How to Protect Your Business from Competitors’ Digital Attacks
Online business has given us many opportunities and made entering the field easier for the average person on the street. On the other hand, it does have a few flaws. One of them is that it’s easier to attack a business online than it is offline.
Hacking or blocking your website can be done with a few clicks from a completely anonymous server. Reputation can be attacked by anyone, and it only takes one small mistake for you to leave your and your clients’ information vulnerable. This is why it’s very important that you are aware of those risks and do whatever you can to protect yourself from them. Let’s take a look at a few of these attacks, and what you can do to shield your business.
Data breaches and theft are one of the most common forms of attacks on businesses in the United States. As a matter of fact, there were a reported 1473 data breaches in 2019 alone with a whopping 164.68 million records exposed.
Data theft in and of itself is one of the worst things that can happen to a company and even worse when it’s at the hands of the competition. Some may try to sell it back for a ransom. Others will just disseminate it to make your business look even worse.
The solution here is to go to the source and make sure that your host is secure. You have to make sure that it’s configured properly and all patches have been installed. It’s also better to go with a provider that has a solid reputation for security.
Any form of personal data should be strongly encrypted, and all breaches reported to the police as soon as possible. You should also make sure that you switch to an https domain if you haven’t already. Those are much more secure and a prerequisite if you’re going to be handling any type of financial information.
Click fraud is another common form of the attack perpetrated by competitors and one that could have severe consequences. It’s also much more common than many might imagine. In one study, in particular, it was estimated that around 20% of all clicks on PPC ads were fraudulent in nature, so this isn’t something you can take lightly.
What is click fraud, and how can it affect my business?
Click fraud is when a competitor or anyone with malicious intentions clicks on your PPC ads deliberately to run up your ad budget. Not only will this push you to spend more, but you might start doubting your strategy or abandoning PPC altogether after getting bad results.
That’s why you should make understanding click fraud a priority. If you want to learn more about it, we suggest you check out the linked article on click fraud from ClickGUARD. They give a little bit of history on PPC and online advertisement in general before talking about the consequences of click fraud. They also run down exactly what you need to do to identify bad clicks, what you can do if you’re a victim, and the tools you can use to prevent click fraud from happening in the first place.
Website defacing can be very extreme and easily recognizable. A competitor might be able to hack into your site and post inappropriate images and messages, for instance. Or they might decide to erase all of your files. In other cases, these can be deliberately subtle so that the attack stays under the radar.
That doesn’t mean that these will be less damaging, however. They can do something like changing your contact information, or erasing a very important page on your website. Or they may spread inaccuracies to affect your credibility.
The bad news here is that it can be almost impossible in many cases to find out who’s the culprit with things like VPN being easily available. This is why you should be spending most of your energy on prevention and restoration. This means having regular backups and making sure that you check your pages regularly. There are some scripts that will allow you to automate the whole process if you have lots of pages. Most hosts will do automatic backups, but it’s better to always have an up to date version stored locally just to make sure.
Few things can be as frustrating as seeing your hard work getting plagiarized by a third party, especially if this is somebody who’s directly competing with you. Not only can it mean that you’ve wasted money and time, but you could even get penalized for duplicate content. Even if you publish it first, there’s the possibility that your competitor scraped it and got it indexed first, which will make it hard to prove that you were the originator.
The best solution here is to contact the host where the content is published and ask them to take it down. There are various tools like Awario that will allow you to find your content online. You can also try to file a complaint with Google, but they receive so many of those under DMCA rules that you may never see a resolution. Also, know that content can get stolen on social media too. So, if you don’t want to get things like pictures stolen, make sure that they have a prominent and easily identifiable watermark.
This one can be disastrous for any business and can be tough to counteract. If these are on your website, all you have to do is remove them or turn comments on. It’s when they start appearing on sites like Yelp and Google business listings that things get problematic.
Even if you own your business page on a place like Facebook, you cannot remove negative reviews just like that. You have to report potentially malicious ones, and pray that they get taken down.
If you’re dealing with actual bad reviews, there are still things that you can do. The most important one is to acknowledge and address the issue. Make sure that you take responsibility, let them know that you’re working on the situation, and make real changes. Also, use brand mention tools and set up alerts when reviews are being posted. This will allow you to find bad reviews quickly and make amends.
Negative SEO can be extremely vicious, especially if you have little to no understanding of SEO. While Google will argue that it isn’t a real issue, it’s easy to see how penalizing someone from having links coming from bad sites can be used against them. Getting links from unreputable or banned sites can easily be done by anyone that wants to sabotage your business. There are still things that you can do, however.
The first is to set up Google Webmaster Tools email alerts. This will allow you to find out if you were penalized. The next is to make sure that you constantly check your backlinks. There are some free tools like Backlink Checker that will allow you to do that, but we suggest you try a more robust tool like Monitor Backlinks if you can. You will then be able to use this to find any suspicious low-quality links.
Once you have this list, you can use Google’s disavow links tool to report them. Google will then be able to ignore those links. You will be able to deal with links individually or decide to block any link from a particular site if you want.
Doing business online can be tough at times, but if you stay vigilant and protect yourself, you’ll be able to mitigate those risks. Make sure that you take all the steps necessary to monitor activity on and off your site, and take the steps necessary to address any issue fast and head-on.
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