Businesses have been moving online for quite some time, but the current pandemic and subsequent social distancing have further accelerated this trend. Companies around the world had to close their doors this spring and switch to long-term remote work.
While entrepreneurs are thankful that technology can support telecommuting so that their businesses can survive these challenging times, moving their services and operations online as well as storing their data online brings another set of challenges.
One of them is cybersecurity.
If we bear in mind that there’s a hacker attack every 39 seconds, it’s clear that this problem deserves serious consideration as the “it won’t happen to me” approach can be very dangerous. And all the more so, knowing that cybercriminals don’t target only big companies – 43% of cyber attacks are directed at small businesses.
Here are seven cybersecurity best practices to help you protect your data online.
1. Create an Insider Threat Program
While you’re preparing to defend your company from external malicious actors, don’t forget that you can easily fall victim to an internal threat.
This term refers to the data theft or compromising of a company’s electronic resources by insiders, that is, employees and contractors with authorized access. This accessibility to sensitive data is what makes insider threats even more dangerous than external threats.
Although motivations for this can be different, including revenge, financial gain, or loyalty to other organization, such data breaches are usually unintentional, meaning that they’re the result of:
- lack of awareness regarding the importance of data security
- lack of training about the use of security tools and protocols
- lack of proper security tools.
In order to keep your and your clients’ sensitive data safe and protect your reputation, it’s essential to establish an insider threat program.
Here are some preliminary steps you should take in order to create a strategy and minimize the risk of internal threats:
- Conduct an organization-wide assessment and identify the vulnerabilities of your assets, infrastructure, and processes. Then prioritize potential risks and work on improving your security IT infrastructure and protocols.
- Have detailed security policies and consistently enforce them. Involve your HR department to ensure that there are regulations about every employee’s interaction with sensitive information.
- Implement security software, such as spam filters, encryption tools, data loss prevention, and intrusion detection systems, among other things.
- Monitor remote access and make sure that whenever an employee leaves, their access is terminated.
- Deploy a video surveillance system and cover all the critical areas of your company with cameras.
- Implement physical security of your property and make sure to take measures of precaution when it comes to the safety of your data center. Members of your non-technical staff should attend an electrical appreciation course and learn more about electrical safety awareness.
2. Educate Your Employees
This is one of the most important steps when it comes to cybersecurity.
In small and medium businesses, employees have to be jacks-of-all-trades and perform different roles. That’s why you should make sure to educate them on your company’s cybersecurity policies and protocols.
It’s important to clarify that they will be held accountable in case something happens as a result of their reckless or intentional behavior. This should be put in writing so that they can sign a document stating that legal action will be taken against them in case they fail to follow security procedures and policies.
3. Improve Cybersecurity for Remote Workers
Remote working has been gaining traction for quite some time thanks to a number of benefits it brings to both employees and employers, such as increased productivity and flexibility, as well as reduced operational costs.
Advanced tech solutions in the form of fast internet connection and various communication and collaboration tools have made this trend possible.
But this convenience comes with a security risk as many employees use public Wi-Fi to access corporate networks and documents with sensitive information. Namely, public hotspots usually lack even basic protection measures, meaning that your employees can fall victim to hackers who easily take advantage of these security vulnerabilities.
For example, cybercriminals can intercept the data sent through an unsecured public network and obtain some highly classified information about your company or clients. Or they could easily capture their login credentials and hijack their accounts.
That’s why you need to inform your remote employees about the potential risks of using public Wi-Fi and insist that they install VPNs and antimalware programs in order to close security gaps.
4. Enforce Strong Password Protection
81% of data breaches result from weak, compromised, and reused passwords.
Many people tend to use the same password for a number of purposes, and when hackers crack it, they gain access to all the accounts protected by that particular password.
Similarly, simple passwords pose a significant threat as cybercriminals can easily figure them out and gain access to your company’s network. The same goes for easy-to-remember passwords such as birthdays, phone numbers, or addresses – these can be guessed easily, especially now that people share a lot of their data on social networks.
