Today, nearly every business depends on technology to run its daily operations. These technological advances have made this world more connected than ever; however, the increased access thanks to the internet and cloud computing also makes networks more vulnerable than they were in the past. Therefore, companies need to invest in cybersecurity. This will help them protect not only their data but also the data of their customers, which will inspire loyalty and help them grow their bottom lines.
There are numerous threats in the world of cybersecurity today. While traditional hacking and theft are still serious issues, hackers are getting more evolved and experienced. This has given rise to new cybersecurity threats such as ransomware and jackware. When this is combined with other attacks such as social attacks, phishing, rogue access points, rogue clients, and more, it is clear that companies need to have a well-rounded defence that will keep these attacks at bay. To that end, there are a few security actions that every company should take to protect their internet-connected networks.
Monitor Internet Gateways Using Consolidation
One of the first steps that all organizations should take is to consolidate, monitor, and defend their internet gateways. To make this task easier, companies need to reduce the number of external connections. This should be thought of as a military strategy. It is easier to defend one point of access than ten. If companies take steps to shrink the number of access points available, they will have an easier time defending them.
To do this, companies need to take steps to understand their standard traffic patterns. Then, companies need to be able to detect and react to any changes in these traffic patterns. This will benefit the business because they will be able to respond to any unauthorized access in their networks more quickly. This will make it easier to shut down access points that might be vulnerable, stopping any of its sensitive data from leaving while also blocking any added unwanted attacks. Consolidating internet access points is important because this makes them easier to defend.
Update, Patch, and Maintain Operating Systems (OS) and their Applications
Besides, organizations need to take steps to invest in regular maintenance. Like the machines themselves, companies need to make sure that their operating systems (OS) and applications are up to date. Organizations need to rely on professionals who can track when updates come available for software, update them promptly, and patch any holes or vulnerabilities that might be present in the operating system or relevant applications.
If companies use OS or apps that are outdated, they leave themselves vulnerable to a severe attack. This simply makes them vulnerable, which is unnecessary. Often, these patches are specifically designed to plug holes that might exist in the system’s programming. These vulnerabilities get reported to the coders, who then take steps to fill these holes. Companies need to make sure that all of these patches are applied on time. Ideally, they would be automatic. This is one of the most critical steps that companies can take to protect themselves against an internet attack.
Take Steps To Enforce Administrative Privileges
While it might seem easier to give administrative privileges to everyone, this simply makes the organization more vulnerable. Yes, it is annoying to find someone with administrative rights when something needs to be changed; however, the more credentials there are with administrative privileges, the higher the chances of someone’s information being stolen.
Also, companies need to enforce a password change policy. Every 60 days or 90 days, it is essential to force people to change or update their passwords. This is important because, if someone has had their information stolen, this automatically protects the company by removing that person’s access.
Furthermore, it is a good idea to use something called two-factor authentication, often shortened to 2FA. What this does is it forces someone to use two different layers of security to access certain parts of the network. This can help people by making it harder to steal their information and use it against the company. Finally, it is also a good idea to make sure that all employees are educated on phishing attacks, what they look like, how they work, and why they are dangerous. Try to take steps to limit the number of people who have administrative privileges. This reduces the amount of points of access that criminals might have.
Remove Unnecessary Accounts
To prevent internet-connected accounts from getting hacked, organizations should never run more than is necessary. If some ports and services aren’t being used, remove them. If someone leaves the company, disable their account and remove their access. This makes it harder for someone to swipe a set of credentials and use it.
Besides, all companies need to go through and audit their networks regularly. Try to take steps to harden the OS. Organizations with questions about this should consult IT professionals who can provide them with more information when it comes to setting up security controls.
Finally, all third-party applications need to be audited and assessed for their functionality. If there are parts of the application that are not required, disable them. This is important for protecting the company and removing potential vulnerabilities in the software itself.
Store Information Separately and Segment it When Possible.
All companies should have an inventory of their business information. Try to make sure this business information is categorized and organized logically. Then, consider breaking up the information so that no single source has all of the information. This will make it harder for criminals to take the information and put all of the pieces together.
