Copyright Michael Williams. All rights reserved.
Small Business Owner's Internet Security Guide

Internet is a fantastic invention. And yet, it had a serious flaw since his inception: it's
vulnerable to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

With these attacks, a network is pinged repeatedly by a huge amount of different Internet-
connected devices. As a result, the attacked network slows down and can even stop completely,
because the TCP/IP protocol was designed in a way that forces it to answer to each request /
ping.

To achieve this goal, the bad guys use computers which are infected with viruses and can be
controlled remotely. They also use Internet of Things devices, wireless printers that haven't
been patched, and so on. Often times, a DDoS attack is just a smokescreen, making the network
administrator focus his energy into mitigating the attacks, while the hackers target other
network sections, trying to steal confidential information.

From what I remember, the most serious DDoS attack took place by the end of 2016, when about
500,000 devices that were belonging to the Mirai botnet were turned into zombie Internet
attackers. And any large-scale attack can easily affect businesses, damaging their reputation
and making them lose customers, and thus revenue, while hackers laugh on their way to the
bank.
Fortunately, few small businesses are the targets of large-scale attacks. But this doesn't
mean that you shouldn't do your best to protect any piece of sensitive information. If you are
a doctor, for example, you have the duty of protecting your patients' records.

Everything starts with choosing the proper network architecture. It's best to isolate
different sections of your network. This way, if an attacker targets your company, it will be
easy to disconnect various network sections from the one that is flooded by DDoS attacks.
Another key aspect is to provide several access points for network admins.

Of course, it is much easier to resist an attack if you've got a set of clear procedures in
place. Most DDoS attacks follow the same pattern, after all.

If things get out of control, don't be afraid to simply shut down all incoming Internet
connections. Yes, your clients may be unable to access their services for an hour or so, but
you will have more time to evaluate the damage and come up with a strategy that will minimize
losses. And since you run a small business, it's best to get as many knowledgeable people
involved as possible.

Enterprises have the luxury of owning high-end, powerful servers and strong Internet
connections. And when they are attacked, it's easy for them to fight back by simply responding
to the attacks with more CPU power and larger bandwidth.

Small businesses didn't have these opportunities until recently. But now, Cloudflare has
promised to offer full DDoS protection even for people who use its free accounts. It's a
generous offer that may soon turn DDoS attacks into bedtime stories.

Here are a few more ideas. You aren't running a huge corporation, but this doesn't mean that
you can't change your website's IP address, and thus fight back. Also, a high-quality backup
DNS service will help increase your capacity of resisting an attack.

The frequency of web attacks has increased as well. Often times, attackers try to get access
to a website by typing executable code into one or more of its form fields. Cross-site
scripting attacks, also known as XSS, have also increased in popularity lately. SQL injections
continue to be the most popular, though. With these types of attacks, hackers use contact
forms to type in instructions that trick servers into responding with useful information that
is stored in the website database.

It's not all about stealing data, though. SQL attacks will also waste precious server
resources, making your website load slower. And if you run an online store, some of your
potential customers may go somewhere else because they don't have enough time at their
disposal.

The stolen data could include your customers' user names, passwords, actual names and even
credit card information, if payments aren't processed by a third-party company.

Still, it is easy to protect your small business from web attacks by making sure that your
forms are coded in a way that prevents attackers from entering code into their fields.
Installing firewalls that will protect your online application is another great idea.

Keeping an eye on your website logs is also useful. Always be on the lookout for frequent
visitors who come from a remote region on the globe.

Protecting your small business network takes time and money, but it must become one of your
top priorities. As you read this article, hackers try to get access to other people's
websites. It's something that we will have to learn to live with from now on.