Computer and network security breaches seem to be in the news every day, and they’re costing the organizations that fall prey millions of dollars. In fact, IBM reports that the average cost per incident rose yet again in 2019 to $8.1 million for U.S companies, more than twice as much as the global average. The healthcare industry remains the most vulnerable and experiences the highest average losses.
The facts surrounding cybersecurity can be downright scary, and 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.
It’s hard to know how to protect your network. Fortunately, there are a number of network security best practices that business owners can implement today to secure their data and build more impenetrable protection against hackers and viruses.
1. Put In And Monitor Firewall Performance
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 into access points, 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 and encryption methods, all working in tandem to prevent breaches.
2. Update Passwords At Least Every Quarter
Hopefully, by now your employees know to avoid default passwords or phrases like “password,” “12345” and their dates of birth. In addition to using passwords that feature both letters, symbols and numbers — and some uppercase letters — for added security, require employees to regularly change any personal passwords used on systems that have access to business networks (your business will have its own, but many computers also allow personal passwords).
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!
Every quarter is the recommended frequency, but more often is better. However, there is a fine line: changing passwords too often can cause confusion, leading employees to reach out to IT for reminders of their username and passwords (and we all know how much IT likes getting calls like that!).
Side note: Many businesses now require two-factor authentication to connect to the network. In addition to entering a username and password, users may also need to enter a code they receive via text or by another means to connect to a system or Wi-Fi network.
3. Maintain Your Anti-Virus Software
If you’re not performing regular updates of your anti-virus software, you’re putting your network at greater risk and creating potential cybersecurity issues, as hackers find ways to “crack” these tools and can deploy new viruses. Staying ahead of them by using the latest versions of software is critical.
It’s also a good idea to help employees identify the signs to look for to know if their computer has been hacked. Cybercriminals are increasingly cunning, and even the most vigilant efforts to secure your network could be compromised by an equally vigilant hacker.
4. Create A Virtual Private Network (VPN)
VPNs create a far more secure connection between remote computers (home networks or computers used by people on the road) and other “local” computers and servers. These networks are essentially only available to people who should have access to your systems, including your wireless network, and to equipment that’s been authorized in your network settings. A VPN can dramatically decrease the likelihood that hackers can find a wireless access point and wreak havoc on your system.
5. Training Your Employees
All the tools and tricks in the book won’t do much good if the people using your system aren’t following computer security 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.
6. Ask for Help
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 employees are following best practices, it’s still difficult to keep up with the latest cyber threats. It only takes one employee to forget to change his or her default settings or to click on what seemed an innocent link from someone they thought they knew.
Possibly the best way to overcome these challenges is to enlist the help of a Managed IT provider that stays up on the latest threats and whose job it is to make your systems as secure as possible. When you work with a Managed IT provider, you get laser-focused monitoring and attention, 24/7/365. Their expertise is in ensuring maximum system and computer uptime, making sure all of your system’s latest updates are installed, and even providing resources to educate your employees.
They can help you with day-to-day issues and be there to tackle questions and ensure they’re addressed quickly and resolved accurately. Is your mouse acting up? Does you monitor look funny? Has your computer suddenly slowed to a snail’s pace? They’ll also anticipate issues before they cause problems, like computers nearing failure. It’s essentially like having a full-time (and then some) team of skilled professionals vigilantly looking after and protecting your systems.
The burden of worrying about whether or not your network is secure can be a thing of the past when you leverage Managed IT Services. Sound like something you need or would simply like to explore? Reach out to the Gordon Flesch Company today.
If you’re not sure how your current protocols and security measures stack up, be sure to take our quiz below to determine your cybersecurity risk score. You might be surprised at the results and discover things you hadn’t considered before.