When it comes to cyber security, whether you are the owner of a small or mid-sized firm or just an employee currently working from home, you should constantly be on the lookout for threats. Hackers target everyone these days. If you are an owner of a firm, cybercriminals think that you have every piece of information they need, so they attack you. If you are an employee, you are also on the front line as you have access to your company’s vital data. Your personal data may be a coveted target as well.
In an organization, there may be cyber security protocols set in place for everyone to follow. However, even with these safety precautions, you should never be too confident as a business owner or an employee. You can do more to protect your company’s network and data.
Think of this: You may unknowingly share sensitive customer or company information by clicking on a suspicious link, and that may lead to a potential data breach. You don’t want that to happen, right?
Whether you work for a company or you’re the owner yourself, it is a wise move to implement measures to improve cyber security. If you follow them, know that it will go a long way in protecting your organization’s sensitive information.
What Is Cyber Security?
To better understand the ways to improve cyber security, let’s begin with the definition of cyber security. It is a set of practices and technologies that are set and implemented to ensure electronic data and computer systems are protected against online threats.
One of the most common threats that cyber security aims to prevent is malware. Also called malicious software, it is unwelcome and obstructive software that is created by cyber criminals and that aims to steal information or destroy computer systems. Malware entities are capable of stealing massive amounts of information and data, and they come in different forms, such as Trojans, viruses, spyware, ransomware, and adware. Here are some of the most common malware threats:
- Viruses – A virus is a harmful application or program designed to spread across devices. The aim of this entity is to provide the attacker with access to and control over the infected system. Most of the time, a virus disguises as a legitimate application or file, stealing data, interfering with processes, and downloading more malware entities.
- Phishing – This is a form of attack wherein attackers initiate fake communications and send fraud messages. They make their messages appear as if they’re coming from legit and reputable sources. The most common means of communication used in phishing is email. The goal of this attack is to steal crucial information, such as login details and financial data.
- Ransomware – It is a form of malware created to encrypt files on a device. Once encrypted, the files will automatically become unusable, and in exchange for the decryption keys, the attacker will ask the victim to pay a certain ransom.
The Different Branches of Cyber Security
Cyber security is quite a broad topic. It covers a vast range of areas wherein different professionals usually take charge and implement strict security protocols. Let’s go through each area below:
- Application Security – This is an area of cyber security where the applications used in an organization are protected. This is done to prevent code and data within the applications from being hijacked or stolen. Security measures are often implemented during the development of the applications.
- Cloud Security – Although this is quite a new branch of cyber security, cloud security is gaining traction nowadays as more and more attackers find the cloud a promising target. Cloud security involves implementing procedures and technologies that protect cloud-computing environments against different forms of threats.
- Internet of Things Security – Internet of Things, or IoT, is a relatively new concept that connects devices to the internet and other devices. And since it is a network that connects people and things, it is not surprising why attackers are excited to throw attacks at such networks. In IoT security, devices, including printers, sensors, appliances, televisions, and routers, are protected against cyber attacks.
- Network Security – As the name suggests, this is the application of protective measures to prevent unwanted access to networks and theft of information transmitted over them. In network security, a secure infrastructure is created for users, devices, and applications to work seamlessly together.
10 Ways to Improve Cyber Security
The scariest part of cyber attacks is that we often fail to realize that they’re already happening. But the good thing is that we can do something to keep them from occurring. But then again, cyber security is not just an overnight job. And preventing cyber attacks goes beyond the IT teams of organizations; employees also play a critical role in cyber security. Below we list the different ways to improve cyber security.
- Invest in Staff Security Training
This is the most important thing that business owners should do. When it comes to cyber threats and the risks that come with them, everyone in the organization should be well-educated. As a CEO or a manager, you have to be proactive and ensure that everyone is cyber-aware. Staff security awareness helps you stay on top of the cyber security game and keep your business protected.
- Enable Multi-Step Authentication
Multi-step authentication is a process wherein several stages of authentication are required before one can reset a password or gain access to a database. The authentication processes may be in the form of CAPTCHAs, mobile notifications, or security questions. This is perhaps one of the most reliable security measures that businesses can implement.
- Build Secure Networks
Technology is ever-evolving, and we can’t do anything about that. But of course, you can protect your business technologies from the latest threats. You can secure your Wi-Fi networks and routers by having a firewall in place. You can also work with trustworthy and knowledgeable network security professionals.
- Require Strong Passwords
This may be pretty self-explanatory, but many still take this measure lightly. Make sure that your employees use secure and strong passwords with a combination of characters, numbers, and letters. Also, these passwords must be regularly changed and should not be used across all accounts.
