Computer and network security breaches seem to be in the news daily, and they’re costing millions of dollars to organizations that fall prey. In fact, IBM reports that the average cost per incident rose 6% in 2018 to $3.68 million for U.S companies. Another study suggests that the average organizational cost of a data breach in the U.S. tops $7.9 million — more than twice as high. The healthcare industry remains the most vulnerable and experiences the highest average loss: up to $408 per record to recover/restore.
The facts surrounding cybersecurity can be downright scary. Protecting your system is critical, yet it can be a challenge for small- and medium-size organizations that don’t have a full-time IT staff to oversee system maintenance.
Fortunately, there are a number of things business owners can do today to secure their data and build more impenetrable protections against hackers and viruses.
1. Put In And Monitor Performance Of A Firewall
A firewall is a piece or set of software or hardware designed to block unauthorized access to computers and networks. In very simple terms, a firewall is a series of rules that control incoming and outgoing network traffic; computers and networks that “follow the rules” are allowed in, and those that don’t are prevented from accessing your system.
Firewalls are becoming more and more sophisticated (right along with hackers) and the latest are integrated network security platforms that consist of a variety of approaches all working in tandem to prevent breaches.
2. Update Passwords At Least Every Quarter
Hopefully by now your employees know to avoid passwords like “password,” “12345” and their dates of birth. In addition to using passwords that feature both letters and numbers — and some uppercase letters — for added security, require employees to regularly change their personal passwords (your business will have its own, but many computers also allow personal passwords).
Every quarter is the recommended frequency, but more often is better. However, there is a fine line: changing passwords too often can cause confusion, with employees having to reach out to IT to be reminded what their passwords are (and we all know how much IT likes getting calls like that!).
Side note: Let employees know that when choosing passwords, substituting letters with similarly shaped characters, like “pa$$w0rd” for “password,” is a bad idea. Hackers are onto that trick!
3. Maintain Your Anti-Virus Software
If you’re not performing regular updates of your anti-virus software, you’re at greater risk, as hackers find ways to “crack” these tools and to set off new viruses. Staying ahead of them by using the latest versions of software is critical. Also educate employees on the signs to look for to know if their computer’s been hacked.
4. Create A Virtual Private Network (VPN)
VPNs create a far more secure connection between remote computers (computers used by people on the road or working from another location) and other “local” computers and servers. These networks are essentially only available to people and equipment in your system, dramatically decreasing the likelihood that hackers can wreak havoc on your system.
All the tools and tricks in the book won’t do much good if the people using your system aren’t following best practices. Frequent reminders about the risks and the steps to mitigate them will help keep network security top of mind; some organizations work these kinds of updates into mandatory meetings to help communicate the importance. Educating employees about how to avoid major security risks is possibly the greatest weapon you have in combating cybercrime.
When you’re managing your IT internally, the pressure is on to make sure you’re adequately protected against hacking and viruses. While having all these measures in place and ensuring your employees are following best practices, it’s still difficult to keep up with the latest cyber threats. Possibly the best way to overcome these challenges is to enlist the help of a Managed IT provider whose job it is to ensure your systems are secure.
When you work with a Managed IT provider, you get laser-focused monitoring and attention, 24/7. Their expertise is in ensuring maximum system and computer uptime, making sure all of your system’s latest updates are installed, and that day-to-day issues (Is your mouse acting up? Does you monitor look funny?) are addressed quickly and accurately. They’ll also anticipate issues before they cause problems, like computers nearing failure. It’s essentially having a full-time (and then some) team of skilled professionals looking after and protecting your systems.
Worrying about the foregoing burdens of a secure computer network can be a thing of the past when you leverage Managed IT Services. Sound like something you need? Reach out to the Gordon Flesch Company today. Not sure how your current protocols and security measures stack up? Be sure to take our quiz below to determine your risk score. You might be surprised at the results and discover things you hadn’t considered before.