Then, make sure there are appropriate security controls on all of the various storage areas. Try to make the passwords and security controls differently. This will make it harder for someone to break in—monitor who has access to these systems at all times. Make sure to enforce the appropriate administrative privileges to protect the data from being stolen.
Train Employees Regularly
It is important to train not only new hires but also exiting employees. Over time, these threats are going to evolve. Criminals are getting more creative, and employees might fall victim to an attack.
IT security programs and activities must be installed, maintained, and leveraged to protect the employee from harm. Every employee represents a vulnerability, and steps need to be taken to protect them from harm.
For example, some of the biggest threats right now include spear phishing and the improper handling or removable media. While these sound like easy fixes, the fact remains that employees are still falling victim to these attacks. Therefore, it is incumbent on managers to take steps to educate employees and ensure they do not fall prey to these attacks. This will protect not only the employee’s information but also that of the company, customers, and everyone else who might be linked to that employee.
Protect Information from the Top Down
Many organizations allow their employees to use their devices. While this might save the company money, it also makes the company more vulnerable. The company does not have control over the security measures that are on its employees’ own devices. For example, an employee might be required to use a VPN to protect the company’s data; however, if the employee is using a home network, the VPN is not going to protect the router.
With this in mind, it is a good idea for organizations to provide their equipment when possible. This means servers, laptops, desktops, mobile devices, and more. This allows the company to set up a device management framework, configuring these devices to match the security standards that have been set by the company.
For example, there is a concrete mobile device management (MDM) system that can protect not only mobile devices but also the networks to which they connect. Companies need to consider investing in these advanced equipment management devices because they add an extra layer of security.
Install a Host-Based Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS)
Often shortened to HIPS, this is an important system that can be used to protect the network and systems against both unknown and known attacks. These include viruses and malware. The point of HIPS is to take action against any behaviour that is deemed suspicious. Using HIPS, companies can set an algorithm or a list of rules by which people operate. If the HIPS system notices that something is a bit off, they can block the offending program or process until professionals can review it.
For example, the HIPS program might notice an application is trying to access something unusual. Or, it might see there are a lot of failed sign-in attempts. These are all examples of activities that might be frozen for further review. There are lots of options when it comes to HIPS services, and this can be a powerful defence mechanism.
Keep Applications that Face the Web Isolated
Companies need to take steps to create an environment where any applications that face the web are run in an isolated setting. For example, there might be internet browsers and email applications that meet the web. These are common vulnerabilities that criminals try to exploit. By isolating them, it limits the amount of access someone might have if they can hack the browser or email application. This also limits the reach of any malware that might be uploaded.
This should be thought of as a virtual sandbox. Any malware that might infect the environment will not extend outside of the sandbox. This means that even if a virus infects this web-facing application, it will not infect the host or the enterprise itself. This is an important part of damage control.
Whitelist Certain Applications
Finally, companies need to take steps to explicitly authorize specific applications and their components. This should be thought of as an “opt-in” system instead of an “opt-out” one. What this means is that any application that hasn’t explicitly been whitelisted should be denied access to reduce the chances of malware infecting the system. If an application needs access to something, it should be explicitly granted it instead of being given permission by default.
The whitelist can even be defined using a selection of certain files or folder attributes, including published, file size, digital signature, or something else.
There should be policies for application whitelisting that are both defined and then deployed across the entire organization. This is an important step that companies can take to limit the amount of access certain applications have to their systems. This makes it harder for malware to jump from an application to the rest of the system.
Rely on Experienced IT Professionals for Assistance
In today’s world, the threat of cyberattacks is very real. While there have been great strides made in the fields of access control and security, cyberattacks are evolving as well. Therefore, it is important for all companies to take steps to protect their data, control who has access, and add extra layers of security when appropriate.
Lastly, the pace of technological advance is quickening. It is hard for someone who is not in this industry to keep up with the changes. That is why it is a good idea to rely on trained IT professionals who work in the field and can keep companies safe from harm. It is always better to prevent a cyberattack from taking place than to stop one that has already happened. Therefore, if you are looking for an IT service for your company, give us a call today. We would be happy to help you leverage your IT network to its full capabilities while protecting you against outside threats.