They are the bane to our online co-existence: cyber attacks — deliberate exploitation of a network or system with malicious code in order to access, steal, leak, or hold data hostage. Hackers have hijacked websites and breached the cyber security systems of top companies, and they have brought down tycoons and politicians alike. Now, more than ever, businesses and organizations must be proactive in their approach to information security. Here are some of the best ways to prevent cyber attacks from compromising your networks.
Having only one authentication method — just a password or PIN, for example — is no longer good enough. Many websites and services now require the user to input a password and a texted code — a time-limited sequence forwarded to the phone or email — in addition to entering a password. Adding layers of cyber security by using a combination of authentication methods, called multi-factor authentication, makes for a more secure system that is difficult and time-consuming to breach.
Other authentication methods you should consider implementing to your current security protocols include:
- Authentication apps
- Chip cards
- Fingerprint, retina scan, or facial recognition
Encryption essentially takes text and data — stored or transmitted — and converts them into something that appears incomprehensible and random to unauthorized parties. Without the cryptographic key — a cipher, basically — third parties will be met with gibberish, rendering the stolen data practically useless.
Most encryption on the market is symmetric (where there is one key for encryption and decryption) and asymmetric (where there is one key for encryption and a different, private one for decryption). The latter, also known as public key encryption, can also serve as a layer of authentication to verify whether it is the real website or that the person attempting access is the proper holder of the key.
Data Backup & Data Risk Management
Having a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy is paramount if you want your organization to react effectively to an important disaster or data breach.
Backing up data regularly protects your operations by helping to maintain continuity and to minimize the effects of data loss or a data breach. Data loss doesn’t just occur as a result of hacker activity or malware infection. It can also happen because of hard drive corruption or failure, system crash, human error, even natural disasters. You should create at least three backups— and have at least one of these kept offsite — in two different kinds of storage media. There are a variety of options: hard disk, flash drives, and SSDs, for example. Also, make sure you encrypt the backup data and routinely test the backups so they are functioning properly.
However, there are other proactive steps you can take to further prevent data loss. Implementing a data risk management solution will help your organization manage data acquisition, storage, and usage throughout its lifecycle and will help eliminate data risk. You can combine it with a DLP (Data Loss Prevention) policy that allows organizations to scan and secure data by identifying and preventing sensitive information from leaving your environment through unauthorized means.
Fully Up-to-Date Software and Systems
Diligently installing software and systems updates isn’t just about improving functionality. After programs and products are released, hackers have time to explore and discover vulnerabilities that they can use to gain access to networks.
Meanwhile, as developers become aware of potential security gaps — through testing, news, or even cyber attacks that occur — they develop patches and improvements. That’s why it is vitally important to install updates as soon as you are notified or know they are available. Waiting or putting off doing so can be the difference between thwarting a preventable cyber security breach and succumbing to one. You should also consider the added convenience and protection of a patch management system to manage all software and system updates.
Vulnerability Assessments and Penetration Testing
Vulnerability assessments, also known as vulnerability scans. are security scanning tools — usually automated — that look for known vulnerabilities in your internal networks and external systems and then provide reports with details and recommendations on how to remedy these security risks. Penetration tests are conducted by “friendly” hackers who simulate cyber attacks to determine if there are weaknesses to exploit.
Penetration tests tend to be more effective and provide a more comprehensive assessment because the testers are actually trying to find entry points and vulnerabilities. They are, however, more expensive than vulnerability assessments because of the human labour and expertise required.
As remote workforces become more prevalent, both as a result of improved technology and in response to social distancing requirements, network access via mobile devices, tablets, and laptops is more common — and frequent. These endpoint devices provide opportunities for cyber attacks because they tend to be the “weakest link” in terms of cyber security.
Endpoint protection software can be part of a service, cloud-based, or installed separately on each endpoint device. There are also endpoint detection solutions that continuously monitor weaknesses and help to identify and block cyber attacks early on.
Cyber Security Insurance
In the event you are the victim of a successful cyber attack, cyber insurance can mitigate financial losses and also co-pay data recovery costs and new hardware and software. In the current tech era, cyber security insurance is a wise investment that can help your business or organization get back on its feet faster and more securely.
Cyber Security Protocols
Sadly, even the strongest cyber fortifications can be compromised by human error. That’s why you must ensure that you have comprehensive cyber security protocols and that everyone in your organization learns and abides by them. Many breaches occur despite extensive security measures because someone opens a suspicious link that allows access to an outsider.
All personnel, from employees to executives, should be educated about the latest cyber security risks — spam, phishing, malware, denial of service attacks, bots, ransomware, crypto-jacking, and any new threats as they arise. Make sure your people know how to create and manage strong passwords, stay off public Wi-Fi, avoid interacting with suspicious messages or links, log out whenever they need to leave their devices unattended — and that they should contact IT when in any doubt.
Have any questions about how to prevent cyber attacks? Contact us — we would love to help.