With so many attacks and data breaches making the headlines in the past few years, it's easy for anyone to see how cybersecurity is essential to protect businesses. It may be a bit harder, though, to have a clear idea of how to actually implement and manage cybersecurity. Thinking of that, we've put together a few tips to help you know where to start.
Those tips are especially useful for small businesses, but they are helpful for users and IT technicians in larger companies as well. If security is already a priority for you, the tips listed here are probably a no-brainer, but remember it might not be the same for your users. So feel free to share this article with them, so you're all on the same page.
1. Acknowledge that you are vulnerable to attacks
Hackers target businesses and users, and that's it. There's no "but", no exception. It doesn't matter your company's size, segment or location: you're just as likely to be a victim as everyone else. Information that might not seem valuable to you, such as employee details, might be gold to hackers. If you neglect that risk, you're endangering your financial health, your brand reputation and your relationship with customers and employees.
So, our first tip is for you to acknowledge that you might be the target of an attack, and use that to start seeing cybersecurity as an investment, not as an expense.
2. Identify your security needs
Your cybersecurity needs will vary depending on your business goals, on the kind of data you deal with and on where and how it is stored. Not all data is worth the same nor requires the same level of protection. More important data, such as payment information, for example, should have adequate protection and be kept on a different data storage. So think about what data or systems are crucial to keep your business running and start from there. If you are unsure of where to focus your efforts, you may ask for the help of a specialist or work with a Managed Service Provider (MSP).
3. Keep software and computers updated
Keeping software and computers updated is a basic tip, yet one that is still overlooked by many users and even technicians. New versions and updates are often released to address bugs and breaches that could make it easier for hackers to access your system. We can't stress enough the importance of making sure that all your operating systems, software (including security software, such as antivirus) and web browsers are up to date. If you're using cloud software, make sure that you enable the option of automatic updates by the provider.
4. Implement a cybersecurity policy
Creating a cybersecurity policy, with best practices and rules that should be followed by every user, is a simple and effective way to improve your business's protection. It should include requirements for the use of strong passwords and how often they should be changed; tips for recognizing the most common attacks and scams; standards for the use of social media; what is acceptable in terms of internet use and attachment downloads; how data transfer should be handled; which systems to use when sharing confidential data; how to report incidents; among others.
5. Train your users
Besides implementing a cybersecurity policy, your company should also make sure that employees fully understand it and are able to recognize the most common scams and attacks. Regular training is the best way to reduce the chance of human error. Send your users regular tips, promote trainings so they can identify scams based on phishing and social engineering, teach them how to use mobile devices safely etc.
6. Watch out for malicious emails
Email is the most common vector for cyberattacks, from massive spam campaigns to sophisticated, targeted scams and ransomware distribution. Investing in email security awareness is one of the best things you can do to protect your business. Learn and teach your users how to recognize malicious emails and consider investing in specific email security software.
7. Back up your data
Make sure you have a periodic, secure backup system in place. In case the worst happens, you'll have a copy of your data somewhere else. That alone minimizes the risk of having to pay a ransom if an attack occurs, and allows your business to keep running as usual.
8. Have a plan in case things go wrong
So the worst case scenario occurred and you (or any other user in the company, really) are now faced with the task of reporting and/or dealing with a cyberattack. What do you do now?
Businesses, even small ones, should definitely prepare for that and have an Incident Response plan ready to guide the team during those stressful moments. It should include details on how users can report security breaches; establish clear roles for strategic employees, stating who is responsible for what; outline a communication strategy to inform employees and third parties; describe how to notify law enforcement agencies; and, if you don't have your own IT security team available, display the contacts of IT specialists or security providers that could be contacted.
If you plan accordingly, there's no need to panic. Just keep calm!