Network security gets more complicated every day. Even when you think you’ve taken all the needed network security measures so that you’re protected, you still can’t be sure. Let’s face it, we’re all waiting for the other shoe to fall, especially after reading about incidents like the Capital One breach.
Did you know that as of March 2018, 43% of cyber attacks have been against small businesses? Kind of scary when you think about it.
Why is Network Security So Important?
IBM has reported that the cost per security incident falls around $8.1 million for US businesses. This figure is far above the amount of any other country. It’s no wonder most companies are scrambling to make sure they don’t face a single incident.
While protecting your system is vital, the facts about cybersecurity can be very frightening. Small business IT support can be challenging, especially if there isn’t full-time IT staff to oversee maintenance.
What is the best way to protect your network can be challenging to understand. Fortunately, there are several great techniques that business owners like you can implement immediately.
What Are the Proven Network Security Measures?
Protecting your company is a top priority. Here are some security measures to implement for your network and data.
- Implement and Monitor Firewall
A firewall is a software or hardware designed to block unauthorized access to computers and networks. In the very simplest of words, a firewall uses a series of rules to control incoming and outgoing network connections. Computers and networks that “adhere to the rules” are allowed into access points. Those that don’t are blocked from accessing your system.
Firewalls are becoming more and more advanced, but unfortunately, hackers are not far behind. The latest tools are on integrated network security platforms that consist of a variety of approaches and encryption methods, all working in tandem to prevent breaches.
Regular Password Expirations – At Least Every Quarter
At this point, I would hope that most people know not to keep default type passwords like password, 12345678, or their dates of birth. Complex passwords have been around for a while now, so everyone should be aware of them. As a best practice, passwords should include a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.
More recently, longer passwords have become a requirement by some systems and internet sites. Longer passwords (Over ten characters) are not as easily guessed or hacked. Computer systems that have access to business networks should require regular password changes.
Consider two-factor or multi-factor authentication that requires more than just a password. Some systems require the entry of a code sent via text message or the use of an authentication application. Other systems require the answer to a security question.
- Antivirus Software Updates
Updates of your anti-virus software are vital. You’re putting your network at considerable risk and creating potential cybersecurity issues when it is left out of date. Hackers look for these kinds of vulnerabilities to “crack” these tools and can deploy new viruses. The only way to stay ahead of them is by using the latest versions of software available.
Training staff on how to identify the signs that their computer has been hacked is also a good idea. Cybercriminals are more and more sly. Even your best efforts to keep your network security can be compromised by a vigilant hacker.
- Patching and Updating
Even though this is one of the most effective tactics to prevent an attack, there is a remarkably relaxed attitude for regularly patching systems. Indeed, there is no excuse for not doing this, and still, the level of patching remains woefully lacking.
The way I see it is that I would instead be updating my systems regularly. It is far better than waiting for disaster to strike and then need to run around trying to patch and clean up all those systems.
- Make and Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
VPNs create a far more secure connection between remote computers (home networks or computers used by people on the road) and other “local” computers and servers. These networks are primarily only available to people who should have access to your systems. This access includes your wireless network and other equipment that’s authorized on your network.
A VPN can also decrease the possibility that hackers will find a wireless access point and wreak devastation on your system.
- Restrict the Installation of Third Party Software
Keep your systems protected by systematizing software. Make sure that users cannot install software onto their computer system without your approval.
Make sure that all computers use the same:
- Operating system
- Media player
This systematizing will also make the system updates much less of a hassle.
Not knowing what software applications are on your network is a tremendous security vulnerability.
- Encrypt Portable Devices Like Laptops
Due to being portable, laptops are more likely to be lost or stolen than standard company desktops. It’s essential to take extra steps to make sure your sensitive data is guarded.
Encrypting these devices is the best and easiest thing to do to be sure your data is safe. Encryption software changes the way data appears on the hard drive. Without entering the right password, it can’t be read.
Make sure to instruct staff using company laptops to never, ever leave their laptop in their car. Doing so makes it an easy target for thieves. If, for any reason, you have no other option, lock it in your trunk.
- Secure Your Mobile Phones
Today’s smartphones hold so much data that they should be considered almost as valuable as company computers. Not to mention how much more easily they’re lost or stolen. As such, securing them is another necessity.
The necessities for smartphones are:
- Encryption software
- Password-protection (also enable a specific “lock-out” timeout, so the phone locks itself when not used for a set time)
- Enabled remote wiping.
Remote wiping is hugely effective when an executive’s phone is lost or stolen.
- Backup Frequently
Scheduling regular backups to either an external hard drive or in the cloud is the best way to be sure that all your data is stored securely.
Best practices for backups include:
- Servers should be completely backup weekly with incremental backups every night.
- Personal computers also need to be backed up completely every week, but incremental backups can be done every few days if preferred.
Having your data compromised is a harrowing experience. When it is all backed up, so you don’t completely lose it, that makes it much less so.
- Monitor Carefully
One great way to do this is data-leakage prevention software. This software is set up at specific network touchpoints to look for certain types of information coming out of your internal network. It can be configured to look for credit card numbers, pieces of code, or any bits of information relevant to your business that would indicate a breach.
Not monitoring is foolish and a waste of vital resources. You also won’t know your network has been compromised until it is too late.
- Be Cautious With E-mail, IM, and Internet Browsing
It is not at all unusual for an unsuspecting staff member to click on a link or download an e-mail attachment that they believe is harmless. Only later to discover their system has been infected with a nasty virus, malware, or worse.
Links are the number one way that malware and viruses end up on computers.
- Train and Educate Your Staff
Teaching your staff about safe online habits and proactive security is critical.
Training them about what they are doing and why it is a severe threat is a better strategy. IT security staff can be expected to react to your employees’ bad decisions all the time. One of the more difficult things to do is protect your people against themselves. Ultimately, prevention is the best strategy for handling your data security.
Make sure your employees understand how important your company’s data is, and all the measures they can take to protect it.
Conduct Security Awareness Training
Be sure you give your workforce regular security awareness training. It is the only way that you can create a practice of cybersecurity.
Cover the security basics, safe Internet use, how to sensitive data should be handled, the making of passwords, and mobile device security. You should give the training to assist employees in avoiding phishing attacks and consider phishing simulation activities to test the effectiveness of your training.
The Federal Communications Commission website states, “Cybersecurity is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation, but one that we as a government or as a country are not adequately prepared to counter.” I would have to agree. We are woefully underprepared and must take action now. News and warning of breaches and attacks prevail daily.
We can no longer take our data and network security for granted. These best practices can help secure what is important. Every employee must be aware of the risks being faced and keep company systems secure.
The best we can do is to make sure we have done our best to implement adequate network security measures. Then monitor them using the best possible tools. To learn more about this and other topics, check out our blog.