As you know, Admin Slayer’s 2019 theme is Resilience. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or stress. It’s the capacity to not only recover, but to spring back into shape, stronger and more powerful than before. We think resilience is one of the key ingredients for success in business, love, and life.
Each month, we’ve been bringing you practical, concrete ways you can build resilience in all areas of your business, including your finances, your team, and your new business pipeline. This month, we want to talk to you about your technology.
If the progression of technology and its use in business kind of freaks you out, you’re not alone. The pace of technological change has been accelerating at a faster and faster rate, and there is no reason to believe that it is going to slow down. A decade ago, smartphones as we know them simply didn’t exist. Now they are a fact, a necessity, of modern life. Forty years ago, a personal computer wasn’t a common thing, and now those smartphones hanging around in our pockets are, in fact, handheld computers that receive regular updates multiple times year, which make them work smarter and faster.
Technology is not only a great tool for your business, it has become simply unavoidable. Without technology, companies like our own would not exist. Thanks to the continuous acceleration of technology, we’ll be able to do more and more each day.
Technology increases innovation and productivity in key areas like communication and creativity. Great tools like Asana, Wunderlist, and every permutation of CRM system make it possible to stay on top of our day-to-day activities, track processes, client support, and collaborate with our teams. Cloud-based file storage like Google, Dropbox, Sync, OneDrive, and so many more make it possible for teams and clients to share and store encrypted information. Dashboards can help you track performance, and tools like Slack, email, and videoconference systems can help remote and traveling teams feel like they’re right beside each other, even if they are thousands of kilometers apart.
But of course, the thing about technology is that — just like everything else — it can fail. In “reactive programming” (learn more about the theory here), resilience means that a system reacts to failure in a productive way. Instead of just failing and ceasing to function, the failures are isolated and contained. From there, those failures are overcome, without impacting the overall responsiveness of the total system.
Basically, you want to make sure that if one thing breaks down in your business, you aren’t caught in a tornado of subsequent failures that leave you hanging and unable to progress. Here’s how to get started:
Actions to Take
Your best course of action is, of course, to avoid as many problems as you can. In order to avoid them, you kind of have to know what they might be, which can be tough if you don’t understand the intricate workings of your technology in the first place.
What’s great to know is that you don’t have to be a technology expert to protect yourself properly. You may, however, want to connect with one. Before you do, though, there are some basics that you and your team can handle.
As our resident technology experts like to tell us: The weakest link isn’t the system - it’s the user.
Password management and storage is a huge issue. Your programs and online systems can have amazing encryption and protection in place but it won’t matter even a little bit if your cybersecurity practices are poor. Weak passwords, poor storage, and lax updating are the killers here.
Keeping your passwords on a sticky note or in a spreadsheet - incredibly common solutions - are exactly the kinds of things that can get you in trouble. Using your pet or children’s names, your date of birth, and other things that are easy to remember are also terrifyingly easy to steal.
But, how can you remember a complex password that has one special character, one uppercase, one lowercase, and one number AND have a different one for each of the 9,523,076, 813, 391,572 websites and systems that you use? On top of that, now you have to update them regularly? Most people will, reasonably, give up at this point.
Don’t despair. Technology has managed your technology problem. Encrypted password management tools can store your passwords, generate passwords, notify you of duplications, and prompt you to update. They can also help you share individual passwords with team members and executive assistants who need to access these programs on your behalf, avoiding the incredibly poor practice of sharing this data via email.
Oh yes: don’t share passwords by email. Why? Emails can not only be hacked but also forwarded and shared. Once you’ve sent an email, you’ve lost all control of its contents.
Wifi is fantastic, at home, at work, and when you’re on the road. But it’s also one of the easiest ways into your systems. One of the tech experts we know has been able to connect to the wifi at a retail store and sneak into that business’s back end — which could have resulted in access to email, accounting systems, and customer lists. Don’t worry: they informed the business owner. We don’t hang out with thieves.
If you have wifi at home, anyone within range could potentially access your system and get into your home computer(s) and smartphone(s) with similar results. If you’re out and about, and happen to connect to the courtesy wifi system, other users can get into your hardware the same way.
There are relatively easy protocols you can put in place to protect your data. In your home and business, set a password on your wifi, and make sure there is a separate connection for “guests”. This can not only reduce their access to your bandwidth (save your bandwidth for you!) but makes it impossible for others to find your hardware on that system, because you’ll be using the other wifi.
If you happen to be getting into IoT (Internet of Things) and have smart TVs and appliances, make sure these exist on the right system as well, so they aren’t sources of leaks. It’s cool that you can start your washing when you’re not in the house, but you don’t want your laundry to be the way some creep gets access to your online banking.
When you are out and about, make sure you are using a VPN (virtual private network), a secure tunnel between your computer or smartphone and the systems you are using. All your browsing and data goes through that secure connection to the outside world, so that it looks like an anonymous user is out there, and not you. This makes it difficult for others to snoop on your activity, and easier for you to protect your data.
Before you actually connect to public wifi, verify its existence and the password with the owner verbally. Do not choose to connect based on the piece of paper you happened to see on your very public table… the paper that anyone could have left there… with the password to a wifi that looks really legitimate, that you definitely do not want to connect with.
Email & Text
Your email and text messages are some of the most common ways cyber criminals target your data. The best way to protect yourself is to remain aware of common phishing techniques.
As an example, if you receive an invitation to a Dropbox folder you were not expecting, contact the person before clicking anything in the email. Hover over email links before clicking on them, and read the URL that you will be directed to. If the name of the URL doesn’t line up with where you want to go, give it a miss. Be certain you’ve carefully read that URL, as it can be pretty easy to change just one letter and take you to an incredibly incorrect place. Avoid attachments as well, both in sending and receiving. Using secure file storage and sharing systems will reduce the likelihood of attack (see next section).
Most importantly, do not click on anything that is supposedly from a financial institution or tax department. The vast majority of these organizations do not send you emails with attachments or links without informing you by voice or in person.
If you’re using encrypted cloud storage, ensure that you have written systems and protocols in place for all users. Segment your file storage so that when you do share with team members, you are only sharing the bits that are relevant to the people who need it.
Especially if you are storing private data, make sure you are following the privacy legislation in your jurisdiction regarding data protection, and that you have a system in place to securely delete and remove that data when you no longer require it to serve those customers. Why keep potentially dangerous (and litigation-attracting) data around if you don’t have to?
Back up your storage. If you do get hit by a virus that attacks your files, and everyone likely will eventually, you have secure copies of your important files in a separate location. Ensure your deletion/removal of files also includes this backup system.
Implement Team-Wide Protocols
Every individual user who accesses your business system is a potential cybersecurity concern. Make sure they understand the rules you’ve implemented and consider working with technology experts who can teach your team, and review their systems to ensure they’re meeting your standards.
It may seem like an extra expense you just can’t take on right now, but consider what it would cost you if the wrong people got their hands on your data and systems. A helmet costs a bit of money, but replacing your face can cost a lot more. We like your face, and your data, protected and secure.
Ask us about implementing cybersecurity protocols on your team.