3 Ways You Can Secure Your Network and Protect Your Company’s IT Department
Even if IT professionals have dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s when it comes to cybersecurity, uninformed employees can accidentally expose enterprise networks to digital threats.
For IT department managers across a wide range of industries, the need to safeguard enterprise networks is crucial. Indeed, an IBM/Ponemon Institute report has found that the global average cost of a data breach rose 6.4% in 2018, reaching $3.86 million. This means that maintaining network security should be a top priority, both for company stakeholders and for the IT professionals tasked with keeping digital infrastructure and proprietary data secure.
Unfortunately, cybersecurity experts can’t be everywhere at once within any given organization. While IT teams can take every necessary precaution to maintain defenses against bad actors, it’s possible for uninformed employees outside the immediate purview of IT departments to expose dire vulnerabilities. For network experts charged with protecting enterprises from cybercriminals, how can you keep your company safe when users — at all levels of the business — may inadvertently put your network in danger?
Ultimately, employees from the top down play a crucial role in network security and, like it or not, IT teams need to do what they can to prevent them from inviting threats into an enterprise network. This requires that cybersecurity professionals work with team members across all departments to educate them on the range of threats facing businesses today — and how to combat them. To help fulfill this critical responsibility, check out this breakdown of three fundamental ways you can secure your network and protect your company’s IT department.
1. Fortify Your Network Defenses
From smartphones and PCs to laptops and tablets, more devices than ever are accessing business networks day in and day out. With so many users at all levels accessing the network with both personal and professional devices — and for many different purposes — the security of your network may be compromised if you’re not careful. While employees may be using these devices with good intentions — boosting productivity, for example — they may also jeopardize strategically-established cybersecurity protocols and unknowingly allow for damaging data breaches.
The first step you can take to mitigate this problem is to put strong network defenses in place. To get started, consider implementing the following practices across your organization.
- Set up firewalls suited for your particular network architecture. Whether stateless or stateful, ensure that your first line of defense is one of your strongest.
- Implement intrusion detection and prevention systems. By doing so, you can actively monitor threats and mitigate them before they become critical.
- Secure your Wi-Fi network with robust login credentials and encryption. Make sure that your team members understand the importance of these credentials.
- Arrange for frequent backups. By keeping sensitive information secure and protected, your enterprise will be prepared for worst-case scenarios.
- Enforce user authentication with strong password protocol. Consult with employees to ensure they understand the importance of unique, rotating passwords.
- Manage privileges on a regular basis. Ensure that users only have access to information that they really need.
- Conduct a network assessment to identify security weaknesses. Then, use that assessment to address and improve upon those vulnerabilities.
2. Install Anti-Malware and Anti-Virus Solutions
Advanced threat protection requires a multi-layered, multi-faceted approach. This can help enterprises protect their networks against the most sophisticated, persistent attacks commonly seen today. By implementing rigorous defenses against both malware and viruses through anti-malware and anti-virus solutions, it’s possible to immediately counter cybercriminals the moment they attempt to access your network.
However, keep in mind that these solutions are only as effective as their latest patches. Accordingly, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest software patches. By downloading and installing patches as soon as they’re available, you can ensure that your systems, applications, and platforms are secure against the latest digital threats developed by cybercriminals.
3. Educate Employees Across the Organization
For all that IT departments invest in cybersecurity, everything will be for naught if employees aren’t part of the conversation. While you can’t expect team members in other departments with completely different types of expertise to fully grasp and put into practice the complex protocols guiding IT network security, you can educate them about their responsibilities to enterprise safety and what their roles should look like this in this environment.
For example, opening a suspicious email, responding to phishing scams, watching suspect Facebook or YouTube videos, playing online games, and visiting unsafe websites are all common ways that lay employees can accidentally open up vulnerabilities to an enterprise network. The seeming innocuousness of these threats underscores the importance of educating entire companies on the dangers the internet poses to internal cybersecurity. Accordingly, it’s critical to implement a training program that reinforces knowledge of the following issues.
- Dangerous Links
Email and phishing scams are worryingly common. Over time, hackers have devised highly deceptive ways to trick employees into clicking on malicious links. This means that employees should be fully educated on the latest phishing threats so they’re less likely to be baited into linking to a fraudulent website. As one of the most common ways hackers can steal valuable data or launch crippling malware, phishing makes it possible for just one employee to accidentally infect an entire network.
- Unsecured Sites
Sometimes, employees can be tricked into thinking they’re using a legitimate website when, in fact, they’re not. For hackers, this is a quick way to break into an enterprise network and wreak havoc on an IT department. If one of your employees visits an unsecured website, they could expose your whole digital environment to cybercriminals. That’s why each and every employee should receive guidance on how to differentiate between a secure site and an unsecured one. They should also understand why it’s crucial to follow any and all security protocols implemented to protect the network.
- Password Infractions
Passwords may be the key to your business’s most valuable assets, but that won’t stop some employees from using overly simple, easily guessable passwords. Unfortunately, password breaches can lead to some seriously devastating outcomes. Once a single employee’s password has been hacked, your entire network may be at risk. Be sure to train or even require users to use complex passwords and change them regularly. Otherwise, they may reuse personal passwords, fail to change them, write them on sticky notes, or share them with other employees. All of these can cause real issues down the line.
- Information Mismanagement
Even with the most carefully-constructed plans for sharing and storing information, there’s always the risk that employees use workarounds to complete their tasks. While these shortcuts may be more convenient than your enterprise’s best practices, these kinds of temporary solutions are highly susceptible to cyber attacks. Instead, it’s essential to foster an awareness of which information management protocols are in place — and what the consequences could be if they’re not followed.
If your enterprise is determined to get serious about network security, it’s imperative that you work with your employees to develop a robust, organization-wide understanding of your cybersecurity goals. While you can’t ask team members to split their time between their day-to-day roles and the around-the-clock vigilance that your IT department would rather they employ, you can and should expect employees to use basic, common-sense strategies for keeping your enterprise network safe. As Security Intelligence notes:
“It is often said that any successful organization must focus on people, processes and technology in equal order. Technology provides automated safeguards and processes to determine the series of actions to be taken to achieve a particular end. But even organizations with strong security practices are still vulnerable to human error. Oftentimes, there is insufficient attention paid to the ‘people’ part of the equation. To stem errors made through social engineering and to raise awareness of the potential caused by carelessness, technology and processes must be combined with employee education. This way, employees are aware of the threats they face and the part they are expected to play in guarding against them. Keeping organizations safe relies on constantly educating employees about identifying suspicious communications and new possible risks.”
To get this process started, a network assessment is the best place to start. By working with experts to map out the full details of your current IT infrastructure, you can pinpoint vulnerabilities, develop innovative solutions to resolve them and make your enterprise more resilient to the full range of digital threats that companies face today.
If you’re ready to begin, reach out to the experts at Turn-key Technologies (TTI) today. Our team of certified professionals has the experience businesses need to manage their current network architecture and make plans for the future. With a network assessment from TTI, you and your team can be confident that you’re investing in a more effective and more secure IT future for your enterprise.
By Craig Badrick