11 Simple (and Cheap) Ways to Secure Your Business Network
Cybersecurity doesn’t have to break your budget
The success of your business is tied, in a very real way, to the security of your office network and your data. If you leave your network or your data vulnerable to attack, you could ultimately lose the trust of your customers—and, at worst, that could mean the end of your business.
Fortunately, you can take specific, concrete steps to keep your network secure and protect your data. And you can do so without investing large amounts of time or money in equipment or IT security staff. In fact, many of the most important security steps don’t cost anything, and simply require implementing some new habits.
1. Install security updates when you see notifications
All of your software—your browser, applications, operating system, everything—should be configured to automatically notify you of security updates, and you should always install and apply those updates immediately. Devices that run out of date software are more vulnerable to viruses and hacking. Software development companies are well aware of this reality and work diligently to fix software defects before cybercriminals can identify and exploit the loopholes. Software developers release updates, also known as patches, designed to improve security, performance and usability. Installing software updates as soon as they are available is a smart business decision and has many long-term advantages for your IT.
2. Schedule regular backups
Work files should be backed up to the cloud and to a physical hard drive that you can quickly access in an emergency. You probably know about ransomware, which holds your files for an exorbitant ransom fee. You can render this kind of attack meaningless if you have an on-site, up-to-date backup. Simply reinstall your files from your backup drive.
3. Restrict user rights on office devices
If a user doesn’t need administrator privileges or doesn’t need access to enterprise-level administration, create a regular user account instead of an administrator account. Ask your IT team to handle non-admin work from a regular user account and only log into an admin account when necessary. Switching users takes seconds, but can save hours of heartache from an unintentional mishap.
4. Log off at the end of the day
Log out of your computer when you’re not using it, or set up a screensaver that is password-protected. For your account login, use a strong password that no one can guess. In most cases, the strongest passwords combine upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. Get in the habit of logging out when you walk away from your desk—and make sure everyone else in the office does, too.
5. Educate your employees
Is your staff aware of the real dangers of cyber attacks and prepared to spot, respond to and avoid them? Do they understand how phishing attacks happen or what’s at stake in a ransomware incident? Do they know how they can protect company information? Education is an effective approach to mitigating the effects of cyber attacks.
6. Use Multi factor authentication
Multi factor authentication technology means using more than one means of verifying your identity online each time you log in to social media, a banking website or even the office network. MFA uses at least two of the following: something you know (password, PIN), something you are (facial recognition, fingerprints), or something you have (hardware security key). Enable MFA on your corporate network and office devices.
7. Enable the latest security settings for WiFi
WPA3 is the latest security protocol for WiFi networks. WPA3, for starters, encrypts wireless data, making it unrecognizable to hackers and cybercriminals. WPA3 improves on older security protocols such as WPA2, offering many enhanced features. For example, WPA3 uses a “handshake” between your network and wireless devices to verify authentication. If a device is offline, it only allows someone to guess the WiFi password once. Older routers might need to be upgraded to support WPA3. Check with the router manufacturer for firmware updates to ensure you have the latest protocols in place.
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8. Install a firewall
At a minimum, enable Windows Firewall or the application firewall on the Mac. Ideally, ensure that you have a firewall on your router to protect the entire network. A firewall is a layer of internet security that attempts to let good traffic through while blocking hackers from entering and using your computer. Hackers send out pings (calls) to thousands of computers and wait for responses. Firewalls prevent your computer from responding to these random calls.
9. Use VLANs to separate traffic on your network
A VLAN, or Virtual Local Area Network, is a networking technology that groups together devices on separate local area networks. VLANs can improve office security because they offer greater control over which devices have access to each other. Users should be on one VLAN; servers should be on a separate one. Your public-facing servers can be accessed by people from outside your network; you want to keep your private, trusted, internal network completely separate from any potential outside attack.
10. Encrypt sensitive data on individual computers
You can easily encrypt data on Windows and on Mac without investing in additional software. It’s a good idea to encrypt all sensitive information on the computers in your office; it’s absolutely critical that all employees using laptops do so.
11. Protect office communication channels
Incoming and outgoing communication—especially corporate email—is a common target for cyber threats. Strong email security should include anti-spam and spam filters. Encryption software that secures both the email and the connection between servers can prevent your emails from being intercepted and read by hackers, and mined for data.
Because of the complexity of threats to your network, there is no way to guarantee that networks and data can be protected at all times, but not implementing even the simplest security measures will absolutely put your business at greater risk.