Information is the lifeblood of business. But in light of high-profile data breaches involving Target and most recently, Home Depot, the importance of protecting valuable corporate and customer information from cyber attacks cannot be overstated. And as hackers use more sophisticated means to gain access to sensitive data, organizations need to be extra vigilant with regard to cyber security. These 5 basic and cost-effective network security tips can help organizations stay ahead of cyber threats going forward.
1. Get Serious About Passwords
Fundamentally, a network is only as secure as the passwords that protect it. To ensure maximum password protection, organizations need to adopt and enforce serious password policies. While simple, easy to remember passwords may have worked in the past, today’s passwords need to be more complex and random to make them less vulnerable to the myriads of ways that hackers will use to crack them. For added protection, even strong passwords should be changed on a quarterly basis.
2. Make Backups Mandatory
While backups were initially done to protect sensitive data from being destroyed by accidental deletion, workplace fires and natural disasters, backups are extremely critical for protecting data from cybercriminals. Should a hacker gain control of a system and threaten to delete data---essentially holding the data for ransom---having a backup system will help to minimize the damage. In order to protect sensitive data from both physical and cyber assault, it should be stored offsite in a secure location.
3. Invest in Professional Protection
The upsurge of security threats has given rise to a variety of cost-effective cyber security tools created by reputable vendors to meet the network security needs of businesses both large and small. Among the commercial tools provided are firewalls, malware blocking, virus protection, intrusion detection software, spam filtering, phishing blocking and virus protection. All of the afore listed are the most common cybersecurity threats. Once installed, the key to maximizing these tools is to conduct updates as soon as they are available.
4. Establish a BYOD Policy
The proliferation of mobile devices has resulted in many employees using personal devices such as smartphones and tablets for work related tasks. This practice, known as “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD), can cause significant security challenges for companies that are ill equipped to handle it. For organizations adopting BYOD, clear guidelines outlining the proper and improper use of personal employee devices for work must be implemented and strictly enforced. Employees participating in BYOD must be required to password protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install company approved security apps to keep their devices secure from hackers while on public networks. In the event of a lost or stolen BYOD device, clear reporting procedures must be outlined during training and remote wipe capabilities are a must.
5. Promote a Security Conscious Environment
In the past, cyber security was mainly left up to the IT department. However, in today’s tech savvy world companies need to make network security a part of the corporate environment. From the moment they are hired, every employee with a username and password needs to understand the individual role they play in keeping sensitive corporate data secure. From time-to-time all personnel should be reminded of the dangers of getting too lax with security, such as using weak passwords, writing passwords on Post-it notes and sticking them by their desks where others can see them, and sharing login information with co-workers. Taking cyber security seriously from the top down and creating a security-minded atmosphere throughout the whole organization is one of the best ways to stay one step ahead of cyber security threats.