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7 Tips to Locking Down & Securing your IT Network

Look around and take note of all the technology surrounding you. It’s in your office, your car, your home, and probably on your wrist. Most of us need technology to complete a normal day’s activities, and it most definitely makes tasks easier. However, this reliance on computers and all manner of digital devices means you need to improve the cybersecurity best practices for your business.

In this article, we’ll share seven crucial security practices you as a business leader should implement at your company and encourage in your employees. We want to help you understand how high-quality cybersecurity will protect your computer systems and data from cyberattacks.

What is Cybersecurity?

The experts at Cisco Systems like this definition: “Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks.” The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency provides this one: “Cybersecurity is the art of protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information.”

But when talking to a client about cybersecurity, we simply tell them that it involves doing whatever it takes to protect their digital world. Our goal at EAG, is to be their trusted partner who will deliver the comprehensive services their company needs. Because there are no half measures when it comes to effective cybersecurity.

7 Cybersecurity Tips for Your Company

Whether you monitor the program yourself or hire an effective Managed Service Provider to handle IT outsourcing for your company, use the following seven best practices as your template for proactive digital protection.

1. Invest in Security Measures

As you’d imagine, cybersecurity keeps your business safe from digital dilemmas. Everything else flows from putting these protections in place, starting with what we call the “Big Three” here at EAG: Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), Firewalls, and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR).

    • Multi-Factor Authentication – Essential systems must require more than a single password or point of entry to gain access, including an answer to a question, biometrics, or another digital key.
    • Firewall – Depending upon the size of your company and the services you provide for your clients, you might need several layers of protection, but each one should be monitored by a SOC (Security Operations Center) that tracks all activity.
    • Endpoint Detection and Response – This includes next generation malware and antivirus solutions that look for patterns of suspicious activity and malicious software before they cause harm.
    • Secure Wi-Fi – It should go without saying that your office needs more than a password-protected router that you buy from a big-box electronics store. You should lock down access to your company network as tightly as possible.
    • Virtual Private Network (VPN) – If you have employees who regularly work from home on company-issued laptops, we recommend setting up a VPN so they can access the company network securely.
    • Digital Compliance – By simply following federal law for safeguarding employee and corporate records — like HIPAA, insurance, and finances — you are providing effective security measures.
    • Software Updates – Not only do you want to get those notifications off your screen so you can do your work, but installing software upgrades when they arise guards against security breaches.

2. Strengthen Password Policies

Nearly every service, device, and online account you sign up for requires a password for your protection. However, that sort of data security is only as good as your password policy. We recommend taking these two steps to help your company and people increase their security.

    • Protocols – Any password should be at least 10 characters long; contain at least one number, symbol, and capital letter; and be an actual phrase that’s unique to you. Also, each account you use should have a different password.
    • Regular updates – At a minimum, you have your people change their passwords every 6 months, though many experts recommend every 3 months. To help remember those changes, invest in a password manager service where people can log their changes.

3. Backup Your Data

Simply put, you should back up your data across every possible device and cloud service on a monthly basis. Not only is this helpful for record-keeping purposes, but it also gives you a baseline from which your company can operate if the worst happens. It is also critical to periodically perform test restoration of your systems to ensure the right data is being backed up, and can quickly come back on line.

4. Focus on Risk Assessment

The aforementioned digital compliance for federal agencies is the bare legal minimum you should do, and it’s purely reactive — an “in case something happens” measure. Proper risk assessment involves pursuing the cracks and weaknesses in your company’s digital infrastructure on a proactive basis. Your IT people should actively look for places you could experience a cyberattack and fix that problem.

5. Monitor Users

Now, we know what you’re thinking: “I only hire people I trust, people who will be good employees!” But while that’s certainly true, your people are your weakest links when it comes to effective cybersecurity. They probably aren’t looking for ways to sabotage the company, but their careless actions can be harmful if the business isn’t paying attention.

    • Principle of Least Privilege – IT security experts believe that an employee should only have the bare minimum of privileges necessary to do their jobs.  Simply put, don’t give everyone access to everything, even if you think it’s simpler to have individual logins to streamline activities. Anything more is an open security risk.
    • Track User Activity – Think of this is a safeguard, not a “Big Brother” situation. Your IT Department can only prevent cyber attacks if they can trace how it might have occurred across your employees’ online activities.

6. Create and Document Internal Procedures

Once you have everything in place, it’s time to write everything down and codify your company’s cybersecurity efforts. You can’t enforce them if your people can’t read them when they need to learn about how to take care of the company’s digital assets. Along with what we’ve mentioned above, your company protocols should also include the following:

    • Employee Devices – Determine whether or not your employees can connect their personal phones, tablets, computers, and wearable technology to the company’s digital services. Allowing such devices to access your systems might require that people follow your protocols away from the office.
    • Security Measures – This can differ for each office, depending upon who’s in charge of company IT efforts and the level of communication you have with any outsourced IT provider. What matters is that you give people clear and consistent directions to follow if there is a potential security issue.
    • Disaster Preparedness – The same logic applies here: how your company responds to a digital disaster is up to you, but it’s essential that the guidelines are clear for everyone.

7. Educate Your Employees

As we mentioned in tip #5, your people will always be the weakest link in your company’s cybersecurity efforts. This is not because they attempt anything malicious, but because they are imperfect and prone to error, no matter their best intentions. Thus, it’s up to you as the IT leader at your business to talk to your people about the importance of cybersecurity, focusing on what we call “The Three P’s.”

    • Policies – Your people must recognize that your company takes cybersecurity seriously. We recommend that they sign a document acknowledging that they’ve read your documented policies.
    • Passwords – If there’s any big takeaway your people have from your cybersecurity policy, it’s the importance of password protection. They use them to log into every service and device, so taking care of them is essential.
    • Phishing – You should hold specific training sessions for your people that teach them how to recognize and watch out for phishing attempts to garner their information.

Cybersecurity = Proactive Protection

Cybersecurity has never been more important, no matter if your company invests in a full-scale IT department or you hire a top-notch IT outsourcing firm. In fact, recent industry research revealed four key trends outlining how essential it is for every company and everyone to pay close attention to their digital life:

    • Cybersecurity spending is up, and cyber insurance carriers are requiring more preventative measures
    • Security incidents and data breaches are increasing
    • There are increases in state sponsored cyber incidents
    • The amount of data exposed is increasing

This means that more cybersecurity problems are occurring, which can lead to terrible repercussions for companies and customers.

Additionally, cybersecurity analysts contend that small- and mid-sized companies are at greater risk because of their size. They think hackers will only attack big companies with big customer bases; hence, they don’t have to invest in protections. Unfortunately, hackers don’t go after big companies on a regular basis because they can afford to have lots of cybersecurity protocols in place.

Your company, your customers, and your employees deserve effective digital security protocols that protect their work, data, records, and funds. By installing these cybersecurity best practices, you’re setting everyone up for success