That brings the number of records stolen by hackers to an all-time high.
Today, every business — regardless of size, industry, or location — is at risk for a data breach. While there are no guaranteed safeguards, there are seven steps your company can take to minimize the chances of being hacked.
- Update your passwords
The first line of defense against getting hacked is simple: change your passwords regularly. Stale passwords make it much easier for hackers to gain access. The easiest fix is to require a password change at least every 90 days. Easily-guessed passwords are another weak spot in your defenses. Researchers working for an online security firm recently discovered an online list of more than 2 million stolen passwords for sites such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo. The most common password on the list was “123456.”
Resist the temptation to use simple (and therefore easily cracked) passwords. A strong password should be composed of a hard-to-guess combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation. Tools such as LastPass and 1Password can help you create and securely store passwords.
- Avoid clicking on links in suspicious emails
Some phishing emails are easy to spot. But others can look surprisingly legitimate, and that presents a dangerous security risk. Clicking on a phishing link can instantly infect your computer — and then your entire system — with ransomware or worse. Train your staff to think twice before opening attachments or clicking on links in any email from an unknown source. If something doesn’t look right or seems off, have them check with IT before clicking.
- Establish a download policy
Downloading free software, printables or even Word templates can open the door to computer hackers. The simple solution? Don’t do it. Establish a company policy stating that downloads are only allowed from sites that you already know and trust. Then, discuss the policy with your staff to make sure they understand the risks. You may even wish to set up network software that doesn’t allow the admin permissions to download files from an unknown source.
- Install software updates promptly
Software companies are constantly working to uncover vulnerabilities in their software that could be exploited by hackers. When they find a vulnerability, they create a security patch to solve the problem. These updates often appear as pop-up notifications or download prompts.It may seem annoying to interrupt your workflow in order to download a new software update and restart your computer. But the alternative is to leave yourself vulnerable to getting hacked.
- Secure your Wi-Fi network
If your business offers free Wi-Fi to guests, experts recommend using a separate network. And make sure that your own Wi-Fi network is password-protected. If any of your staff work remotely using public Wi-Fi, establish a policy of not accessing sensitive data through public networks.
- Set up two-factor authentication
You can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your passwords by requiring two-factor authentication. This uses a frequently-changing numeric code sent to your phone or an electronic token. That way, even if hackers get your password, without the code, they have a much more difficult time getting in.
Many popular consumer applications — including Gmail, Twitter and Facebook — also offer two-factor authentication as an option. If anyone in your organization uses these services at work, consider instituting a policy requiring two-factor authentication.
- Get a managed IT services plan
If you outsource your IT, consider setting up a managed services plan that will continually evaluate and improve your technology, keeping you up-to-date and secure. Most businesses instead operate on a break-fix cycle, meaning that they only call IT after something breaks. That plan may appear to save money in the short term, but can lead your company to learning the truth the hard way.
Preparing for the worst is often the best defense against hackers. Before a breach occurs, create a cybersecurity strategy that puts several layers of protection in place, keeping your data secure from hackers.
Tom Andrulis is the president of Intelligent Technical Solutions, which helps businesses across Nevada and California thrive by managing their networks, cloud services, phone systems, and Internet connections. To learn more about Intelligent Technical Solutions and their services, please call 702-903-1387 or visit https://www.itsasap.com/.