Recent headlines are overflowing with stories of huge corporations and major celebrities – like Home Depot and Jennifer Lawrence – falling victim to the actions of unidentified, malicious hackers. Though unfortunate and deplorable, there is a silver lining to be found. The security breaches exposed fundamental flaws and weaknesses in these individuals' and companies' accounts, and should alert the rest of the online community to their own shortcomings.

It may seem unlikely that a small business could be targeted by hackers, but in this day and age, nobody can afford that mentality. The reality is, anyone with an online account can succumb to a hack. Fortunately, there are measures one can take to prevent such a breach from occurring. These techniques range from quick tips to full-fledged security protection programs. By employing any of these methods, a company can dramatically reduce its online risk.

Update your password
Often times, the biggest vulnerability is a weak or redundant password. Many people use the same password for several accounts, meaning that a hacker only needs to crack one to gain access to a slew of information. Additionally, a password that is basic or unchanged over a long period of time is at higher risk for a hack.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent an online security emergency is to change your passwords once a month. This will keep hackers guessing and add a layer of sophistication to your protection. It might sound tedious, but all it takes is a monthly note to individuals with access to the account alerting them of the change, and it could stave off a debilitating invasion.

The Associated Press recommended two-step verification as another safety precaution. In this process, a person who logs in using a new computer or device is sent a confirmation code to his or her main phone. That person must have the phone in order to input the code, so even if a hacker guesses the password, the account is still invulnerable. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and many others offer two-step verification, and all the user has to do is enable it.

Simple fixes
CNN Money suggested a few basic modifications you can make to your devices that may keep away unwanted surveillance. One method is to download a browser extension called HTTPS Everywhere. Available to Firefox, Chrome and Opera, the add-on ensures data encryption is activated on websites that offer it, and alerts the user if a site may be unsecure.

Another technique is more basic: putting tape over a webcam and keeping a phone out of earshot. Some hackers can activate webcams and smartphone internal speakers remotely, allowing them to see and hear into private conversations. By simply blocking the view or muffling the earpiece, those attacks can be effectively neutralized.

Finally, CNN Money also proposed anonymous web browsing. Most users on standard browsers can be followed by hackers based on stored data and search history. But programs like Tor and Firefox Incognito, which reduce or eliminate your online trail, can protect against tracking.

Download protection
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a guide to Internet security in 2012. Among their suggestions is protecting company computers by way of anti-hacking software. Investing in a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software can provide the last line of defense against hacking, should the other methods fail. Many of these products offer thorough support and periodic updates to ensure they are equipped with the latest capabilities.

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