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There has been a steady stream of significant cyberattacks headlining the news since December 2020 and the Sunburst attack on SolarWinds Orion platform. Fueled by the anonymity afforded by payments made in cryptocurrency, cyber criminals have stepped up their attacks and have gotten bolder with their ransom demands, often seeking millions of dollars.
While these large attacks garner much attention, cyberattacks continue to affect businesses of all sizes, including small and medium businesses (SMBs). To combat these attacks, security professionals and IT Departments are implementing more detection and containment methodologies. However, while IT budgets are increasing, only a fraction of this budget is being used on preventative network security measures, with the majority being used for detection, mitigation, recovery, and remediation activities. Now is the time for network security teams to realize that taking the time and money to invest in a comprehensive strategy, including prevention, can significantly reduce the likelihood of falling victim to a cyberattack, and therefore greatly reduce the financial impact if a data breach should occur.
While SMBs may feel invincible against a cyberattack, the consequences of being a victim can be devastating. After an attack, businesses not only have to recover data, but they must also invest in fixing the damaged portions of their network. Business leaders must also deal with lost productivity and the public fallout of announcing a data breach with possible lawsuits and reputational damage and loss of trust to their business. Businesses who are victims of a cyberattack also experience increases to business insurance policies and the cost of rebuilding the network security to prevent these attacks in the future. Because of these factors, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of companies go out of business within six months after a data breach.
With the increase in data breaches on businesses of all sizes, it’s not surprising that business leaders want to make sure their organization is prepared to deal with the fallout of a data breach. Employing a preventative strategy when approaching network security can lay a robust foundation to blocking many cyber threats before they infiltrate the network.
Securing the corporate network, and devices connected to it, through a multi-layered approach can help prevent infiltration before it occurs. Yet, many organizations believe the initial investment and lack of expertise are barriers to implementing prevention in the cybersecurity lifecycle. However, there are measures every company can take to protect themselves.
Conduct a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment Audit
Proactive IT security protection starts with a two-part approach. First, conduct an audit of current data security activities in relation to potential threats. Second, with that knowledge, develop a risk assessment plan that includes preventative measures and policies to address the vulnerabilities identified in the audit to protect your data.
Deploy a Next Generation Firewall
Next-generation firewalls provide protection at the network gateway (on-premises or in a cloud) with an all-in-one solution that encompasses web content and application filtering, virus blocking, intrusion prevention, secure remote connectivity as well as employee productivity improvements such as bandwidth shaping and application control.
Deploy Endpoint Protection
With a diverse array of devices, such as laptops, phones, tablets and other IoT devices, deploying endpoint security throughout the network adds an additional layer for preventing cyberattacks. Network administrators or IT professionals can create policy settings limiting web access to sites known to distribute malware, or set specific web filter controls to corporate devices.
Schedule Network Backups
A routine backup schedule, that includes database and network configuration, should be stored in a different location outside of the network. Having these backups on hand in the case of a breach will mitigate any need to pay ransom demands and limit network downtime for employees.
Provide VPN Connectivity for Hybrid and Remote Employees
VPNs allow remote employees to create a safe connection to business-critical applications or data when logging into the network outside of the office. VPNs extend network security policies to remote devices, safeguarding them from intruders lurking on public WiFi or a home network.
Implement Password Hygiene
Password hygiene is critical for all employees who can access the corporate network. Training employees to change passwords often, use strong password recommendations, and activating two-factor authentication when available will keep credentials and crucial business information secure.
Manage Directory Access Policies
Limiting access to specific files based on current employee status, department, or even business title, can protect critical information. For example, does a marketing team member need to have access to the financial department’s balance sheets or vendor payment system? This crossover could have serious implications if one employee’s credentials are compromised, allowing unauthorized access to every file on the network.
Train Employees Continuously
As security adversaries find new ways to infiltrate networks, keeping employees trained and up to date will only strengthen your network security. Employees should be trained in the following aspects of network security:
Cyberattacks and data breaches continue to keep IT Departments searching for new and innovative ways to outwit cyber criminals. Many departments continue to place a heavy emphasis on detecting unauthorized access or suspicious activities and containing these breaches to minimize the business-wide impact. However, instituting effective preventative measures and engaging employees as an additional line of defense against cyberattacks can save businesses not only money, but productivity and reputation.
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