Google on Avoiding Scams Directed at Small Businesses

  16. More Tips for Actively Managing Your Passwords

  17. What Small Business Customers Should Know and Do About the JPMorgan Chase Cyberattack

  18. How Hackers Use ‘Social Engineering’ and How to Prevent It

  19. Ten Tips From the FCC for Improving Your Small Business Cyber Security

  20. Password Protection Advice from SmallBusiness.com

  21. Ebay Asks 145 Million Users to Change Passwords

  22. What is Two-Step Verification and Why You Should Start Using Them

  23. How (and Why) to Use a Password Management Application

  24. How to Reduce the Odds of Being Hacked While Using Public Wifi


Scammers, hackers, identity thieves and other cyber-criminals spend all year long looking for ways to steal your personal and business information – and your money. Here are seven simple steps from the IRS you should take to help protect your computer in 2016, including data you have stored on the cloud.


1 | Understand and use security software

Security software helps protect your computer against digital threats online. Generally, your operating system will include security software or you can access free security software. Other options may have an annual licensing fee and offer more features.

Essential tools include:

• A firewall
• Virus/malware protection
• File encryption (if you keep sensitive financial/tax documents on your computer)

Security suites often come with firewall, anti-virus and anti-spam, parental controls and privacy protection. File encryption to protect your saved documents may have to be purchased separately.

Do not buy security software offered as an unexpected pop-up ad on your computer or email! It’s likely from a scammer.

2 | Allow security software to update automatically

Set your security software to update automatically. Malware – malicious software – evolves constantly and your security software suite is updated routinely to keep pace.

3 | Look for the “s” for encrypted “https” websites

When shopping or banking online, always look to see that the site uses encryption to protect your information. Look for https at the beginning of the web address. The “s” is for secure. Unencrypted sites begin with an http address. Additionally, make sure the https carries through on all pages, not just the sign-on page.

4 | Use strong passwords

Use passwords of at least 10 to 12 characters, mixing letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t use your name, birthdate or common words. Don’t use the same password for several accounts. Keep your password list in a secure place or use a password manager. Don’t share your password with anyone. Calls, texts or emails pretending to be from legitimate companies or the IRS asking you to update your accounts or seeking personal financial information are generally scams. (Note: At SmallBusiness.com, we also recommend using a password management system.)

5 | Secure your wireless network

A wireless network sends a signal through the air that allows you to connect to the Internet. If your home or business wifi is unsecured it also allows any computer within range to access your wireless and steal information from your computer. Criminals also can use your wireless to send spam or commit crimes that would be traced back to your account. Always encrypt your wireless. Generally, you must turn on this feature and create a password.

6 | Be cautious when using public wireless networks

Public wi-fi hotspots are convenient but often not secure. Tax or financial Information you send though websites or mobile apps may be accessed by someone else. If a public Wi-Fi hotspot does not require a password, it probably is not secure. If you are transmitting sensitive information, look for the “s” in https in the website address to ensure that the information will be secure. (More advice for using a public wifi network.)

7 | Avoid phishing attempts

Never reply to emails, texts or pop-up messages asking for your personal, tax or financial information. One common trick by criminals is to impersonate a business such as your financial institution, tax software provider or the IRS, asking you to update your account and providing a link. Never click on links even if they seem to be from organizations you trust. Go directly to the organization’s website. Legitimate businesses don’t ask you to send sensitive information through unsecured channels. (See also: “How Hackers Use Social Engineering and How to Prevent It“)