Welcome to Planet Hack

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Phishing, DDoS, ransomware, worms, hacks: if you watch or read the news, you’ve undoubtedly heard about these sorts of cyberattacks. For many of us, they may seem like just an inconvenience in our everyday lives or a concern for large corporations like Target or even the federal government.

“Sure,” you may say, “I’m on guard for identity theft and other online schemes, but I don’t need to worry about it too much. Security firms and Uncle Sam will spar with cyberterrorists, hacktivist, organized crime, and curious computer programmers.”

Unfortunately, that’s just not true, especially if you’re a business owner.

A Scary New World
According to the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, 594 million people have been victims of cybercrimes globally. And, if you run your own website or have your business online, you may face additional threats.
In fact, a report to the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee found that 70% of data breaches occur at companies with fewer than 100 employees, even though 77% of small businesses believe they’re safe from cybercrimes.¹

And attacks don’t just target your data. Groups can take down your site, deny access to your customers, redirect traffic to malicious content, disrupt your brand identity, or just generally ruin your day.

We think we’re safer than we really are, and we can be attacked many different ways. How can we do a better job protecting ourselves?

Keeping Yourself (And Your Site) Safe
Just because there are a myriad of cyber threats lurking in the ether of the Internet doesn’t mean you should close up shop and go off the grid forever. But it does mean you should take precautions.

Yes, everyone needs to use some sort of anti-virus software on their computers and take care when surfing the web. Also, your hosting company may have some basic protection built into your site. But, you can—and should—take extra steps to keep your site secure, as well as make it easier to repair any damage if your site does come under attack.

Here are a few simple things to consider:

  1. Update your website, CMS, and widgets regularly – First and foremost, check your website to make sure it’s up-to-date. That includes any platforms (like WordPress and Drupal) or scripts that have been installed. Did you check it? Great. Now, check it again. These tools are constantly updated to patch security loopholes that can be easily exploited. Keep them updated to deter hackers at the gates.
  2. Back up your site frequently – According to Entrepreneur.com, 62% of small businesses fail to routinely back up their data. That’s just asking for trouble if your site is attacked. While having a backup won’t protect you from an attack, it will make it much simpler to restore your site once it has been compromised. It’s up to you whether to use an automated service or manually back up your site to store your vital data, code, and content.
  3. Install additional security software and firewalls – A firewall and security software can help block hacking attempts, filter out dubious traffic, and prevent the advance of hackers into your system. Many paid and free services are available, and some are even simple plugins for your site.
  4. Stay informed – You don’t have to become a cyber security expert, but you should take time each month to review your website for security flaws, ensure your backups are being made, and check what emerging threats may be on the radar. At the very least, you may learn when and how to prepare for new threats.

Alternatively, if you desire peace of mind but don’t want to manage the process yourself, you could always hire a dedicated IT team to handle your site, although the cost may be prohibitive. If you do need additional help but don’t want to go as far as building your own Geek Squad, you could ask your local web/design/advertising/marketing/all-around-awesome team to take a look and let you know how you might best protect yourself.

Regardless of what you do, take time to think about your cyber security and make a plan for how to protect your business. Cyberattacks, hacks, online scamma-jammas, or whatever you want to call them are a very real threat to your website and business. Whether you go it alone or ask for help, you’ll be better off having considered the issue.

References:
¹https://www.grsb.com/6-ways-protect-your-small-business-hackers-and-fraud
https://www.fcc.gov/general/cybersecurity-small-business
http://blog.trendmicro.com/trendlabs-security-intelligence/malvertising-campaign-in-us-leads-to-angler-exploit-kitbedep/
https://us.norton.com/cyber-security-insights
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241620
http://secure360.org/2016/03/5-tips-to-protect-your-company-website-from-attacks/
https://www.sba.gov/tools/learning-center-view-course/743081

Domain Names, Web Hosting, and Why You Need Both

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“I have a domain. Do I need web hosting, too?”

It seems like we hear that question or something similar at least once a week. It’s a fair and important question, because if you goof that up, your website could go poof.

First things first, let’s answer the question: Do you need a domain and web hosting?

Yes, you absolutely need both. To understand why, let’s take a look at what each does.

A Domain by Any Other Name Would Redirect to Your Site?

Plainly, a domain is your website’s address. In other words, it’s what people type into their browser to get to your site. You want Nike? Clickety-clack nike.com in the address bar and you’re there.

To get a domain, you work with a domain registrar, such as GoDaddy or Name.com, and they’ll reserve your desired web address for a fee. While you have rights to the domain, it’s all yours. That means no other individual or company can use it. Neat.

But a domain is just one part of the equation. To deliver your website to the masses, you’ll also need a web hosting service.

The Web Hostess with the Mostest

At the most basic level, a web hosting service operates servers and rents out space to individuals and organizations to store their websites. Essentially, you pay to keep your stuff on a big computer that can be accessed via the web. Web hosting services, like Bluehost and HostGator, will store the files that make up your website.

So, how does your domain name work with your web hosting service?

An Address, A Building, and Your Website

Probably the easiest way to explain domains and hosting is to think about a building.

The domain is the building’s address. It’s how people find the building. Your web hosting is the structure itself. It’s what stores all the cool stuff you want people to come see. The rooms and furniture in the building are the pages and content on your site.

Now, you can have your address at an empty lot, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense. And, you probably wouldn’t construct your building in the middle of nowhere if you wanted people to come visit you.

It goes the same for your webpage. If you have a domain name but your website isn’t hosted, yourawesomewebsitethatisreallycoolandstuff.com won’t connect to anything. The reverse is true, too. If you have your website hosted but no domain name reserved, people won’t know how to get to your site.

That’s why both a domain and hosting are vital for your website.

One Last Thing

Keep in mind, many domain registrars and web hosting providers now offer both products to customers. If you don’t use one provider for both services, it’s very important to ensure you’re up to date on billing for both. You wouldn’t want that shiny website of yours to go dark, would you?