Computer network security breaches are becoming more prevalent and they’re costing businesses millions of dollars. In fact, 60% of small businesses close within 6 months of being hacked. Yet, it’s hard to know how to secure a network, especially for small and medium sized businesses that don’t have full-time IT staff to oversee system maintenance.
Fortunately, there are several computer network security best practices that business owners can implement today to secure their data and build more impenetrable protection against hackers and viruses.
1. Keep software updated
A common threat for small businesses is outdated software ranging from website content management systems to operating systems. Software must be updated to protect your business against viruses, malware, and other forms of hacking. Older software versions are easier to hack because cybercriminals have learned where the loopholes are. Updates patch those security vulnerabilities and improve functionality to protect your business.
In some cases, software updates aren’t available for older hardware models, so you may need to update your computers and other hardware every few years.
2. Educate employees
One of the biggest cybersecurity threats to small businesses is human error. Educating your employees about proper cybersecurity can help you mitigate some of this risk to the network. Let them know about the different ways cybercriminals can infiltrate your system. Advise them on recognizing signs of a data breach and educate them on how to stay safe while using the company’s network.
Ensure that you have security policies in place and that your employees understand these policies. These policies should cover rules regarding device and network access, password strength and frequency of change, best practices on file sharing, security application policies, reporting procedures on lost or stolen devices, and more.
3. Safeguard your WiFi
Your company’s WiFi network, also known as an “access point”, can act as a point of entry for cybercriminals. However, there are steps you can take to secure your Internet connection. First, ensure you’re using a firewall, (see the importance in the next point), and that all your data that passes through the network is secure.
Password-protect the router, and only allow access to employees. Consider hiding your access point name which is also known as a “SSID, so others can’t try to access it.
4. Install a Firewall
A firewall can provide protection against outside cyber attackers by shielding your computer or network from malicious or unnecessary network traffic. Firewalls can also prevent malicious software from accessing a computer or network via the internet. With the rise of data theft and criminals holding systems hostage, firewalls have become even more important, as they prevent hackers from gaining unauthorized access to your data, emails, systems, and more. A firewall can stop a hacker completely or deter them to choose an easier target.
5. Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) can add an extra layer of security to your web browsing. This is especially true when accessing business files over public or unsecured networks. VPN providers route your data first through their servers and will mask your IP (Internet Protocol) address and encrypt data to keep your browsing history, passwords, and more protected from potential hackers. If your employees have access to a VPN, you can reduce the risk of having passwords or business files intercepted when employees are accessing your accounts and software on-the-go.
Many large companies establish their own VPN but small businesses can work with a VPN Provider, avoid free VPN services on the internet, they can be unreliable.
6. Use multi-factor authentication or password management software
Implement multi-factor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multi-factor authentication for your account. Password management software will encrypt your password database and only require you to remember one password.
When you can use multi-factor authentication, use it. Cloud databases are commonly hijacked when users haven’t turned on authentication or when they’ve left outdated versions exposed. Cloud infrastructure vulnerabilities are a serious threat, be sure to establish safe practices when using and accessing cloud services; don’t pass the responsibility of security to the cloud provider.
7. Perform periodic network vulnerability Scans
A vulnerability scan will identify the vulnerabilities on your internal and external networks to ensure that your network stays secure. A Vulnerability Scanning Service will accurately and efficiently scan for vulnerabilities everywhere to help validate the effectiveness of patch and configuration management. The vulnerabilities that need remediation are prioritized.
The vulnerabilities are tracked over time, giving you deeper insight into your network through customized reports. It gives you the flexibility to focus on the data that matters to you and other stakeholders.