14 Ways to Shore Up Your IT Cybersecurity
Digital transformation (DX) has enabled companies to facilitate remote work, innovate at scale and expand to new market segments and territories without affecting their bottom line. It has revolutionized businesses in the last few months, but also exposed them to cyberattacks. Data theft and other security flaws existed well before the pandemic but the way the attacks have grown in sophistication demands a new way to look at IT cybersecurity standards.
According to Identify Theft Resource Center’s 2021 report, the total number of data compromises was at an all-time high last year. The report also states that there were more cyberattack-related data compromises last year than all data compromises in 2020. Ransomware attacks doubled in 2021 and at this rate, it will surpass phishing scams to be the top cause of data compromises in 2022. The numbers show that despite the noise around cybersecurity, companies are not doing enough—they’re not only making themselves vulnerable but also exposing customer data. If you’re also worried about cyberattacks, here are 14 ways you can protect your business and beef up your IT security:
1. Security Assessment
Before thinking of upgrading your cybersecurity measures or pivoting to a new standard, it’s important to have a clear idea of where you stand at present. Ask yourself: when was the last time you conducted a security assessment and looked at your overall IT network security? A security risk assessment (SRA) should include the following elements:
- Identification of core assets and tech stack and the data feeds that pass through them
- Assessment of the risk levels and creating plans of action to stabilize the relationship between assets and risks
- Mitigation of issues according to their threat levels
- Prevention of data breaches by using new tools and processes to improve workflow.
2. Spam Email
Phishing scams are still going strong because they’ve started replicating the original sender with unusual accuracy. But there are still ways to avoid them.
Use SPF, DKIM, and DMARC records to deter criminals from impersonating your business and ruining your reputation. Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is used to verify whether an authorized server has sent an email on your behalf while DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is used to verify the ownership of the email. Domain-based Message Authentication (DMARC) uses both SPF and DKIM to offer real-time protection against phishing emails.
When it comes to receiving emails, turn on spam filters and ask your email service provider (ESP) to offer a strong suit of security to combat threats. Always check the email address of the sender and verify the links and attachments before clicking on them.
Improve IT security policies on your network to avoid cyberattacks. For instance, you can restrict third-party hard drive or USB file access and enable stronger and more complicated password standards. Promote passphrases over passwords that are easy to remember but hard to guess. Encourage team members to use different passphrases or passwords with a combination of characters and numbers across devices. Periodically review administrator privilege of devices and systems and manually edit user access to close loopholes.
4. Security Awareness
According to a recent study, 63% of successful data breaches came from internal sources. In a lot of cases, team members and contractors weren’t aware of the IT cybersecurity standards they were expected to follow within the company. This brings us to the fourth point—train your workforce often. Teach them about data security, email attacks, and your policies and procedures. Conduct regular workshops and encourage them to adapt to the new standard.
On top of educating your workforce, don’t forget about your users. Make sure you have strong UX to communicate the importance of protecting personal information and contacting the customer reps whenever there’s an issue. Frequent webinars or a video series dedicated to security can help you align your customer base with your standard.
5. Advanced Endpoint Detection and Response
Thanks to IoT devices, the number of endpoints has increased exponentially for businesses. While more endpoints mean more access to data, it also exposes the network to foreign threats. By using an advanced endpoint detection and response system (EDR), you can protect your business from cyberattacks. EDR is the next evolution of antivirus solutions that monitors endpoints in real-time, analyzes and responds to threats, and builds reports to predict disruptions.
6. Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) has quickly become a popular way to filter out cyberattacks and for good reasons. Devices can be stolen, and passwords can be compromised but if you have a second layer of defense to verify a security step, you’re more likely to protect assets from being misused.
Use multi-factor authentication across office, home, business pages, and lifestyle and social media sites. Encourage team members to turn on the feature as well and carefully select the process and devices for MFA.
7. Computer Updates
It’s a very old step but people keep overlooking it. A lot of cyber threats could be mitigated right at the start if all the devices were kept current. Security flaws crop up all the time and zero-day vulnerabilities are often detected and squashed without users realizing. This is why manufacturers and vendors keep alerting us about pending software updates and security patches.
Keep your IT network security up to date with workspace devices and systems current and don’t forget to install security patches as they come. If you’re worried about updates hampering your workflow, you can schedule them at idle hours. Microsoft, Adobe, Java, and other business-critical products should always have the most recent software version for better security.
