In today’s digital information age all of our most sensitive data resides in cyberspace. This is true for individuals, small businesses, and transnational corporations. A breach of crucial data can create credibility issues for a company that can have long-term consequences including:
- Making management appear incompetent or careless and creating a public relations nightmare
- Causing privacy and security-minded customers to seek other resources
- Leaving your company vulnerable to corporate espionage, giving competitors a potentially unbeatable advantage
- Impacting budgets and cash flow due to the aftermath of a hack
- Directly draining revenue in the case of ransomware
History has shown that no company is immune to the threat of a cyber-attack. A number of high-profile hacks have happened recently including The Yahoo hack which occurred in 2013. At least one billion user accounts were compromised, making it the largest data breach to-date.
Hackers have also infiltrated a number of high-profile retail companies such as Target, Sears, Home Depot, and more. Cloud-hosting companies such as Cloudflare have been compromised as well. It’s easy to see why online security has become of utmost importance.
4 Potential Ways to Fortify Your Online Security
Solving this problem is, of course, a complex matter involving a large number of variables. That said, there are a few affordable, common-sense actions that any organization can take to defend themselves from a significant portion of potential cyber-attacks.
Set up Reliable Detection Methods
When a cyber-attack occurs, it’s vital that you be made aware as soon as possible. Hacks can often go undetected for weeks or even months. Many companies do not understand this and are therefore vulnerable for long periods of time before addressing a breach.
There are a number of free tools available that will install tokens on your system which appear to be standard files – PDFs, Word Documents, emails, photographs etc. The files, however, are hacker traps. When anyone accesses a token file, you will instantly receive an email notification.
Firewalls and Anti-Malware Software
One of the most important features that can keep hackers out is a firewall. Your entire network should have a network-based firewall, and each device should have a host-based firewall.
Premium versions of most anti-virus programs also provide real-time scanning capabilities that can detect and prevent malware the second it invades your system. Many quality software options exist. We recommend consulting with an expert to decide which program is best suited to the size of your organization, and meets your digital requirements and security needs.
It may be necessary to hire a full-time online security expert to customize and maintain your firewall, anti-malware programs, and detection methods.
Conduct Routine Software Maintenance
This is perhaps the most important and simplest solution of them all.
According to the second annual Nuix Black report on online security, the majority of all high-profile data leaks did not occur due to a sophisticated hacking scheme. Instead, they happened because someone in the company failed to conduct routine maintenance.
Neglecting to install a software upgrade or patch can have catastrophic repercussions.
The solution, as you might have guessed, is simply to make sure you update all operating systems, web browsers, firewalls, anti-malware programs, and so on as soon as updates are made available.
Educate Employees About Phishing Tactics
According to the same report, up to 88% of all hackers claim they use phishing tactics to gain information about a target prior to an attack.
We recommend making phishing avoidance education a mandatory part of the training for anyone on your team with outside access. They must be able to react appropriately to threats such as phishing emails, malicious links, phony sites, or callers impersonating authority figures. Avoiding phishing attempts can significantly decrease the odds of falling victim to an attempted breach.
These social engineering tactics are often used by hackers for several reasons – they are simple, inexpensive, and very effective. No amount of online security can prevent a naïve employee from leaking information or inadvertently exposing your company to harm. Recurring education, however, can prepare them for attempts they will likely encounter.