Cybersecurity is quickly becoming an important aspect in all fields of business. Whether you work in health sciences, investment, software, consulting, public relations, or literally any other field of modern work, you’ll need to keep your data secure.
That’s why here, we’ve collected seven of the most important principles to remember when you’re considering cybersecurity and its importance to your business.
1. Keep Your Software Updated.
This might seem like it’s just common sense, but think about it: for many busy business owners, as well as everyday employees, updating your computer or your normal working software can be a huge pain. You need to download it, reboot your computer, and wait for the software to finish installing before you can work again. If you’re on any sort of deadline, it’s incredibly tempting to just put that software update for your web browser or your email app off until the next time.
The problem is, those software updates are in place to keep you and your data safe from hackers! Updates patch former security hazards and make your computer more secure. If your software is a version or two behind, that just gives hackers more and more vulnerabilities to make use of. If you truly want to lesses such opportunities for cybersecurity threats, one of the best things you can do is simply go with it every time your software or your operating system notifies you of an update.
2. Use Strong Passwords and Change Them Regularly.
Manage your network security by using passwords that are long and that include a wide variety of characters: numbers, letters, symbols, changes between uppercase and lowercase, etc. As a minimum, passwords should probably be at least 10 characters, if not more.
If you’re a business owner, this doesn’t apply just to you and your personal computer(s); your employees need to have good password practices as well if you want to ensure that your network is secure. This means that regular prompts or a system that requires employees to change their passwords every couple of months are a good idea.
In addition, having a specific set of rules or policies that deal with password sharing (Is it allowed on Slack, or email only? Which types of documents can contain passwords? Who changes the passwords regularly, and who do they notify about it?) can make security more manageable as well.
Finally, one technology worth looking into is multifactor authentication or requiring individuals to use two different steps to log in. For example, logging in with an email and password, but then also entering a code from a text sent to your phone. It’s more secure than a system where you only have a single login method.
3. Train and Keep Employees Regularly Updated
All the cybersecurity software in the world and all the best practices that your IT services professional tells you are necessary won’t be worth a dime if employees don’t know how to manage your cybersecurity systems on their own. In order for your organization as a whole to have effective cybersecurity, employees will need to know your policies and software themselves.
In addition to that, today’s technologized workplaces dictate that even entry-level employees should be educated about some of the most common cybersecurity threats, like phishing and malware. Anybody in your company could open up a suspicious email and unlock a nasty piece of software, regardless of their age, experience level or status within the company.
Any business owner concerned about cybersecurity should make sure employees know how to spot and avoid common threats, whether on social media, in an email inbox or while browsing online. This kind of training is just as essential as having cybersecurity software in the first place. In addition, if a certain type of cybersecurity threat becomes more salient or your software/practices change, make sure your employees know! Changing your protocols is useless if they’re not actually correctly implemented.
4. Decide When and Where to Limit Access to Sensitive Information.
Chances are, there are at least some pieces of information in your network that could be more damaging than others if they fell into the wrong hands. It could be your company’s financial records or some sort of client information. Depending on your field, it could even be confidential information that the general public should not and can not be privy to. If that’s the case, then limiting access to certain information and parts of your network, even among employees, may be a good bet.
Sure, it’s not a 100% perfect solution, as even experienced, high-level employees can still slip up and accidentally create or expose cybersecurity vulnerabilities. But the fewer people who know a password or a login, or the fewer people who have access to your company’s most sensitive data, the less likely that information is to be stolen.
This kind of policy could take place through many different methods. It could be something as simple as requiring that employees lock up their work computers when not in use, so as to prevent unauthorized access. It could mean that only IT staff get administrator privileges when creating staff accounts on personal computers. It could even mean that only employees of a certain level get access to confidential information. Whatever the avenue, limiting access to information and physical hardware is one way to up security.
5. Have a Game Plan.
No matter how good your cybersecurity software is and no matter how much talent your IT professional has, at some point your business will have to face a cybersecurity threat of one kind or another. Threats differ in seriousness, and your company could come out of it more or less unscathed. But having a game plan in place to ensure there’s a way to deal with a potential cybersecurity incident is important to ensure you’re prepared for the worst.
One way to have a game plan is to have one employee (or a consultant) on hand specifically in case of a cybersecurity emergency. Another idea would be to do regular backups of your firm’s working files and programs so that all that information will still be there in the case that you suffer severe or total data loss.
Either way, cybersecurity threats are now so prevalent that it’s less a matter of “if” and more a question of “when.” Having a response plan in place is essential for any good business, no matter how big or small.
6. Set Regulations for Personal Devices, Working From Home and Phone Usage
When company software and data gets spread out onto employees’ personal devices and networks, significant security vulnerabilities can ensue.
Here’s one example: Let’s say you have an employee named Bob. When Bob comes to work every day, he has to login to your company’s network through his work computer, using multifactor authentication. His data is very secure this way, and he’s required to change his password every 30 days due to company policy anyway. But one day, Bob needs to take some work home and emails files to himself to access from his home computer. The issue is, Bob’s home computer has no password and his email login is the four-letter name of his family cat. Now, none of your password policies matter because those files are much more accessible to would-be hackers on Bob’s home computer.
This is just one example. In general, when information gets spread onto personal devices, and especially onto cell phones and tablets, it gets harder and harder to protect with any measure of certainty. Setting concrete rules for how information is shared across devices and onto home networks can ensure a more robust cybersecurity defense.
7. Pay Attention to Your Firewall.
Finally, we’ll finish up with one last security principle that also seems like common sense: always use a firewall. Of course, anybody who uses the internet needs a firewall, from individuals to businesses to governments. But businesses, in particular, need to pay special attention to their firewall’s settings and what it protects.
If your firewall is too restrictive, it could easily jam up your day-to-day operations and make basic tasks like sending and receiving emails difficult.
On the other hand, businesses often send and receive a staggering amount of information every day through online channels. This means that if your firewall is too lax, you’re opening up a wide variety of information to anybody who wants to take a peek. It’s worth putting a lot of time (and money) into configuring a firewall that’s right for your business.
If you follow these 7 core principles, your firm should be in good shape to handle any incoming cybersecurity threats, no matter how serious. As cybersecurity threats increase year after year, keeping your business’ data safe is of paramount importance — but it doesn’t have to be a chore! Staying on top of everyday security practices, using common sense when opening up suspicious emails and messages, and keeping a healthy IT department could be all it takes to ensure your firm is totally future-proof in the internet age.