Let me tell you something. The thing that people most often misunderstand about cyber attacks is that they don’t happen at the speed of light! In fact, it often takes months or years to get the right level of access in a network and ultimately to be able to push the trigger and cause a destructive act.
The key is this: if you want to stop a hacker, you got to think like a hacker!
By thinking about the network and how an attack could exploit it, security teams could uncover unexpected means that hackers could use to exploit the network.
That means deep knowledge of your network and being able to detect any suspicious or unexpected behaviour can go a long way to detecting and stopping intrusions.
So here are 11 things you can do to prevent, minimize or stop a cyber attack on your business:
#1: Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
One of the most effective ways to prevent cyber attacks is to enable multi-factor authentication for all applications that access the internet in your organization. This will require employees to provide several pieces of information instead of just one.
The reality is that although having only one password login for employees will definitely be more convenient, it is simply not enough!
I mean, can you imagine if let say an employee’s one password is compromised through a hack or phishing scam, cybercriminals will be able to easily access your systems. It’s like only having one lock on your front door – once that lock is compromised, your home will be open and free for all.
On the other hand, having multi-factor authentication will heighten the security of your business. It will be much more difficult for any unauthorized person to access your systems in this case.
#2: Create Robust Internal Controls
Believe it or not, having control over who can access your network is really, really important! I mean, somebody can simply walk into your office or enterprise and plug in a
USB key containing infected files into one of your computers, allowing them access to your entire network or infect it. Dramatic stuff, huh!
Hence to prevent cyber attacks in your organization, it is crucial to have robust internal controls in place – i.e. you need to outrightly and strategically determine and control who has access to your computers and network. Access controls will help ensure that system access is updated immediately once employees, contractors, and vendors leave your organization. And by monitoring who has access to your systems, you’ll ensure greater security and will prevent security threats and potential problems in the future.
In addition, when someone leaves your organization you need to revoke access for security reasons. If you don’t revoke the access of former employees, contractors, and other relevant parties, they may be able to access your system later on.
#3: Responsibilities of Third-Party Security
Here’s the thing. Third parties are good – they are cost-efficient, manpower-efficient, and allows you to focus on the core of your business. But they are another gateway for hackers to access your systems!
So if you want to prevent cyber attacks and security threats, it’s also critical that you take measures to manage third-party cyber risk.
It’s important to understand the responsibilities you have when it comes to third-party security. If there are any vendors or third parties who need to access your system, it’s crucial to be aware of the risks and to ensure heightened security.
Creating tight security controls, identifying potential cyber threats, and monitoring your network are all crucial to ensuring your system is secure. Be sure that you fully understand your responsibilities. You need to prevent third-party vulnerabilities if you want to make sure your business is as secure as possible.
#4: Educate Your Employees with Cyber Security Awareness Training
The sad reality is this – did you know that one of the most common ways cyber criminals get access to your company’s data is through your employees? They’ll send fraudulent emails impersonating someone in your organisation and will either ask for personal details or for access to certain files. Links often seem legitimate to an untrained eye and it’s easy to fall into the trap. This is why employee awareness is vital.
Therefore, one of the most efficient ways to protect against cyber attacks and all types of data breaches is to train your employees on cyber attack prevention and ensure that they know what are and what aren’t considered normal requests via email and other correspondence methods. Simple as that.
They need to:
Check links before clicking them
Check email addresses from the received email
Use common sense before sending sensitive information. If a request seems odd, it probably is. It’s better to
Check via a phone call with the person in question before actioning the “request”
You also need to conduct thorough cybersecurity awareness training when onboarding new employees, and provide extra training for current employees at regular intervals. Holding annual training sessions can help ensure that your entire staff is aware of how to guard against security threats.
And by having a well-informed team, you’ll be able to create a business that is much more secure overall.
#5: Create Data Backups
In the event of a disaster (often a cyber attack), you must have your data backed up to avoid serious downtime, loss of data and serious financial loss.
