Think big companies are the only target of cyberattacks? Think again.
Small- and medium-size enterprises can also be victims of cyber crimes. In fact, small and medium businesses (SMBs) have become targets of about 43 percent of cyberattacks worldwide.
This is primarily because such companies can’t always put up the best defenses for their business. The limited budget is an obvious setback, but other matters like lack of monitoring and expertise also play a part.
But while your company may not have the same capacity and resources as larger firms, this doesn’t mean you should just sit back and watch the fruits of your labor fall into the wrong hands. Simple changes in your company policies and employee habits and some outside help will go a long way.
Ready to step up your IT security? Here are seven best practices that help protect your business against cyberattacks:
1 – Conduct a Security Risk Assessment
The first step in protecting your company is to know where your weaknesses lie. To do this, a security risk assessment must be conducted.
As the name implies, this entails checking the state of security of your company’s IT infrastructure. It will show any vulnerability your business processes and systems have and recommend steps to reduce the risk of future attacks.
To perform this, you can use a security assessment tool to identify and resolve any security issues. You can also hire IT experts for the job.
2 – Boost Password Strength
While this may seem old school, password strength still affects how well you can protect your database from unauthorized access and breaches. In fact, strong passwords are a crucial part of your defense against business interruptions and attacks.
Although this reminder is repeated quite often (and one that users typically ignore), you must still find ways to instill the importance of password selection in your employees. Remind them of the qualities of a good password:
- Combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters
- Doesn’t contain any basic information (e.g., name, birthdate, etc.)
- Complex and difficult to guess
Besides this, you should also implement frequent password change policies and screen time outs. Discourage using the same passwords across multiple accounts and the writing of passwords on pieces of paper or anything malicious users and potential hackers can access.
This is crucial to identifying and verifying the company’s authorized IT users to ensure security. It also allows IT network administrators to grant control over file and database accessibility and deny or limit it at the same time.
3 – Employ Multi-Factor Authentication
While they are crucial in cybersecurity, passwords alone may not be enough to ensure your data’s safety. This is where multi-factor authentication comes in.
Roughly 81 percent of data breaches are caused by weak or stolen credentials. Believe it or not, despite constant reminders of strong password creation, millions of people still use and reuse “123456” and “password” in accessing their accounts.
Hackers can also use brute force to acquire passwords until the correct one is found. To protect against such attacks, you should also consider implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) into your IT system.
The MFA serves as an extra layer of protection on top of the use of unique login credentials. There are many kinds of MFA, but the most common is the two-factor authentication that combines usernames and passwords with something the users have, like a single-use key, a token, or smartphone app.
4 – Put Up a Firewall
Like the physical structure it is named after, a firewall serves as a protection for your IT network. It is a security system that checks and controls both incoming and outgoing traffic according to security rules set by your IT administrator.
Firewalls basically serve as barriers between trusted networks (i.e., your company computers) and untrusted ones, such as those on the Internet. They also serve as a shield against cybercriminals and malicious codes that may compromise your data.
Aside from external firewalls, you should also consider putting up internal ones for additional protection. This is particularly crucial for companies with employees working remotely to protect their home network as well.
5 – Plan for Mobile Devices
Based on the Tech Pro 2016 research “BYOD, Wearables and IoT: Strategies Security and Satisfaction,” nearly 60 percent of all businesses allow BYOD for employees. This has paved the way for the need to bolster IT security, with special attention to precautions for connections using mobile devices.
If your employees use brand-new or refurbished wearable devices to access your company data, you might want to consider having your own BYOD policy, too.
With wearables like fitness trackers and smartwatches gaining popularity for improving employee productivity, you must ensure that these devices are covered in your IT network policies. Set up security updates and require all mobile devices to go through company password policy setup before granting network access.
6 – Conduct IT Security Training
IT security should start from within. Any security protocol implemented in your network will never work at its optimum unless you and your employees have been trained and updated on the policies in effect.
Each employee has several roles to play within the company, which means they are bound to require access to your company’s IT network. As such, they need to be well-informed and trained on cybersecurity best practices and policies to ensure that they don’t become the weak link cybercriminals exploit.
Conduct regular updates on cybersecurity protocols and have every employee sign a document indicating that they’ve been informed of the policies and will be held accountable in case of a breach because of their actions. This will ensure that everyone is responsible for the company’s security.
7 – Have a Back-Up
Imagine this: You go to work as usual and check on your system only to realize something is off. Your computer starts to crawl until finally, you can no longer access your files.
If you’re completely locked out with a message displayed in front of you asking for payment to regain access, then one of your worst fears has come true. You’ve fallen victim to a ransomware attack.
You need to prevent as many attacks as you can, but you can never zero out the possibility no matter how well you prepare. Because of this, IT experts recommend always backing up your files to make sure that you have a copy of documents, spreadsheets, databases, and other important data in case these become a cybercriminal’s “hostage.”
Having a back-up is also good for other situations, like calamities (e.g., fire and flood). Just remember to store backup files in a different location separate from your office. You can also keep a copy of your files on cloud-based storage. Ensure that your back-up is recent and functioning properly as well.
Bolster Your Company’s IT Protection
Information technology makes it easier to manage your business, but it can also leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks. Make sure you’re ready by following the best practices listed here.
Sharon Mallorca is the Sales Manager at Create IT in Dubai. Established by innovative digital agency Create Media Group, Create IT has rapidly become the Middle East’s leading IT Support and IT Solutions company, providing the highest quality IT support and services to a growing portfolio of global brands.