As 2020 draws to a close, which strategies should organizations prioritize to make 2021 as safe and successful as possible? The answer is clear: protecting your data.
The digital marketplace runs on data. Regardless of your industry or the size of your business, data plays a vital role in how we drive sales, communicate with customers, and maintain operations. And as cyberattacks escalate across industries, it is critical to take a proactive stance against criminals who want to steal your data and sell it on the dark web. Put simply: if you do not have a strategy to protect data, your organization is at serious risk.
The first step in protecting your data is to back it up. If you experience a breach, at least your data will not be altogether lost. Most attackers want their victims to pay a ransom to get their data back. If you have up-to-date backups, the pressure of regaining control of your data will not force you into a desperate situation.
In addition to backups, here are five important steps you can take, starting today, to protect your organization's data in the new year.
- Security Policy: A company’s cybersecurity policy is the foundation on which data protection stands. Without a clear and effective policy, it is nearly impossible to plan for an attack and understand best practices. When a policy is strong, however, employees gain confidence, teams operate with mutual understanding, and a company’s security posture becomes stronger overall. Therefore, it is important for companies to define what constitutes sensitive data and how to protect it. Such data may include but is not limited to financial information; customer, supplier, and shareholder information; patents, sales processes, and other intellectual property; contracts, employee usernames and passwords; company legal records and internal documents. Companies can turn to security partners for help developing policies that cover for their specific needs.
- Backups and Monitoring: Once you have a strong cybersecurity policy, rigorous monitoring and reporting of data should be implemented. Organizations need to know how their data is accessed and transmitted, on which platforms and channels it travels, and what to do in the case of a breach. Keep in mind that the nature of cyberattacks is constantly changing. Hackers seek out targets with low-hanging fruit. As a result, companies must stay vigilant to ensure their security policies are upheld. Think of the myriad ways data moves across your organization – through third-party vendors, employee to employee, from sales teams to prospects – each scenario requires oversight and reporting. The goal is to stay a step ahead of would-be attackers so your data stays secure.
- Simulated Testing: If a hacker’s goal is to steal your data, it makes sense to understand how they would do it. Simulated testing helps businesses identify vulnerabilities that cybercriminals might use to access your network, devices, and data. Some businesses may use IT staff or other team members to run routine testing sessions, but unless cybersecurity professionals conduct the tests, you could overlook critical weaknesses that, rest assured, hackers will not. Simulated testing creates effective “real-world” scenarios that help businesses find and fix security gaps before cybercriminals can expose them. Simulated testing also improves an employee’s situational-awareness and responsiveness. Both of which are critical parts of data protection.
- Employee Education: Despite our best intentions, humans make mistakes. It does not matter how strong our cybersecurity technology is if employees do not fully understand that, on an individual level, they represent an access point for hackers to exploit. Most of us know about phishing scams and ransomware and other prominent cybersecurity issues. But it’s surprising what can happen when we let our guards down. The simplest and most direct way organizations can protect their data is through employee education. Make sure staff has access to and understands your cybersecurity policy. Mandate best practices and specific ways to handle questionable situations. Run simulated tests continuously. Ensure there is buy-in from each employee about the importance of cybersecurity so they are motivated to help protect your organization from an attack.
- Remote Environments: Educated employees play an even more critical role when working in remote environments. Given the recent changes to how businesses operate, and where, it should be a priority to ensure that accessing and transferring data in a remote environment is done so safely and with strict oversight. Make no mistake, hackers view the pandemic as an opportunity, and will not delay in trying to take advantage of it. This means your cybersecurity policy must include rules concerning telecommuting, personal and mobile device usage, public network access, and more. To maximize remote security, ask that employees only access your network and data using a secure internet connection, rely on two-factor authentication, update usernames and passwords through a password manager, adopt encryption software, and put firewalls, antimalware, and other security technologies in place.
These five steps will help protect your organization’s data from a cyberattack. You’ll be able to maintain business operations confidently and achieve your goals in the new year. Even though cyberattacks are on the rise, organizations can prevent them by prioritizing a strategy of awareness, best-practice, and a commitment to taking action.
InfoSystems offers a full range of cybersecurity services and is ready to speak to you today about your business needs.
- Firewall Management
- HIPAA Risk & Gap Assessment
- Incident Response Program
- Mobile Device Management
- NIST 800-171
- NIST Security Controls
- Penetration Testing
- Simulated phishing & Awareness Training
- SOC 2 Compliance
- Vendor Risk Assessment