- Install Software Updates
It may seem tempting to skip software updates. However, that is actually a bad cyber security practice. As we all know, software updates often include improvements to security features and fixes to previously reported security issues. Hackers can use outdated apps as loopholes to gain access to devices. Be sure to keep your software programs up to date to keep threats at bay.
- Limit Access
Employees nowadays can sometimes work from their mobile devices. While this may suggest better productivity rates, it can also open a can of worms and lead to cyber attacks. Be sure that only authorized individuals can access administrator settings. It also helps to encrypt data and ensure all staff working off-site go through security steps to access crucial information via mobile devices.
- Perform Regular Data Backups
Having a data backup file means you can easily restore your organization’s files in the event something goes wrong. It is a precautionary step that helps you gain access to your data in case cyber attacks happen. Backups can be created automatically depending on your organization’s needs. To be sure, work with your network security team.
- Use a Firewall
A firewall will look for any signs of phishing or malware and block suspicious connections before they cause damage to your business. With a firewall in place, data coming from and to your network is monitored. If the firewall thinks that a certain connection is unsafe, it will directly block the connection and all information will be logged.
- Consider Using a VPN
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, can connect a user to an organization’s internal network in the most secure possible way. As a business owner, you may want your employees to use a VPN service to access internal data and applications.
- Use Big Data
You might ask, how can big data improve cyber security? Well, we’ve all heard of big data and the increasing reliance on it. But for those who don’t know yet, big data is data that is so large that regular analytics programs cannot process it. It can be mined for information and used for making business decisions.
While it seems like a useful innovation, unfortunately, hackers are aware of it as well and are looking to exploit this niche. As a result, business owners and organizations have more work to do to protect large and complex data sets.
But the good thing is that big data is also used to get important information about and strengthen cyber security. Experts analyze huge amounts of collected data to come up with more secure protocols and measures.
- Keep Your Personal Information Secure
Do not share your personal information via text message, phone call, or email – even if the person asking it is someone you know. Always exercise caution at work. Cybercriminals can create fake email addresses and take over social media accounts to send seemingly real messages.
- Do Not Click on Pop-Ups and Suspicious Links
Again, be wary of phishing. Attackers will always be searching for ways to lure you into clicking on links that may cause security breaches. The basic rule to follow is to never share your company or personal information in response to emails or pop-up ads.
- Use Strong Passwords
Strong and unique passwords can keep cybercriminals from accessing your personal information. A strong password contains a combination of symbols, uppercase and lowercase letters, and numbers. Also, make it a habit to change and update your account passwords regularly. If you find it hard to memorize passwords, a password manager can be of great help.
- Connect to Secure Networks
If you are working remotely, be sure that you connect to private networks. However, if you don’t have access to one, and you feel you need to work outside of your home, connect to a VPN first. Connecting to public networks can be risky as there may be cybercriminals in the same network, waiting for their next victim.
- Enable Your Firewall
A firewall is your first line of defense in protecting your device and information against cyber attacks. Firewalls keep unauthorized users from gaining access to your files and other information.
- Set Up Antivirus Software
All the devices you use for work should be protected with a reliable security software program. If you don’t have such a tool, ask your company if they can give you access to one.
- Install Software Updates and Back Up Your Files Regularly
Programs regularly receive security updates so that they can respond to new strains of threats in the most effective way possible. Make sure you install these updates once available. In addition, if your company rolls out instructions for certain security updates, be sure to install what is required to defend your device and your company’s information against the latest cyber threats.
- Be Careful What You Click or Download
The main goal of cyber criminals is to lure you into downloading software programs or applications that are bundled with malware entities. These malware entities may disguise themselves as a popular game or an app that gives you weather updates. Don’t download apps that look suspicious. Read reviews first.
- Consult Your IT Department
If you are working remotely, know that the IT department of your company is your friend. So, if you need information about cyber security, feel free to reach out to them. For sure, they have a lot of information to share with you. For instance, if you encounter problems while installing a security update, contact them right away. Don’t wait until a simple problem becomes a complex one because you’re unsure about what you’re doing.
It also helps to report any security issues or warnings that your internet security software detects. They probably know what to do to deal with them.
- Educate Yourself
Many companies are willing to train their employees regarding cyber security threats. Take advantage of these training sessions to know what security threats are common in your field and what security policies have been put in place in your organization.
How to Improve Cyber Security Awareness
It is known that everyone in an organization has a role to play in cyber security, with most attacks being prevented if all the security procedures and policies are carefully followed. However, reducing the threats and risks is not just about implementing security restrictions. It’s about developing an effective culture that promotes cyber security awareness and risk management.
All this comes down to how organizations connect technical security measures and employee behaviors during and outside their working hours. You can focus on the threats and risks that are common in your organization. And then, create realistic scenarios that make people think carefully about how to properly respond to cyber attacks. This will significantly improve awareness and bring about change in employees’ attitudes towards cyber security.