8. Dark Web Research
Despite their best efforts, organizations fall prey to massive data breaches. Companies like Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Twitter in the past have reported data breaches. Oftentimes the stolen user data is dumped on the dark web where people can exploit them. That’s why it’s important to be aware of whether your email address, passwords, or other personal data have been leaked online
If you can stay on top of compromised data and whether they’ve been actively exploited in the dark web will allow you to build a company culture based on safety and security. By combing through the dark web, we find issues with your business and implement strategies to nullify the situation.
9. SIEM/Log Management
If you want to keep up with the evolving cybersecurity threats, you have to upgrade to SIEM or log management software.
SIEM stands for Security Incident & Event Management. It reviews all the events, security logs, and audit trails from the authorized devices to analyze the indicators of compromise and roll-out strategies to prevent them from bringing your business to a standstill. SIEM is used to mitigate advanced threats and meet compliance requirements, something that can also be done with a log management software (LMS).
Both of these options allow you to keep a centralized reservoir of all the records but LMS doesn’t analyze or offer predictive solutions. It requires a security analyst to turn the raw data into actionable processes. However, both SIEM and LMS allow you to gain transparency, neutralize threats and follow compliance standards.
10. Web Gateway Security
Internet security is constantly evolving one. You’ll find professionally made websites containing trojan codes and well-crafted emails containing malware. It’s important to use a shield to stop malicious agents from interacting with your internal assets.
Cloud-based gateway security detects various types of threats as they emerge on the internet and blocks them within seconds – before they reach the user. They blocked URLs that are not authorized from entering the network and restricted internal data from flowing outside.
Web gateway services encrypt traffic in real-time, prevent data theft, employ HTTPS protocols, and integrate with existing security systems to improve user experience online.
11. Mobile Device Security
Cybercriminals try various ways to break into businesses and one of the most effective ones these days is attacking the employee’s personal devices. They’re aware of the fact that not every business owner has taken steps to protect mobile devices. However, an end-to-end mobile device security can address this issue.
Mobile device security is crucial to facilitate “bring your own device” (BYOD) programs. It also offers data backup, remote control, compliance checks, and remote account access. However, the biggest advantage of having mobile device management (MDM) in place is peace of mind.
Team members often let their guards down while using their personal devices not knowing that attackers can trace back to their workspaces via the details available in the mobile. With remote work now the norm, it’s even more important to keep all the devices of an employee protected from cybercriminals.
Firewall and web gateways are two different components of cybersecurity. While secure web gateways check application packets and set browsing rules for the users, firewalls identify data packets and follow pre-set rules. Both of them essentially monitor the internet and the network, and businesses should use both components.
Regarding the firewall, you should activate intrusion detection and intrusion prevention features. An intrusion detection system (IDS) alerts users about potential issues while the intrusion prevention system (IPS) goes one step ahead and takes automated action to mitigate the threats. IDS and IPS log files are sent to a managed SIEM to build a holistic picture of your organization’s security health and find out hidden threats.
Data encryption is a crucial line of defense against sophisticated malware attacks. Businesses use either a symmetric key to encode and decode information or use two asymmetric keys (one public, one private) to encrypt and decrypt data. You must encrypt all forms of data regardless of whether they’re in transit or stored away safely. Emails and mobile devices particularly require strong encryption to keep the moving data safe.
For encryption, use a zero-trust model, diversify key locations, and use one-way hash function to protect yourself.
Data backups cannot be an afterthought or an option anymore—you have to diversify the ways you back up mission-critical data. Before starting to back up your data, have a policy in place, identify the different types of data you need to store, and the recovery process.
It’s a good idea to store crucial data in the cloud so that you can migrate to different systems seamlessly. With backups, you’re protected from cyberattacks as you can minimize downtime and recover quickly.
However, it’s also a wise decision to keep an offline copy of your data. Monthly offline backups should allow you to expand the nature of backed-up files. But if you’re not sure if you’re backing up correctly, or if your backup systems are working, get to the bottom of that as soon as possible. Corrupted or incomplete backups can defeat the entire purpose of securing your business.
IT Cybersecurity for businesses has evolved to the point that business owners must use a holistic approach to combat threats. Invest in a lean but verified stack, involve, and empower your workforce, and prepare to respond to challenges quickly in order to mitigate costs related to IT cybersecurity attacks.