29639098_MThe recent Sony and Anthem security breaches serve as a stark reminders that no one is truly invulnerable to cyber attacks.

A Google search of “hackers for hire” will garner in excess of 850,000 results with more than 63.3 million professional hackers claiming to be ‘very reputable’ in their trade. With our growing dependence on technology, the likelihood of being hit with a cyber attack at some point is growing exponentially.

In fact, each year these professional hackers are hitting millions of machines nationwide.

Unfortunately, it’s not always immediately evident that a breach has occurred. Cyber security experts estimate that attackers can sit unseen in a network for an average of 229 days before they are detected or reveal themselves. They can get away with thousands of files containing personal data. With those files, they now have complete access to emails, bank accounts, credit cards, SSN's, and other sensitive information.

It’s a scary fact that businesses are prime targets. Hackers slip through firewalls, generally using malicious links or emails, and study employee keystrokes to gain access to these personal files. One small business didn't learn about a breach until after $46,570 went missing from its bank account.

While there's no way to stop hackers from hacking, there are measures you can take to protect your data.

For optimum protection, it's critical to purchase and install a reliable anti-virus program. Don’t just go with the cheapest product on the market. Do some research, or (even better) ask the experts. You usually get what you pay for.

Set complicated passwords. Have your employees do the same. The strongest passwords are 6-8 digits and include numbers, letters, and special characters. Be sure to change them on a regular basis and be aware of the most common password mistakes. Consider using a password manager to track the login info for all of your accounts.

Understand that hacking tools are constantly evolving. It may be beneficial to consider alternative methods of protection that analyze network activity to detect suspicious patterns rather than simply scanning for known threats.

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of requiring employees to protect their smartphones if they are used for business purposes. The minor inconvenience of an access password is worth the added security.

Hackers, like other predators, will attack the weakest prey. Strengthen your security measures today to prevent your business from becoming the next victim tomorrow.