Now that work is extended into our homes, cybersecurity has never been more crucial. Let’s dive into the cyber threats you need to be aware of, cyber best practices to teach your staff, how to go about training your team, and best practices for your IT infrastructure.
Types of Cyber Threats
The shift to remote work brought a plethora of cybersecurity risks. As we shifted to remote work, hackers too, shifted their focus. For instance, INTERPOL’s assessment during the early months of 2020 found an alarming surge in cyberattacks on major infrastructures and large organizations. These statistics show the importance of equipping remote employees with the right tools and training to thwart such threats.
Here are some significant cybersecurity issues to be aware of:
Hackers capitalize on the fear of losing precious data. Through ransomware, they encrypt users’ data, demanding payment in exchange for the decryption key. These are often disseminated through deceptive phishing emails or malicious websites.
Arguably, the biggest challenge has been dealing with weak or reused passwords. Hackers employ sophisticated tools to guess login combinations or use known passwords from one platform to access another.
Transferring files remotely can expose data to potential theft, especially if not encrypted or sent through secured channels. The aftermath? Data theft, ransomware attacks, and more.
Employees connecting from insecure Wi-Fi networks can inadvertently expose company data. Regular updates and configurations are essential for all devices, including home routers.
Using personal devices, which often lack robust cybersecurity measures, can serve as open doors for hackers looking to access corporate information.
Cyber Best Practices to Teach Your Employees
Regardless of their position or level, every employee is an integral part of a company’s cybersecurity framework. It is said that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In the world of cybersecurity, every employee can either be a potent defense mechanism or a vulnerability.
Given this, firms need to equip their teams with comprehensive training in cyber best practices. Let’s dive deeper into the curriculum and key principles that a company must impart to its employees.
Stay Alert to Phishing Threats
Train employees to identify tell-tale signs of phishing emails – such as generic greetings, spelling errors, unfamiliar senders, or urgent language that demands immediate action.
If an email contains links or attachments and originates from an unfamiliar source, employees should reach out directly to the supposed sender through another channel to confirm the email’s legitimacy.
To reinforce what you teach, periodically run simulated phishing attacks to test employees’ ability to identify deceptive emails and text messages.
Embrace Comprehensive Antivirus Software
Set all company devices to run regular antivirus scans. This proactive approach helps in detecting and eliminating threats before they wreak havoc.
Ensure that antivirus software updates automatically, keeping the defense mechanism up-to-date against emerging threats.
Finally, teach employees the importance of threat reports generated by antivirus software, and encourage them to report anomalies.
Encrypt and Secure
Emphasize the significance of encryption, not just for sensitive company data but for any work-related communication or document. Encryption turns readable data into a coded version which can only be decoded with a specific key.
Instill the habit of regularly updating devices, software, and applications. Outdated software can have vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
Advocate for the use of secure, private networks, especially when accessing company data. Encourage employees to avoid public Wi-Fi for work purposes.
Stress the importance of creating passwords with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The longer and more complex a password, the harder it is to crack.
Introduce and enforce two-step verification wherever possible. This adds an extra layer of security, requiring not just a password but also a second piece of evidence to authenticate identity.
In the past, IT professionals advocated changing passwords every 60 to 90 days. However, the Federal Trade Commission no longer recommends this as a best practice because it likely no longer confers the benefits it used to and can lead to weaker password habits.
Highlight the dangers of downloading unauthorized software, which might come bundled with malware or other vulnerabilities.
Encourage teams to undergo routine software audits to ensure all applications on their devices are up-to-date and sanctioned by the company.
Use software whitelisting practices to only allow approved applications to run on company networks and devices.
Wherever possible, incorporate Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), which demands multiple methods of verification before allowing access.
Provide hands-on training on how to use authentication apps. These applications generate time-sensitive codes that offer an additional layer of security.
Educate employees about the perils of oversharing information on social media and other platforms. Cybercriminals can exploit personal information to craft convincing phishing attacks.
How to Train Employees on Cybersecurity Best Practices
Importance of Protocol Adherence
The foundation of any cybersecurity policy rests upon its strict adherence. Remote employees should recognize their pivotal role in safeguarding business data. Devices they use, if not secured or updated, can become weak points in an otherwise fortified network.
While it is optimal for security software to receive automatic updates, employees must be vigilant enough to spot issues and report them. Proper communication channels, especially with the IT department, should be established for any tech-related concerns.
Reinforcing Policies and Continuous
Training It’s essential not just to have cybersecurity policies in place but to ensure that these are communicated, understood, and followed consistently. Given the dynamism of digital threats, businesses should periodically hold discussions about these policies, ensuring their seamless integration into daily operations. Regular checks or tests can be conducted to evaluate the employees’ adherence to these practices.
