Your go-to guide for cybersecurity

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There is an unfathomable amount of data floating around in the cloud today. Some of that information is extremely valuable, like social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and bank accounts information. 

Businesses and hackers both know it is there and know how valuable it is, which is why you need to take precautions to protect the information. Business owners are responsible for protecting their customers’ data from hackers. This task is not always easy. Shape’s 2018 report noted that over 2 billion credentials were compromised in 2017. That’s a bit scary.

What businesses are at risk?

Everyone online has the potential of being at risk. Monitoring your network can mitigate that risk, but not eliminate it. Big corporations, like Target, have had data breaches in the recent past. While large corporations are a target, it’s small to medium-sized businesses that hackers go after the most. 

Small to mid-sized businesses often have less security than a large corporation and have the same amount, if not more, valuable information. This vulnerability is exactly what a hacker is looking for, according to a Business News Daily article. So, how do you protect all that valuable information?

The types of attacks

Before we can look at protecting the data, it’s important to understand the different types of attacks; password guessing, distributed denial of service, malware, and phishing attacks

Password guessing occurs when an attacker attempts to guess usernames and passwords. They will take usernames and passwords from past data breaches and try them over and over.

Distributed denial of service attacks occurs when a hacker paralyzes a system by overwhelming it with activity. Hackers will send messages and web traffic to the system. They can then use internet-connected devices (laptops, game consoles, home thermostats) to perform attacks on the system.

Malware attacks use malicious software to infiltrate networks and collect data. These attacks commonly use ransomware, spyware, Trojan horses, and viruses to attack the system.

Phishing attacks happen when hackers trick a user into doing something, like clicking a fake link on a website or in an email. 

How to secure your data

Easier said than done; steps must be taken by both companies and employees to ensure that the data stays safe. Security usually involves a mix of defenses and the dedication of the company. Some companies outsource the security to firms that handle this daily. Here are a few ways to keep safe from cyberattacks.

Use antivirus software that monitors computers for bugs on your computer and removes the bug. It also alerts a user to unsafe web pages. 

Deploy a firewall. This feature keeps hackers out of your computer by throwing up a digital wall. Firewalls use filters to determine the safety of everything entering your computer, only letting in what is deemed safe.

Use single sign-on (SSO), allowing your users to log in to an entire platform with just one password. When users only have to remember one password, they tend to use a safer password.

A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts and protects your data by creating a funnel that your data must pass through before entering and exiting a server. This capability is especially important for off-site employees who may not have a secure network when not on site. 

Require strong passwords. Force system users to use a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters when creating passwords. Also, make sure you require users to change the passwords often. 

Control and monitor employee activity. The Internet is a big place. So is your server. Only give access to those who need the information. Make sure employees get permission before downloading new software. 

Know and monitor your network. Be prepared for risk from IoT devices. The Internet of Things is not going away, but with it comes the risk of unsecured networks, and people don’t even realize it. That Apple Watch that just got used for work can introduce an outside risk and make your company vulnerable. 

Outsourcing your security

Hire an outside security firm. These firms often have people monitoring the networks 24/7, ensuring the safety of your network. They are usually quicker to respond and have more resources than an internal team.