In this ever-changing world of technology, cybersecurity is important as ever, not only for huge enterprises, but even more so for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). While cyber threats has always been a major concern, SMEs have never been as much at risk as they are in the pandemic. In fact, SMEs are prime target for cyber attacks, as they are often unprepared for it, which makes them vulnerable to these threats.
Cyber threats are amplified since the hit of COVID-19 pandemic, as companies extend their commitment to remote workforce. The shift to a digital business environment has inevitably provided lots of opportunities for cybercriminals, where they took advantage of this expanded attack surface to launch phishing, vishing, ransomware and other social engineering crimes. As most people started working from home, it has become apparent that not all organizations have the infrastructure to provide cybersecurity solutions in a remote working environment.
In hopes to help businesses avoid or reduce the risk of being victim of a cyber attack, here are some tips to protect your business against cyber attacks and improve your overall data security, especially when most of your employees are working from home:
1. Train Your Employees on Cybersecurity Best Practices
Employee awareness on cyber attacks is vital, as one of the most common ways cybercriminals get access to your data is through your employees. Malicious links and emails could seem legitimate to an untrained eye and it’s easy to fall into the trap.
Educate your employees on the basics of cybersecurity and keep them up-to-date with all the threats your business is exposed to. Train them on how to identify these threats and what to do in case they encounter a suspicious link, file or email.
2. Keep Your Software and Systems Updated
Operating systems or software that are not updated to the latest version and lacking in the latest security measures may have loopholes that can be exploited by hackers to gain access to your company’s network and steal sensitive data, causing massive damage to your business and its reputation.
To prevent this from happening, it is ideal to check all your major software for the latest updates or new security patches and apply them on all devices. Alternatively, consider to invest in a patch management system that will manage all software and system updates, keeping your system resilient and up-to-date automatically. It is also important that your employees do not disregard any update prompts.
3. Activate Data Encryption
Data encryption remains one of the most efficient forms of safety against data breaches. Encryption converts data into a secret code before it is sent over the internet, thus it is important to encrypt any data you send and receive online, as this makes it more difficult for hackers to steal, tamper or destroy it.
Employees are encouraged to activate network and data encryption when storing and sharing data. This can be done through the use of a strong encryption password or a Virtual Private Network (VPN) software on computers, mobile devices and tablets that are connected to the corporate networks. This is especially useful when accessing the internet on public Wi-Fi. The goal is to make sure that data collected through your business is safely stored to prevent unauthorized access.
4. Install Robust Anti-Malware and Firewall Software
With so many different types of sophisticated data breaches and new ones surface every day, it is important to invest in an anti-malware and firewall software that is specially designed to deal with the latest malware threats and defending your business from any cyber attack.
To prevent these threats from attacking in the first place, it is critical to put your network behind a firewall which can block any brute force attacks made on your network and systems before it can do any damage. Not only does it log and prevent any intrusion attempts, a firewall also serves as a filter to ensure that your employees cannot access potentially harmful websites while logged in.
5. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Another good standard practice to protect from data breaches is the use of multi-factor authentication. This is a verification process where it requires users to provide two or more proofs of identities to gain access to their accounts, adding another layer of security.
Multi-factor authentication essentially blocks access to malicious hackers that may have acquired your email address and password details through malware, email phishing or other methods. To make this practice more effective, you can set up an alert that will trigger when there is a login attempt from a suspicious IP address where your username and password was entered.
6. Backup Your Systems and Data
Backing up data is among the most cost-effective and important ways of making sure information can be recovered in the event of a cyber attack incident, computer issues or a disaster. It is advisable to have multiple backup methods to ensure data safety, including performing regular incremental backups to cloud storage (recommended) or a portable device. Those data should be checked often to see if it’s working properly and can be restored.
Data backup on cloud storage should use strong encryption methods and multi-factor authentication to ensure secure data protection. As for portable devices, they should be stored separately offsite as safeguard against theft and other physical damage.
7. Replace Passwords with Passphrases
Consider using passphrases instead of passwords, especially for accounts that hold important business information. It requires the use of phrases or a mixture of words, making it more difficult for hackers to crack. The more unpredictable and unrelated it is, the better.
It is also important to use different passwords setup for different sites, and changing them regularly will maintain a high level of protection against unwanted external and internal threats. With the overwhelming number of passwords that you need to manage, it is common to use the same password for multiple accounts. A password vault or a password management application helps you to keep your passwords locked down.
8. Control Access to Restricted Information
Cybersecurity breaches can happen internally when someone accesses your files or information without permission. Therefore, having control over who can access your network is really important.
Regardless of business size, you should consider establishing a controlled environment where devices connected within the business network are only those that are approved. Besides, it is also good to have a perimeter security system installed to prevent cybercrime and break-ins.
9. Establish A Strong Incident Response Plan
A well-planned and solid incident response plan will pave the way for a swift action if your company does experience a cyber attack in the future. It should have a well-defined escalation path, where proactive communication should be prioritized, including the courses of action that all employees have to adopt in case such unfortunate incident occurs.
Before anything else, it is a good practice to implement clear cybersecurity policies to guide employees on what is acceptable when sharing or receiving data, accessing the internet, etc.
10. Appoint A Security Expert
Monitoring the safety of your business could be yet another challenge that requires time and effort, in addition to managing other responsibilities of your business. Furthermore, it requires technical skills to identify real threats from false alarms.
Depending on the nature and size of your business, consider to seek help from security experts – they can create a strong, protected network for your business while preventing security gaps and system loopholes. After all, the cost of appointing a security expert is far less than the cost of paying a data breach.
Volservers Solutions is a trusted digital consultancy and IT services provider in Malaysia with the expertise, experience and enthusiasm in Software (Web and Mobile Apps) Development, Managed IT and Cybersecurity services, helping your brand to thrive in the digital age with ease and confidence.
For more information on our Cybersecurity services, please contact us at +60193688882 for a free consultation with our security experts.