With all the threats that stand to create problems for businesses today, it can be surprising to hear that some of the most common security risks result directly from your staff and their exposure to technology. Less surprising to hear; security issues often interrupt the operations of your business and incur significant financial cost. Below, we have shared a few tips to help your staff better adhere to security best practices.
Passwords are used everywhere these days, in both personal and professional environments. You should encourage your employees to adopt the following practices and do the same yourself.
- Differentiate your passwords. Let’s face it - people take the path of least resistance which contributes to the unfortunate habit of using the same password for multiple online accounts. The trouble with this habit, is that if one account is compromised, a lot of other accounts could also be compromised. The malicious actor only needs to plug in those credentials on other popular websites or business applications.
- Keeping it simple is stupid. Another habit that we all tend to gravitate toward is to make a password as memorable as we can. This often means that our passwords usually include something about us that is easy to find out - pet names, birthdays, and other details like that. How often have you seen a movie where the hero hacks into a bad guy’s laptop by looking at a picture on their desk with their pet’s name or remembering some other important details? This is so common, there is an entire storytelling trope around this phenomenon. Avoid doing this!
- Give passphrases a try. Passphrases have grown in popularity recently as an alternative to passwords. They are easier to remember and more secure than the old recommendation of assorted alphanumeric character. What would you remember more easily: “4n89Gk99q” or “farmcakemeeting”?
- Use a password manager. To be fair, remembering a unique password (or even passphrase) for all of the accounts that the average person has nowadays is a pretty high expectation and contributes to people reusing passwords across accounts for fear of forgetting them. A password manager is a secure program that both generates and saves passwords for a user, meaning the user only needs to remember the one “master” password that opens the password manager.
A lot of threats out there are designed to fool a user into opening their network to attack. This can be avoided through the adoption of a few best practices amongst your staff.
- Look twice at the URL. URLs are shockingly easy to disguise, so a malicious link could very easily appear to be something that you would click with almost no hesitation. Take www.google.com. If you were to click on a link that looked like this, you would expect to be brought to the Google homepage, right? However, it is only too easy to use these “expectations” to mislead people as demonstrated here. One handy trick to use in this situation is to hover your cursor over a link, but not click on it. This will cause the actual destination of the link to appear at the bottom of your browser window.
- Business computers should never be business-casual. Some threats to your business can hide on websites that will attack when you download materials from them, or even just when you visit them. Therefore, a work device should only be used for work-related tasks, if only to minimize this risk.
- Leverage Next Generation Firewalls. Of course, you shouldn’t rely on staff to make the right choice all the time. Even if they apply their best effort to avoid online threats, accidents can happen. As such, you should compound the efforts your team is putting forth with additional protections like newer generation firewalls with built-in content filters, deep packet inspection, intrusion detection/prevention, and application control.
- Trust the pros. No matter how simple an issue might seem on the surface, it pays to enlist the help of an IT professional for assistance if you must remediate a security concern.
Phishing is a very effective means for cybercriminals to gain your trust, making it a common precursor to larger threats. Therefore, you and your staff alike need to be able to spot a potential attack.
- Urgency is a warning sign. Consider emergency signs; are there nondescript recommendations to please proceed urgently with some action? Are there bold fonts, ALL CAPS, or colors and urgent instructions to get people to act quickly? Phishing messages use similar tactics to make their targets panic and act impulsively.
- Details are wrong. While this is not always the case, phishing messages can sometimes include misspelled words and odd grammatical choices. Links may not go where they appear to go. Take a few moments and double-check that links are correct by hovering your cursor over them and reviewing the URL that pops up.
- Check for legitimacy. If you find a message suspicious, and you have a process to double-check it through another means of communication, do so! The inconvenience of a quick phone call could literally prevent the severe ramifications of a security breach.
- Be quick to judge. If you can’t determine if a message is phishy or not, err on the side of caution. Report to IT and inform them of the message and follow their guidance.
Finally, we come to your data. Depending on your particular industry, the data you collect and store could potentially be quite valuable. A cybercriminal could make anywhere from $40 to $200 per record by selling sets of a person’s name, address, phone number, and credit history on the Dark Web. Bank details are a prime target for thieves. If your business stores that type of information, you can be certain there are regulations to protect it. Your data needs to be secured, so a few practices will help you to do so.
- Restrict data access. You need to enforce considerable authentication measures so your data is securely accessed. Two-Factor authentication measures should be implemented reducing the risk of an account breach or a data leak by up to 90% in most cases.
- Update your security. Cybercriminals are always busy trying to devise new methods of undermining your business security and the good cybersecurity developers are always responding in kind. So, as patches and updates are released for new and developing threats, you need to make sure that you are putting them in place quickly.
- Regulatory compliance. Regulations exist for many industries and are intended to maintain cybersecurity standards. This includes the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the assorted state and federal privacy laws that have recently been adopted. If you aren’t compliant, you need to fix that as soon as possible.
- Backup your data. Whether due to a malicious attack or bad luck from accidently clicking on a phishing email link, data loss is one of the worst things that can happen to a business in terms of financial survival. Insulate yourself by maintaining a 3 -2 -1 backup strategy: three copies of your data on two different types of media and one copy offsite.
Following these considerations can greatly contribute to the security of your business and its operations, but there is still more that you should do. Reach out to KT Connections at 605-341-3873 for help in enacting all of these and more.