Accountability and Threat Awareness
Understanding the ramifications of lax cybersecurity is vital. Employees should be made aware of the potential damages caused by cyber threats and be held accountable for any policy violations. Such an approach ensures that the importance of digital safety isn’t taken lightly.
Strengthening Password Protocols
While the importance of strong passwords is often reiterated, its consistent practice might be lacking. Organizations can consider assigning strong passwords to employees periodically, emphasizing the importance of online and offline confidentiality.
Guidelines on Payment Systems
Training should also cover the careful handling of payment systems. Aligning with recommendations from institutions like the U.S. Small Business Administration, employees should understand the separation of payment systems from other programs and the implications of using company cards or devices for transactions.
Data Backup and Device Authorization
Data isn’t just vulnerable to attacks. It can be lost due to hardware malfunctions or other unforeseen issues. Employees should be trained on data backup protocols. Moreover, the usage of company devices should be restricted to authorized personnel, emphasizing the significance of not sharing devices without due permission.
Web Content and Software Management
Employees involved in web content creation or updates should be trained on secure practices, ensuring no loopholes are left for exploitation. Also, strict guidelines should be set against unauthorized software installations, keeping devices clean and secure.
Safe Email Practices
Given the rise in cyberattacks via email, employees should be thoroughly trained in identifying and handling potential spam and phishing threats. Recognizing suspicious emails and being cautious about their links and attachments is a crucial skill in the modern workplace.
Cybersecurity Best Practices and Tips For IT Departments
Help Employees Set Up Secure Home Networks
Change default passwords on routers and ensure you’re using the most robust encryption setting, usually WPA2.
Use Antivirus Software
Keep threats at bay with constantly updated antivirus software that can identify and fend off new threats.
Ensure Employees Use Secure Web Browsers
Use internet security tools like cloud backups, secure web browsers, and VPNs such as NordVPN or Express VPN. Given the rise in cyberattacks via email, always ensure email communications are secured via VPNs, and stay vigilant for phishing signs.
Create Unique Passwords
Every account should use a unique, robust password that isn’t reused elsewhere. You can use a password generator, and record your passwords in a secure location.
Protect Information with Identity Management
Enhance individual user security and ensure that only authorized users can access certain information. Tools like Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) introduce an additional layer of security beyond mere passwords. They demand a second form of identification, such as a texted code or fingerprint scan, ensuring that even if passwords are compromised, unauthorized access is curtailed.
Connect with Endpoint Security
Safeguard each endpoint on a network from potential security breaches. Endpoint security tools focus on the devices (endpoints) connecting to a network, like laptops, smartphones, and tablets. They provide enhanced visibility over these devices, real-time threat detection, and dynamic access controls, ensuring that malicious activities are quickly spotted and halted.
Use ZTNA (Zero-Trust Network Access)
Assume no trust and verify every user and device trying to access network resources. Traditional security methods often relied on “trust but verify.” ZTNA, on the other hand, employs a “never trust, always verify” model. Regardless of whether access requests come from within or outside the organization’s traditional perimeter, ZTNA continuously validates the legitimacy of those requests, minimizing potential breaches.
Prevent Data Loss
Stop unauthorized data sharing, extraction, or theft. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools monitor the movement of data across the network. They can detect and block potential data breaches, both accidental and malicious. DLP is particularly critical in a remote working era where data often moves between varying network security levels.
Observe User Behavior
Monitor, understand, and analyze user activities to pinpoint and react to anomalies. User Behavior Analytics (UBA) tools track activities like application usage, network interactions, file access, and more. By understanding “normal” behavior patterns, UBA can quickly detect unusual activities, indicating potential security threats.
Stay Alert with SIEM (Security Information and Event Management)
Centralize the storage, interpretation, and alerting of security-related incidents. SIEM solutions collate security data from various sources, analyze it for signs of malicious or unusual activities, and then provide real-time analysis of security alerts. These systems play a vital role in rapid threat detection and incident response.
Encrypt Your Data
Ensure all data remains confidential and tamper-proof. Encryption converts data into a code, ensuring only those with the correct key can decipher and access it. Whether data is at rest (stored on a hard drive) or in transit (being transferred over the internet), encryption ensures it remains unreadable to unauthorized entities, thus maintaining its confidentiality and integrity.
While the flexibility of working from any corner of the world is liberating, it comes with the responsibility of ensuring that every digital transaction is secured. By understanding the risks and adopting a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity, your organization can create a safe digital workspace.