Sunday, September 29, 2013

Most Popular WordPress Plugins for Security

Cyber attacks, whether by viruses, malware or some other type of IT security breache are on the rise and as we mentioned in our previous post on cyber security, small businesses should take the potential threat of breach very seriously. Many hackers view small businesses as “soft targets” due to the fact that the majority of SMB's don't take cyber security seriously or view it as a large business problem, leaving their valuable data unguarded. 

One area of vulnerablity for many SMB's is their website, especially those that use WordPress, a popular content management system/blogging platform. Due to its ease of use and customization, it's estimated that up to 70% of small businesses have built their websites off of WordPress. However, this popularity and ease of use comes at a price as hackers have become attracted to the platform en masse, with WordPress hacks increasing from 81,000 successful hacks in 2009 to over 170,000 successful hacks in 2012. 

The good news is that there are steps you can take to secure your WordPress site. The infographic below represents some of the most popular security plugins that you can install to help enhance security. 

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While these plugins are a good start for making your website more secure, there are other precautions that you can take to make your site less vulnerable. Take a look at our post on some easy to follow steps to make your WordPress site more secure.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cyber Security Strategies for Small Business

Many small businesses have avoided dealing with securing their networks as it can be a costly proposition. Additionally, many small business owners feel that cyber security is a problem that large financial corporations, big businesses and government have to deal with. Take a look at the infographic below to see just how little small business thinks of cyber security.

  • 77% of small businesses believe that their company is safe from being hacked or infiltrated with by a virus
  • 66% of those surveyed just aren't concerned, either by an external or internal threat
  • Nearly half of those surveyed believe that a data breach would have no impact

The reality though is that small businesses are as big of a target, if not bigger, due to their lack of network security. Recent research shoes that nearly 80% of breaches occur in companies of less than 1000 employees. And, of those, 93% have less than 100 employees. Furthermore, nearly 60% of small businesses close within 6 months after a cyber attack. And the threat will continue to get worse for small businesses for the following reasons:

  • The disconnect that many small businesses have of the perceived threat versus the reality. This has led to a hacker's paradise of networks that are easy to access with worthwhile payoffs.
  • Coming up a cyber security strategy that includes a formal Internet security policy, contingency plans and best practices tends to be a complex issue that can leave small business owners feeling overwhelmed with what steps they need to take.

Precautions Your Small Business Should Take 
Cyber security doesn't have to be complicated. There are several steps that your small business can take to help limit your exposure to vulnerabilities.
1.   Train employees in security principles
Establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords, and establish 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.
2.   Have and update anti-virus and spyware software Having anti-virus and spyware software running can help with keeping your computers free viruses, malware, and other online threats. You should also make sure to update your programs as soon as their available. Make sure to run a scan at least once a week to ensure your machines are clean.
3.   Update your applications
Your anti-virus and spyware software aren't the only programs that need to be updated. Applications like Adobe's Acrobat Reader, web browsers and other software should be updated when patches are available. 

You can download a nifty application called Secunia PSI, which can help keep track of your applications and when they need to be patched, by notifying you when an update is available and directing you to the appropriate website to download the necessary files.

4.   Passwords
Make sure that your employees use unique passwords that use alternate capitalization, numbers, special characters and are a minimum of 8 characters. You should also require that passwords get changed every 90 days.

If you're handing sensitive data, such as financial information or other personal data, you may want to consider implementing a multi-factor authentication system that requires the user to input additional information, aside from a password, to gain entry.

For small businesses that rely on the Internet and information technology, it can be a balancing act of securing your systems while not having to overextend themselves as “a penny saved is a penny earned”. However, knowing that cyber crime is a very real possibility since small businesses are perceived as soft targets should motivate you to beef up your security. The above strategies are affordable and fairly simple to implement - by doing so, you can prevent having a major headache down the road.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Benefits of Big Data Marketing

Each day, consumers are voluntarily posting vital information about their likes and dislikes on social media sites. If this data can be captured and adequately organized, businesses can have at their disposal the exact information they need to improve their marketing efforts.

Financier and CEO magnate Douglas Merrill once said, “With too little data, you won’t be able to make any conclusions that you trust.  With loads of data you will find relationships that aren’t real… Big data isn’t about bits, it’s about talent.” According to a recent infographic released by IT consulting company, Merrill is onto something -- research shows that big data lends a big hand in the marketing world!

The recent LinkedIn article titled, “Big Data: What Does it Really Mean?” discusses the heavy influence of big data mediums: “From investing and retail spending, to Web browsing, social media, and mobile phones, it's estimated that 90 percent of all data in use today have been accumulated within just the last two years!

So just what exactly constitutes “big data?” Simply put, big data refers to information’s ever-increasing volume, velocity, variety, variability and complexity. The advent of progressive, human activity has led to a staggering acceleration of generated data, however the collection of these data sets have become difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications. 

The challenge therefore comes with storing and analyzing huge data sets to support a superior level of decision-making that drives accuracy, time management, customer segmentation and real-time marketing -- and its demand cannot be denied. It is estimated that over the next three years, there will be a 60 percent increase on marketing analytics.

The current value in 2013 for the big data industry is $18.1 billion, with projections expected to nearly triple in 2017 to an estimated $47 billion! We can thank consumer consumption for such  high demands of big data analytics. It’s estimated that three billion people worldwide create eight zettabytes of data; yes -- zettabytes. That’s 1021, or one sextillion. That’s a lot ‘0’ data!

As a result, marketers are coming to terms with how to use big data and analytics to better target consumers. In doing so, they often face multiple challenges at increasing rates, such as resolving the capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis and visualization of large amounts of data.

Recently, new capabilities are taking data analytics to the next level; enabling marketers to utilize big data sets in rapid and cost-efficient ways by implementing the following processes: distributed processing, cloud storage, and data management strategies.

The following statistics from a 2013 survey released by computer software corporation Teradata highlights the benefits of implementing big data marketing strategies:
  • 58% of survey respondents believe making more accurate decisions is a benefit of basing those decisions on data 
  • 50% of marketers say that marketing and IT are not strategic partners in their company
  • 40% of marketers gave their department a grade of C or lower for using data to drive marketing
  • 71% of marketers plan to implement a Big Data analytics solution in the next two years
  • Less than 10% of companies use the data they have in a systematic way
Demographic data accounts for 73% of data-driven marketing, versus transactional data, which represents 38% of data-driven marketing.  71& of marketers will implement a big data analytics solution over the next two years and yet 50% of them say that IT is not a strategic partner. To truly benefit from big data, it's important for marketing to form a strategic partnership with IT or some other team that can actually implement tools to utilize the data to mine patterns and trends, which can then help marketing with future campaigns and strategies.

Visit Maryland computer consulting firm Iconic Mind for a bevy of consulting options to meet your marketing demands!