With each new high-profile hacking incident, business owners reel in horror and breathe a sigh of relief that it didn’t happen to their company. That relief is only partial at best though, as business and nonprofit leaders wonder if their organization will be the next victim.
Protecting sensitive information and the networks that access this key business data is a critical task that becomes more challenging each day. How can you keep your data from falling into the wrong hands, being held for ransom or making its way to the unseemly edges of the web where cybercriminals lurk?
Network security requires a good understanding of the many risks that exist in the digital environment, as well as the right tools and policies to prevent these risks from being realized. Every organization has a unique risk profile and associated needs for bolstering security, but large or small, your business can benefit from these network security strategies.
1. Prioritize email security.
The number one risk to your network’s security is email. When someone on the network clicks on the wrong link in an incoming message or responds to a phishing attempt, hackers can gain access to your entire network. In some cases, they may even get into email accounts, which allows them to send and receive messages posing as the account owner. Thorough training and consistent enforcement of an email safety policy is the best way to counter this threat. In addition, you can utilize email security applications that check outgoing messages for inappropriate data and filter out many – but not all – attempted attacks from external sources.
2. Control network access.
Who’s supposed to be on the network? Network access control (NAC) keeps unwelcome network visitors out by establishing the identity of all authorized users and devices. If a request for access comes from an unrecognized source, NAC tools can reject access until the person or device has acquired the appropriate credentials. To minimize risk to the network, create strong user identification protocols and enforce access controls strictly. Issue credentials for new hires and remove access for ex-employees right away, updating the system immediately with current data.
3. Segment the network.
Controlling access isn’t just about letting users in and out of the main ‘doors’ to the network. Consider segmenting your network to let users access only what they need. By limiting access to certain people, specific locations or different categories of devices, you can minimize overall risk and limit potential damage.
4. Use strong antivirus and anti-malware programs.
Despite training and vigilance, network users may unknowingly download something malicious. When these events occur, good antivirus and anti-malware software can detect the threat and quarantine or eliminate it before it wreaks havoc in your network. Be sure to update antivirus and anti-malware libraries immediately so the programs can recognize the newest dangers, and keep this software running at all times. If a program does detect a threat, make sure you know how to fully remove it from the network.
5. Maintain a sound firewall.
Though occasionally inconvenient, firewalls provide a barrier to the dangers of the open internet by allowing traffic in and out of your network based on established rules. Keep your organization’s firewall on at all times, unless a trusted IT professional briefly removes this protection to complete necessary work on the network.
6. Patch software quickly.
Software applications aren’t always as secure as users and developers hope. When hackers discover and exploit security vulnerabilities, they can get into your network through the programs you depend on for daily work. Don’t wait to update software with patches that remedy identified vulnerabilities, since cybercriminals are actively looking for a chance to get in via these virtual cracks. However urgent the work, it can wait while you update or reinstall software for maximum security.
Keeping networks secure is a complex task that’s best handled by well-trained security specialists. These strategies will help you do your part to keep cyberthreats at bay, but for maximum security contact the Managed IT experts at HBP.