Since the dawn of the internet age, businesses of all shapes and sizes have been racing to digitise their operations. Those that succeed gain massive advantages over their peers. They achieve greater operational efficiency. They get direct access to potential customers via diverse digital marketing channels. They will have a greater ability to scale up and capitalize on new and emerging markets.
But digitization isn’t all good news. As customer data breaches and other cybersecurity incidents make clear, digitization carries major risks as well. Businesses have new responsibilities to protect their customer data in a complex and threat-rich digital environment. And they have massive new liabilities when they fail to do so.
However, there’s no substitute for an active cybersecurity defense strategy. And putting that kind of strategy in place isn’t as hard as you might think. To help, here are five ways to protect your cybersecurity and reduce your liability.
1 – Encrypt Your Internet Connection
In many cases, hackers looking for a way into protected business systems will begin their work by conducting surveillance on their target. That means they’ll jump at any opportunity to digitally eavesdrop on anyone with access to their target’s systems. And because today’s entrepreneurs spend just as much time working outside of their office as in it, they have to protect themselves at all times.
One of the best ways to do this is to encrypt your internet connection. A VPN can be used to encrypt your network safely no matter where you are. It provides an extra measure of protection on any network, public or private. When using one, a hacker can’t use tactics like man-in-the-middle attacks and packet sniffing to gain access to your data. Because a VPN provides an end-to-end encrypted connection, it can keep files, passwords, and any other critical business data secure whenever they’re transmitted over the internet.
2 – Invest in Data Security Training
When an attacker can’t find a way to surreptitiously gain access to protected business systems, their next best bet is to trick someone into giving them access. They do so using a variety of social engineering techniques, some of which are very effective. The best way to defeat these techniques is through education.
For businesses, this means making a strong effort to educate every employee about the types of tactics hackers might use. There are resources online to help businesses develop training regimens for their workers, as well as countless cybersecurity firms that offer such training as a service. It’s a worthwhile investment that offers a major upgrade to any business’s cybersecurity posture.
3 – Create a Comprehensive Cybersecurity Policy
Even if every one of your employees understands their role in protecting the company’s data, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll know what to do at all times. To help them along, it’s necessary to create a comprehensive cybersecurity policy that spells out everyone’s responsibilities and what’s expected of them.
The policy should include standards on password creation and reuse (complex passwords and frequent changes are advisable), a complete delineation of data access rights including who has the final say over such access, and policies prohibiting employees from copying or otherwise carrying company data offsite. Of course, the specifics of a business’s cybersecurity policy will vary with their needs, so it’s always wise to engage an IT professional to help draft one.
4 – Invest in Complete, Offsite Encrypted Data Backup
One of the biggest cybersecurity threats businesses face today comes in the form of ransomware. It’s a type of attack where an intruder uses malicious software to encrypt a business’s data so they can demand a ransom for unlocking it. And it’s the kind of attack that can kill a business that’s not prepared for it.
But there’s a straightforward way to thwart ransomware. You need to maintain a complete encrypted backup of all critical data at an offsite location. The best idea is to keep the data offline (on tape or other secure storage), with at least two days’ worth of updates kept at all times (in case attack-damaged files make their way into a current backup set). That way, simple data restoration can allow for recovery from a ransomware attack with minimal downtime involved. It’s also a useful defense against other types of business disruptions.
5 – Consider Hardware Security Keys
Today, most digital services insist on two-factor authentication as a measure of extra account security. The same is true for cloud-based business services that hold critical – and vulnerable – data. And in most cases, the second factor involves SMS messaging or an app installed on the user’s smartphone. But it’s easier than you might think for an attacker to clone a user’s smartphone and use it to thwart two-factor authentication systems.
The solution is to use USB-based hardware security keys in place of smartphones as a second authentication factor. Google did so back in 2008 for all internal employee accounts and it eliminated successful external phishing attempts overnight. They’re a great solution because they’re inexpensive, broadly compatible, and easy to deploy. They’re a perfect cybersecurity weapon for businesses of all sizes.
The Bottom Line
By following these five cybersecurity tips, any business can decrease its odds of falling victim to a cyberattack. Both you and your customers can rest easy in what’s become a threat-laden digital landscape.
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