Creating strong, unique passwords is your first line of defense, and that’s the first thing that you should enforce in order to improve the security of your business. In other words, your employees should come up with passwords that are at least ten characters long, and that contain a combination of lowercase and capital letters, as well as numbers and symbols. As such complex passwords can be hard to memorize, it’s a good idea to use password managers.
Another important password rule says that it should be changed every two to three months.
Finally, it’s a good idea to implement so-called multi-factor authentication as it provides an additional layer of security. For example, when your employees want to access sensitive areas of your network, they should be prompted to take an additional step and provide a temporary security code they receive via an SMS or email in order to log in.
5. Backup Your Business Data
Furthermore, to increase the security of your business online, make sure you regularly backup your essential data. With all the precautions you take, data breaches are still possible, so an effective backup will prevent your company from losing crucial files. This way, even if a virus does make its way into your system, or if there is a ransomware threat, your business will be up and running in no time.
You should take special care of:
- human resources files,
- financial files,
- accounts receivable/payable files,
- client information
- other important information that would interrupt your business if it’s deleted or stolen.
The restorable backup solution ensures you will still have all your data even if a security threat jeopardizes your system.
Cloud storage solutions are an efficient and cost-effective way to back up your important data.
All your external devices, such as separate drives or USB sticks, can also get infected with viruses and malware. There is always a risk of losing data stored due to theft, fire, or other damage too.
Using cloud storage services will provide you with a safe space to keep your files, with added security, as all the data you store will be encrypted.
6. Use Multi-Factor Authorization
Cybersecurity incidents are not isolated events. Many major companies and websites have suffered a data breach and had to overcome it at some point.
You can improve your cybersecurity practices by using multi-factor authorization or demanding that users provide more than one authentication factor to access their accounts.
Multi-factor authorization demands two or more independent credentials, for example, password, biometric verification, and a security token. If just one of these credentials has been compromised or breached, the attacker will still have barriers to gain access.
By adopting at least a two-factor sign-in authentication, you will make it harder for attackers to acquire unauthorized system access and provide your data more security and privacy.
7. Update Your Software Regularly
System and software updates always seem to pop up at an inconvenient time, but don’t postpone following through and installing them.
It is critical to keep your software up to date, as the updates commonly contain solutions to identified system issues, provide security fixes and patches, and protect against security vulnerabilities.
By dismissing updates and leaving them for later, you leave an open door to malicious attackers to further exploit known security weaknesses.
Skipping out on getting the latest version of your operating system and other programs on a single device can put your entire network at risk.
8. Use Professional Antivirus Solutions
To avoid cybersecurity crises, having antimalware and antivirus software installed is of paramount importance.
There are many antivirus and antimalware solutions available, but not all of them are created equal.
While some solutions treat issues after they’ve occurred, your business needs a cybersecurity software that offers proactive protection.
This means such software resolves real-time issues, so it quickly eliminates threats, even before any damage is done.
It is also vital to choose antivirus and antimalware software to detect threats accurately, without slowing down your devices.
9. Have a Proper Firewall
When cybercriminals try to access your network, a firewall is the first obstacle they encounter. It acts as a gatekeeper for all your outgoing and incoming traffic, protecting your internal systems.
By setting up a business-class firewall, you can effectively control the traffic that is allowed into your network, while at the same time preventing your employees from visiting compromised and hazardous websites.
For example, suppose the firewall identifies that large amounts of data are being extracted from your corporate network. In that case, it will shut down the process unless it has been authorized by designated personnel.
The costs of data breaches are high and can put your company’s reputation and future at stake. That’s why it’s imperative to be proactive and improve your online security.
These nine easy steps will improve the cybersecurity of your business, so make sure to adopt them right now.
Michael has been working in marketing for almost a decade and has worked with a huge range of clients, which has made him knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has recently rediscovered a passion for writing and hopes to make it a daily habit. You can read more of Michael’s work at Qeedle.