It can feel like there’s no easy way to do cybersecurity. Over the past few years, the number and sophistication of threats have made response plans challenging to formulate. That difficulty is especially acute for startups that might lack a dedicated IT department. In reality, a few simple strategies can help keep your business safe from cybercrime. Here are five measures that any entrepreneur can employ.
Know Your Network
The first and most important way to secure your systems is to know them. All software has vulnerabilities, and it pays to know every piece of software installed on your company’s computers (and how it functions). You don’t have to become an IT professional. Just know the basic layout of your network and the programs used. If your sales teams use digital tools, look up “what is customer data platform software?” and learn how the software functions. Make sure that updates are installed on your systems as they become available since they often contain vital patches for vulnerabilities. Hackers are betting on the ignorance of managers. Prove them wrong.
Train Employees to Recognize Threats
Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report found a shocking statistic: 82% of corporate data breaches involved a human element. Error, misuse, and falling prey to scams made up a large portion of that figure. The last threat is especially common. Phishing attacks are a scam that occurs when a hacker creates a fake website or spoofed email that appears legitimate. They then try to trick victims into entering sensitive information on the site. Teach employees how to recognize a bogus URL when it pops up. Make sure that nobody clicks on any unfamiliar links in emails. Workers are always the first line of defense.
Take a Zero Trust Approach to Security
The advice above is part of a broader security concept known as “zero trust.” Zero trust refers to a specific security architecture becoming common in business. The core principle is that anyone accessing a network might be a potential threat. Zero trust involves two main strategies: limiting and authenticating. The access privileges that any new user gets should be limited to the minimum needed to accomplish their tasks. New users should also be able to pass rigorous authentication standards. Deploying authentication (MFA) methods like one-time password tokens is a typical tactic. Since cybercrime knows no geographical bounds, get in the practice of assuming the worst of new users.
Install Antivirus and Firewall Software
The first cybersecurity priority for any business should always be antivirus software. Freeware versions of antivirus programs can be adequate for casual users, but business owners should upgrade. One of the most practical add-ons is a firewall system. Firewalls are helpful because they filter email traffic entering and exiting your network. Monitoring email traffic is vital since spam emails are a common vector for malware attacks. Remember to insist upon similar high-security standards from all users on your network.
Improve Password Protocols
Passwords are an oft-neglected facet of digital security. Unfortunately, about 30% of data breaches can be attributed to weak passwords. A good password should consist of symbols and alphanumerics arrayed in a more-or-less random pattern. Resist the urge to use familiar words or personal references. Science shows that the most effective passwords are at least eight characters in length. Using 12 or more is optimal. These measures might feel onerous, but a tough password is one more hurdle for hackers.
Encrypt All Data
Keeping your data stored securely is critical. The key to this is encryption. Encryption converts data into unreadable code that’s hard to decipher without a key. Cloud storage typically encrypts data on the server side, but other options exist, including customer-supplied encryption keys. Encryption is also available for hard drives and USB drives. A flash drive is especially beneficial because it can be unplugged from the internet. Encryption doesn’t just protect your financial information; it safeguards that of your clients too.
No single countermeasure will keep your systems secure. Cybersecurity requires a combination of tactics that constantly evolve in response to new threats. Use these tips as a starting point for building a solid security plan for your company.