Data breaches have been on the rise for many years and don’t show signs of slowing down. Although you mainly hear about large corporations falling victim to a massive data breach, 43% of all cyberattacks target small businesses. Worse, a data breach can go undetected for 6 months or more while the damage continues.
Network security, according to experts at Check Point, consists of physical, technical, and administrative controls. To secure your network, a variety of mechanisms are required. For instance, you need to control network access, install antivirus software, secure your applications and endpoints, install gateways and firewalls, use VPN encryption, and have a strong back-end for analytics.
Not sure where to start? Whether you’re managing a small or large network, your data is at risk. Here are 5 proven ways to secure your network from cybercriminals.
- Hire a professional IT security team
If you can afford to keep an in-house IT security team on payroll, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. However, if your IT security team members don’t fill other roles in the company, you might be spending too much on labor.
Every business needs professional IT security. Your network is safer when security professionals perform the initial setup and ongoing maintenance. No matter how much a person learns about data security on their own, it’s easy to overlook the small things. For instance, you might accidentally misconfigure a firewall and end up with a data breach like the one Capital One has been digging their way out of since 2019.
By hiring a professional IT security team, your data is protected by a team with experience in the industry.
- Secure your company’s router and all access points
Hopefully, your network has a strong password. This seems like an obvious point, but you’d be surprised to learn how many business owners leave their networks open. Some small business owners use the same network to conduct business and to provide internet access to their customers, putting their entire operation at risk.
All routers and access points, including signal boosters, should be secured by WPA2-AES encryption. WPA and WEP should be avoided as well as TKIP.
Don’t forget to keep your router’s firmware updated. Your router is essentially a small computer that runs on software called firmware. Firmware controls your router’s security standards including what devices are allowed to connect to the network.
- Use a zero-trust security model
If your employees and contractors access your company network outside of your physical office, you need a zero-trust security model. Without zero-trust, whenever a user accesses your company network, your entire network is at risk. With a zero-trust model, applications and data are only provided to authenticated and authorized users, and user activity is constantly logged and inspected.
Zero-trust ensures that your employees and contractors only have access to portions of your network that are needed to do their jobs.
This also means you need to segment your network and be diligent about where you store digital assets. For example, company financials should only be accessible and visible to the group of users you specify. Other users should not even be able to see where your company’s financial data is stored, even if access to that segment is denied.
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An IT security professional can help you set up a zero-trust security model. The system will grant permissions at a group level so you don’t have to set permissions for each individual employee. It works by assigning permissions to groups and then assigning users to those groups. When you need to remove a user’s access, you simply remove them from the group and/or disable their access credentials.
- Never ignore software patches and updates
Periodically, you’ll get notices to update and patch the software you use to run your business. For instance, say you’re running a mail center and use the popular software called Endicia to process shipments and payments. You might be prompted to install an update and/or patch. Updates/upgrades are essential to maintain security. If you don’t keep the software updated, your mail customers could have their identities stolen in a data breach.
While updates are easy to install with just a few clicks, it’s a good idea to have an IT professional install patches. Patches are a little more complex and sometimes require highly technical choices and settings.
- Make network security your top priority
Your business can’t afford to be the subject of the next major data breach. Making network security your top priority is the best thing you can do for your business and your customers.