Security measures in the digital age have moved beyond keeping important papers in the safe and locking the doors and windows at night. The internet made the world smaller, allowing information and ideas to flow freely across the globe. Unfortunately, it also created new ways for criminals to steal information and other valuable assets, necessitating the creation of the cybersecurity field.
Protecting your business from online threats may seem like a daunting process, but there are a few concrete steps your company can take to keep your data safe.
Employ strong passwords
Passwords are only useful if they aren’t easy to crack. To help keep your network safe, you should ensure that your employees are using strong passwords, changing them regularly, and not writing them down or reusing them elsewhere.
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Have a strong firewall
A firewall is the digital equivalent of your front desk security guard. Firewalls monitor all traffic on the network, checking to make sure that all the traffic entering your network is allowed to be there. If your firewall detects an unauthorized person trying to access your network it can block them and deny them access. Unfortunately, even the best firewall can only be one part of your cybersecurity plan.
It can only protect you from malicious traffic that tries to enter your network from outside the system, and cannot protect you if an employee inadvertently gives unauthorized users access to the system from the inside. This could happen if the employee clicks on a malicious link in an email or plugs a suspicious USB into their computer. A firewall is an essential component of any cybersecurity system, but it is not able to protect your company on its own.
Install antivirus protection
Antivirus software is your last line of defense when it comes to dealing with malicious computer viruses. If an employee accidentally grants a malicious user access by clicking on a suspicious link or using a USB with a virus on it on it, your antivirus software will detect the virus and defend your system from it.
Every time you run a program, it looks at the program and compares it against known virus signatures. If the program bears a known virus signature, your antivirus software prevents the application from opening and sends you an alert. However, antivirus software is only useful if it is kept up to date since it requires having an updated list of virus signatures to compare programs against.
Keep your programs updated
One simple way you can help keep your network secure is to make sure all of your computer programs are up to date. As programmers discover issues or security holes, they release patches to fix the problems. If your software is not up to date, then you are not able to take advantage of those fixes and leave your system vulnerable.
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Keep devices secure
Phones, tablets, computers, and laptops that contain company data need to be kept secure. One way to do this is to encrypt your data. Encryption software changes the way information appears on the hard drive of your device and ensures that you need the encryption password to read it.
You should also make sure that both you and your employees are taking steps to ensure your devices are physically secure as well. Do not leave phones, tablets, or laptops that are used for work anywhere where they might be easily stolen. If you must leave your device unattended in your car be sure to keep it out of sight by locking it in your trunk.
Phones are particularly vulnerable. They go with us everywhere, allow us to access the same data as our computers, and are small enough that they are easily lost or stolen. All work phones should be encrypted and password protected. You may also want to consider enabling remote wiping so that if a phone is lost or stolen, you can make sure it does not pose a security systems threat.
Reconsider your BYOD policy
While many companies use BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies to cut costs, these policies can severely compromise your security. If your company can afford to outfit all employees with company laptops and phones, then it is best to do so. If that option isn’t economically viable, then you should consider requiring your employees to divide their devices into two sections: A secure work section and a personal section. You should also require your employees to password protect all devices they use for work, and have them agree to implement remote wiping.
Backup your data and embrace the cloud
The cloud is an amazing thing. It allows you and your employees to access company data and programs from anywhere, and its remote storage capabilities mean that sensitive information does not need to be stored on individual devices. If you use the cloud, you don’t need to worry about any data being lost or compromised if a device is damaged or stolen.
Keeping secure backups is vital to protecting information that is not stored in the cloud. Servers and computers should be fully backed up once per week, and undergo incremental backups every night.
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Consider a managed security service provider
Not everyone is a security expert, and that is okay. While large companies can afford to retain teams of security staff that isn’t always feasible for small or medium-sized companies. However, that does not mean that the security needs of small and medium-sized businesses are not complex or important.
If your company does not have the resources to maintain an in-house security team, you may want to consider hiring a managed security services provider (MSSP). MSSPs can help you keep your data secure, improve your cyber security, and address and mitigate any security problems that may arise.
Keep an eye on everything
Knowing is more than half the battle. If your company doesn’t realize a breach or hack has occurred, you won’t be able to address it and mitigate the damage. High-quality monitoring software is key to detecting problems and alerting your team so that damage can be mitigated or averted.
All companies should run regular tabletop exercises and pen tests. Tabletop exercises allow your team to prepare for hypothetical security breaches and hacks by developing response protocols before they are needed. Pen tests (short for “penetration tests”) are also a great way to test your company’s cybersecurity. Pen tests involve hiring someone to attack your network and look for vulnerabilities that could be exploited by criminals. Any vulnerabilities that are detected are then brought to your attention so you and your team can address them.
Educate your employees
The single most important component of any cybersecurity strategy is education. If your employees don’t understand why they shouldn’t write down their passwords, what makes a link suspicious, and why using a USB they found in the parking lot outside is a bad idea then even the best-laid security plans will fail.