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In 2004, President George W. Bush and Congress officially designated October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This annual observance serves as a dedicated period for both public and private sectors to join forces in promoting the significance of cybersecurity.
As we celebrate the 20th iteration of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, it has evolved into a robust collaboration between government and industry. Together, they strive to bolster awareness, motivate organizations to take proactive steps in minimizing online risks and stimulate dialogues on cyber threats at both the national and global levels. One way they have done this is by recognizing companies, including ECI Software Solutions, as Champion Organizations of sound cybersecurity practices.
Cybersecurity is a critical concern for businesses of all sizes, but small to midsize businesses (SMBs) are often more vulnerable due to limited resources and expertise. To help protect your business from cyber threats, here are nine tips you can implement right away:
Recent research by the Ponemon Institute and IBM has shown that 21% of cybersecurity breaches are caused unintentionally through negligent actions of employees or contractors. To mitigate this risk, conduct frequent cybersecurity training sessions to ensure that your workforce can recognize and avoid the greatest threats including phishing attacks (which account for 90% of data breaches), malware, trojans, virus infections, credential thefts, and ransomware attacks. All employees should be encouraged to report any suspicious activity promptly, through a known chain of command. In addition, we recommend establishing comprehensive guidelines for protecting sensitive customer data and ensuring that employees understand their roles in maintaining cybersecurity. Once trained, test your employees’ awareness of threats and knowledge of internal procedures regularly through simulated exercises.
Require your employees to create strong, complex passwords that are difficult for hackers to crack. Unique passwords should be used for each account or system to prevent a single breach from compromising multiple accounts. Multifactor authentication (MFA) should be adopted wherever possible, as it adds an additional layer of security by requiring multiple forms of verification. Requiring employees to change their passwords every few months can significantly bolster your organization's overall cybersecurity.
Cybercriminals are always searching for vulnerabilities in software and hardware systems. If you haven’t already, make sure that your firewalls and security patches are up to date and consistently apply the latest updates to your operating systems and applications. By taking these steps, you close potential entry points for hackers. Implementing an automated process for this step will ensure that no critical updates are missed, reducing your exposure to known vulnerabilities.
Data backups are your insurance against data loss due to cyberattacks, as well as hardware failures, employee errors, or natural disasters. Regularly back up your data, both offline and in secure cloud environments. This step ensures that you can quickly recover from unexpected incidents. Critical data includes human resource files, databases, financial files, and accounts receivable/accounts payable files. Automated backups of these files can be accomplished with modern cloud-based enterprise resource planning systems. Setting automated daily backups provides convenience and peace of mind, reducing the risk of data loss and minimizing downtime in case of an emergency.
For businesses that handle customer payments, adhering to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requirements is non-negotiable. Collaborate with reputable banks and payment processing solutions and gateways that protect against cyber fraud and cybersecurity threats to help ensure your organization’s compliance. Verify and test to make sure that your payment infrastructure meets the highest security standards, offering robust encryption, tokenization, and anti-fraud measures to protect sensitive financial data.
Developing an accessible incident response plan is a proactive measure that outlines precisely how your organization will respond to cybersecurity breaches. Create a plan that begins with proactive identification of critical data assets and systems, documentation, and regular testing and drills. The plan should encompass immediate actions that will be triggered in an attack, such as isolating affected systems, notifying relevant parties, and engaging law enforcement or cybersecurity experts if necessary. A well-structured disaster recovery plan minimizes damage, reduces downtime, and aids in quick data recovery and business continuity.
Assess your readiness: Is Your Company Prepared for Data Recovery After a Natural Disaster?
Vulnerability assessments and audits are vital for identifying and addressing weaknesses in your cybersecurity defenses. Regularly schedule these assessments to stay ahead of emerging threats. Implementing endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions empowers your organization to monitor and analyze end-user data in real time, allowing you to detect and respond to threats promptly. Regular audits, coupled with ongoing security awareness training, create a dynamic and resilient cybersecurity strategy for your small or midsize business.
Traditional thumbprint-based antivirus software is no longer adequate to protect against today’s threats. Invest in a next-generation endpoint protection solution with behavioral detection and exploit mitigation. Since most SMBs don’t generally have the budget to staff dedicated cybersecurity experts, consider an endpoint solution that offers 24x7 monitoring as a managed service.
Install and maintain advanced firewalls with deep packet inspection and threat detection capabilities. If employees work from home, ensure that their home system(s) are protected by a firewall, and ensure they are using a VPN to connect to critical assets.
By implementing each of these tips, your organization can build a more comprehensive and effective cybersecurity strategy, reduce the risks of cyber threats, and improve overall resilience.
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