This is because, while the other actions you take to prevent security threats should be enough to protect your business, sometimes no matter what measures you take, breaches still happen. That is the reality in this technology-advanced world. As a result, you may find that data has been erased or corrupted due to a cyber attack.
It is therefore important that your organization makes regular backups of important business data. By creating regular data backups you’ll ensure that no matter what happens, your business won’t be at a total loss. You’ll prevent your business operations from being stalled. You’ll be able to get back on track more easily after a cyberattack or security breach occurs.
#6: Keep Your Systems Updated
More often than not, cyber attacks happen because your systems or software aren’t fully up to date, leaving weaknesses. Hackers exploit these weaknesses to gain access to your network. Once they are in – it’s often too late to take preventative action.
And yes, I feel you. Constant updates are frustrating, annoying, disruptive – but they are very very necessary! This is because hackers are smart. They like to constantly dig and pry to find new problems and vulnerabilities in softwares which they can exploit.
But the thing is that, these software companies are smarter – they constantly provide the latest updates to patch software vulnerabilities and to guard against potential security threats. But if users do not make use of these regular updates, your old version will be prone and left open to hackers to exploit.
Therefore, keeping your systems and business software up-to-date is a very critical part of protecting your business. Your systems should always be running the latest software if you want your data to be secure.
Furthermore, it is also smart to invest in a patch management system that will manage all software and system updates, keeping your system resilient and up to date.
#7: Install a Firewall and Antivirus Software
Putting your network behind a firewall is one of the most effective ways to defend yourself from any cyber attack. A firewall system will block any brute force attacks made on your network and/or systems before it can do any damage.
Another step that you need to take to prevent security breaches and cyberattacks is to install antivirus software. You should install antivirus software on every computer that your business has and you should update it regularly.
Having antivirus software and a firewall alone isn’t enough to fully protect your business from security threats. However, used with the other strategies listed, you’ll be able to create an integrated approach to system security.
#8: Ensure Endpoint Protection
Endpoint protection protects networks that are remotely bridged to devices. Mobile devices, tablets and laptops that are connected to corporate networks give access paths to security threats. These paths need protection with specific endpoint protection software.
#9: Perform Phishing Testing
Did you know that about nine out of ten successful data breaches start out as phishing hooks? Employees who hold no malicious intentions can open a phishing email, and your entire network gets infected.
But the question is, can your employees recognize these scams?
Well, you can find out the answer to this question by conducting a manual or realistic phishing test. You can then show employees the results to let them know if they’re phishing-prone or not.
As a security mechanism, phishing testing relies on behavior change. To get that behavior change requires monthly tests, follow ups with employees, and consistent evaluation. Hence, it can be helpful to bring in an external managed service provider to conduct such phishing tests for you and review the results, while allowing you to focus on the core function of your business.
#10: Conduct Vulnerability Assessment
Vulnerability assessment is the process of identifying and quantifying security vulnerabilities in an environment. It’s how you evaluate potential weaknesses in your security system so that you can shore up cyber defense in those specific areas and thereby reduce or eliminate the threat of a breach.
To conduct a vulnerability assessment, you’ll need to identify your processes and your hidden data sources, locate your servers, and scan your network. It’s usually best to hire a managed service provider to conduct these assessments regularly.
#11: Conduct Penetration Test
Ok, so first things first, let’s get something straight. Vulnerability assessment is not the same as a penetration test. A penetration test is much more intrusive but also more informative than an assessment.
A penetration test is a five-step process in which a simulated attack determines the system’s security. Unlike a vulnerability assessment, it’s not a review of the network. Instead, it’s as close to a real attack as a friendly, white hat hacker can get. In many cases, a penetration test will tell you if your network is already infected.
The five steps in a penetration test are:
Planning – define the goals of your test
Scanning – understand how your target will respond to penetration
Accessing – stage the cyber attack
Maintaining Access – determine if you can maintain access through a vulnerability
Analyzing – evaluate the results of the test
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