The end of the year is the busy holiday season for retailers, which means big profits — and big risk. With most of the focus directed toward advertising, sales, employee bonuses and company earnings, companies are distracted from the dangers of hacking, theft and malicious attacks.

We’ve compiled a list of ways you can protect your business accounts, customer data and other information.

Carefully Monitor Your Account Activity

Keep a close eye on your bank and credit card accounts this holiday season. Watch for transactions — big and small — that you didn’t authorize, and accounts under your name or business name that you didn’t open. If you notice something suspicious, dispute it immediately.

Another way to monitor your accounts is to set up automated transaction alerts. You’ll be notified by email (and push notification, if you opt in) every time money is deposited, withdrawn or a purchase is made from your accounts. This allows you to quickly see if someone is using your accounts without permission.

Protect Yourself Digitally

Most hackers will sneak into your network from a remote location and steal, delete or otherwise damage your company’s data. Here are some tips for hacker prevention:

  • Don’t open unknown emails or click suspicious links.
  • Use strong passwords and do not allow your browser to store them for later use.
  • Log out of websites and close windows when you’re finished, especially if customer information is accessible.
  • Encrypt your company data with a virtual private network. VPNs hide your IP address and minimize the possibility of a digital break-in. They also prevent websites — or hackers within websites — from tracking your information or installing anything on your company computers.
  • Install and regularly run anti-spyware and anti-virus software to catch any malware that sneaks in.

Protect Your Sensitive Documents and Hardware

Hackers don’t just rely on remote access to do their damage. In some cases, they steal company hardware with valuable data, or files containing private customer information, credit card information and more. Make sure your storefront and/or headquarters are secure and defensible against theft. Invest in a safe, a paper shredder and after-hours security, if needed. Scan and shred sensitive documents, encrypt your hardware, and even lock it in a safe at night.

Educate Your Employees

The worst thing you can do for your business is assume you are safe from hacking. Hold a meeting or seminar, or simply send out a memo educating your employees about the dangers of hackers and their extensive potential damage, and how they can individually contribute to the prevention effort.

Remind them of these important steps:

  • Shred sensitive documents once they have been digitally recorded.
  • Log out of websites and close tabs when they are finished.
  • Never download or click on anything unfamiliar or suspicious on a company computer.
  • Run a spyware and virus scan every week to catch bugs.

The holidays should be a time of giving and celebration. If you follow these important tips on keeping your company safe from holiday hackers, you’ll spend less time tracking unauthorized purchases and chasing bad guys, and more time enjoying your company’s success.