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10 Proven Ways to Secure a Computer Network

David Eichkorn
04/28/2021
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Computer 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 in 2020 was $8.64 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’s hard to know how to secure a network, especially for small- and medium-sized organizations that don’t have a full-time IT staff to oversee system maintenance.

Fortunately, there are a number of computer network security best practices that business owners can implement today to secure their data and build more impenetrable protection against hackers and viruses.

  1. Install and monitor firewall performance
  2. Update passwords at least every quarter
  3. Lean on Advanced Endpoint Detection
  4. Create a virtual private network (VPN)
  5. Train your employee
  6. Filter and delete spam emails
  7. Shut down computers when not in use
  8. Encrypt your files
  9. Secure personal devices
  10. Ask for help

1. Install 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.

Cybersecurity Tips for Employees Infographic CTA

3. Lean on Advanced Endpoint Detection

In order to respond to the continually evolving online threats in the world today, advanced endpoint detection and response is technology that uses AI to watch for indications of compromise and react accordingly. The technology collects and analyzes information from network devices, endpoint logs and threat intelligence feeds, identifying security incidents, policy violations, fraudulent activity and other threats. In order to respond more quickly, these solutions employ a high degree of automation to enable security teams to quickly identify and respond to threats.

Indications of compromise include behavior characteristics related to threat actor intrusion, malware, ransomware and traditional virus-like behavior. More advanced than anti-virus software, endpoint detection and response is part of a modern, layered, proactive approach to cybersecurity to defend against ever-changing cyberattacks.

4. Create A Virtual Private Network (VPN)

With millions of workers now working remotely because of the pandemic, there’s been a 300% increase in reported cybercrimes since COVID-19 began. 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 of hackers finding a wireless access point and wreaking havoc on your system.

5. Train 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 their importance. Educating employees about how to avoid major security risks is possibly the greatest weapon you have in combating cybercrime.

Some organizations work these kinds of updates into mandatory meetings to help communicate their importance. Educating employees about how to avoid major security risks is possibly the greatest weapon you have in combating cybercrime.

6. Filter and Delete Spam Emails

Phishing emails from hackers are crafted in a way to entice your employees to open them and click on sensational offers or links. Spam filters have advanced considerably and should be leveraged. Even so, the occasional spam email may make it through, especially if a hacker is mimicking someone you know, like a professional colleague or company you do business with. Employees need to use their common sense filters in addition to any spam filter software.

7. Shut Down Computers When Not in Use

When is the last time you shut down your computer after a long day at work? When your computer is sitting idle overnight while connected to your company’s network, it becomes more visible and available to hackers. By shutting down your computer, you’re limiting their access to your network. And if they’ve already gained access, you’re disrupting their connection.

8. Encrypt Your Files

The thought of a hacker getting inside your networks is a major cause for alarm. Imagine, however, their surprise when all they find is a bunch of gibberish? Encryption can protect sensitive data on Windows or macOS using software specifically designed to mask your IP address. You can identify whether a website has been secured using encryption by looking for “https” in the address bar along with a padlock icon.

9. Secure Personal Devices

Employees increasingly use their smartphones and other personal devices to access information at work. Consider implementing a policy for using personal devices to ensure individuals are following security protocols. Some quick tips for securing both personal information and sensitive work data include turning off your Bluetooth, never using unsecured public Wi-Fi, and following the same advice for complex personal device passcodes as you would for your work computer systems.

10. 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 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 your 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 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 Elevity today.

If you’re not sure how your current protocols and security solutions measures stack up, be sure to take our quiz to determine your cybersecurity risk score. You might be surprised at the results and discover things you hadn’t considered before. And use our Cybersecurity Checklist below for a list of issues to look for.

Cybersecurity risks checklist CTA

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