A cybercrime occurs every 39 seconds. Which means, on average, 808,615 attacks happen per year. With around 6 million companies in the U.S., it means 1 in every 7 will be targeted by hackers. It’s easy to assume your company will be one of the fortunate six. But if not, you could risk losing millions of dollars and – potentially – your business.
So, now is the time to double down on your cybersecurity investment. If you have not invested yet, now is the time to get started. Whether you’re the former or the latter, we are here to help. In this brief but comprehensive cybersecurity guide, we’ll break down the basics of cybersecurity, why it’s crucial for businesses, and go over some best practices you can implement today.
The Basics of Cybersecurity
Let’s begin our cybersecurity guide with a definition. Cybersecurity protects computer systems, networks, and data from unauthorized access, attacks, and damage. Simply put, it’s like putting a protective wall around your digital world.
Common cyber threats include:
- Malware: Software designed to harm or exploit computer systems.
- Phishing: A strategy that attempts to deceive individuals into divulging sensitive information.
- Ransomware: A version of malware that encrypts files, demanding payment for their release. This has become even more common, with 44 percent of companies falling victim to ransomware in the last year.
Why Cybersecurity Matters for Businesses
These cyber dangers can wreak havoc, compromising personal information, financial data, and even the integrity of entire systems. Cybercrimes can lead to significant financial losses, impacting a company’s bottom line and hindering its growth. It might even shut them down entirely. According to recent statistics, 83 percent of small and medium-sized businesses are unprepared to recover financially from a cyber-attack. Investing in cybersecurity is an essential aspect of safeguarding financial stability.
A breach not only affects finances but also damages the reputation of a business. Rebuilding client trust in your brand after a cybersecurity incident can be a lengthy and challenging process. To top it all off, failure to implement cybersecurity measures may result in extensive legal ramifications, such as lawsuits and fines, depending on your industry.
Top 8 Cybersecurity Best Practices
In short, cybersecurity isn’t a “nice to have” but a “must have.” This leads us to the main point of this cybersecurity guide: our eight best practices.
1. Your Employee Training for Cybersecurity
Ensuring you and your colleagues are well-prepared to tackle cybersecurity challenges is critical to keeping your data safe. Many cyber breaches happen because of unintentional mistakes, so regular training and simulations can help you recognize and avoid potential threats. You can be better prepared by practicing responses to common cyber threats in a safe environment. Creating a security-conscious culture also encourages everyone to prioritize cybersecurity daily, reducing the risk of falling victim to cyberattacks.
2. Being Aware of Phishing and Email Security
Phishing is a common way cybercriminals try to trick individuals into sharing sensitive information through deceptive emails. To counter this threat, be sure to analyze who sent the email, avoid clicking on suspicious links, and verify unexpected requests for sensitive information. Implementing email security measures, like advanced spam filters, can act as another protective barrier against phishing attacks. Especially since 94 percent of malware is delivered by email.
3. Creating Strong Passwords
Passwords are your first line of defense against unauthorized access. Make sure to create strong and unique passwords, ones with numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and special characters. Consider using multi-factor authentication (MFA) for an extra layer of security, requiring you to provide two or more verification factors. Password managers can help you create and store complicated passwords securely, reducing the risk of password-related vulnerabilities.
4. Keeping Software Updated
Unpatched vulnerabilities are responsible for 60 percent of all data breaches. Regularly updating software is essential for addressing vulnerabilities and improving overall security. Outdated software is a common target for cyberattacks, so check for and apply updates regularly. This proactive approach helps ensure potential weaknesses are addressed immediately, decreasing the risk of exploitation by cybercriminals.
5. Protecting Your Network
Network security is about safeguarding communication pathways within your organization. Firewalls stand between your trusted internal network and untrusted external networks, monitoring and controlling traffic. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) alert you to potential security threats. At the same time, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) encrypt internet connections for secure data transmission. Secure Wi-Fi networks with solid encryption protocols prevent unauthorized access, reducing the risk of cyber break-ins.
6. Encrypting Your Data
Encrypting data converts information into a code to prevent unauthorized access. Prioritize encrypting sensitive information, both when stored and when transmitted between systems. End-to-end encryption ensures data remains encrypted throughout its entire journey. Choosing secure communication channels, like those with encryption protocols such as HTTPS, enhances the protection of sensitive data, preventing unauthorized interception or tampering.
7. Backing Up Your Data and Having a Recovery Plan
Regularly backing up data is crucial to mitigate the impact of data loss in case of a cyber incident or hardware failure. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan outlines steps to respond to various incidents, ensuring a swift and effective recovery process. Regularly testing backup and recovery procedures helps verify their effectiveness and identify potential issues before a real-world incident occurs, minimizing downtime and data loss.
8. Be Proactive About Monitoring and Incident Response
It’s essential to proactively monitor your systems for any signs of unusual activity. Our advice in this particular cybersecurity guide is to begin by making a Security Incident Response Plan (SIRP) before any unusual activity occurs. Here’s a simple five-step SIRP guide to get you started:
- Identify Your Team. Form a dedicated team responsible for handling security incidents.
- Define Incident Types. Clearly outline the types of security incidents your plan will cover.
- Create Response Procedures. Develop step-by-step procedures for each incident type to ensure a swift and organized response.
- Create a Communication Plan. Establish a communication strategy to ensure everyone is informed during an incident.
- Provide Regular Training. Keep your team well-prepared through regular training sessions, drills, and simulations.
Once that’s completed, set up monitoring tools to detect potential security incidents. Regularly review logs and alerts to identify and address security threats promptly. Taking these steps will help minimize the impact of a potential breach and boost your cybersecurity resilience, or rather your ability to “bounce back” from a breach.
Be Sure to Stay Informed and Adapting to New Threats
Cyber threats constantly evolve, so staying informed about the latest developments is crucial. Regularly update your knowledge on emerging cyber threats, vulnerabilities, and attack techniques. Follow reputable cybersecurity news sources, attend relevant training sessions, and participate in industry forums to stay abreast of current trends. We’d also advise you to collaborate with your security team and share information about potential threats. By keeping pace with new developments, you can quickly and easily adapt your cybersecurity practices to address new threats ASAP.
This Cybersecurity Guide Applies to Your Remote Workers Too!
Cybersecurity isn’t just a concern within office walls—it also extends to your remote workforce. Remote connections bring unique risks, but bolstering your defenses is achievable with a few straightforward measures:
- Advocate that they use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to encrypt internet connections, making data interception by cybercriminals more challenging. You can even provide a VPN for them if you want.
- Remind employees to secure their home Wi-Fi networks to prevent unauthorized access.
- Install endpoint protection software on their devices to detect and block malicious activities.
- Develop and communicate clear policies for reporting lost or stolen devices, ensuring a swift response to potential security threats.
Implementing the practices outlined in this cybersecurity guide will create a more secure work environment no matter where your teams are located.
Get Access to All These Best Practices and More with Xtel
Cybersecurity is not a one-time investment. It’s an ongoing commitment. By using these best practices, you can create a more secure digital environment for yourself and your team – whether they’re in the office or not. Want to avoid becoming a data breach statistic? Then, reach out to the team at Xtel! We can build a solution that ticks all your cybersecurity boxes, from employee training to incident responses.