The 10 Best Cybersecurity Tips and Practices – as Told by IT Professionals
Although there’s a lot of tips and best practices out there when it comes to cybersecurity, it’s important to make sure they’re coming from the right source.
With October being National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, now is the perfect time to brush up on some of the leading IT professional-approved cybersecurity tips and best practices to follow in your organization. Take a look at these top 10 recommendations:
1. Use Strong Password Protection and Multi-Factor Authentication
Utilizing strong, unique passwords is an incredibly important best practice to follow. Put more effort into creating your password, rather than choosing something easily guessable. Back in February, Google introduced a handy extension for Chrome called Password Checkup – a plug-in that can warn users of compromised passwords, reused passwords, and accounts using weak passwords. Or consider using the tool How Secure is My Password to test out how secure your passwords are.
Many platforms also now allow you to enable multi-factor authentication to keep your accounts more secure. Multi-factor authentication is another layer of protection that helps to verify it’s actually you who is accessing your account and not someone who is unauthorized. This feature is a great one to enable when you have the option!
2. Back Up Your Data
If a security breach ever unfortunately occurs, important data can be lost for good. To make sure you’re prepared to restore data if it’s ever lost, ensure your information is backed up frequently on the cloud or to a local storage device.
3. Be Wary of Phishing
If an email looks suspicious, it’s typically best to avoid opening it as it could be a phishing scam. Phishing is a cybercrime that includes the impersonation of another individual or legitimate company via email in order to gain access to sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords.
It’s important to be wary of any emails you receive that may have any of the following common phishing email features: It seems too good to be true (i.e. lucrative offers or eye-catching statements); there’s a sense of urgency (i.e. deals only for a limited time); hyperlinks are used (especially if it’s spelled incorrectly); attachments are used (may contain a virus that can infect your device); and it comes from an unusual sender. If anything seems suspicious in nature, out of the ordinary, unexpected, or out of character – don’t click on it!
Although hackers are continuously coming up with new techniques and ways to get to your sensitive information, there are still some things you can do to protect yourself and your organization, such as:
Use spam filters to protect against spam mail
Spam filters analyze the origin of the message, the software used to send it, and the appearance of the message in order to determine if it’s spam or not. Remember to scan through the filtered emails every week or two to make sure it hasn’t blocked any legitimate messages.
Conduct phishing simulations
Simulating and testing to see if employees have their guard up is a good way to see if they are compliant or not with this best practice. Check out some of the best practices for effectively implementing a phishing simulation here.
Have browser settings set to prevent fraudulent websites from opening
Browsers keep a growing list of fake websites and will block or alert you when you try to access them. The settings of a browser should only allow reliable websites to open successfully.
On most browsers, you can see the URL by hovering over the link
If there is a link in an email, do this to check any links before you click on them.
Pay attention whether a website is secure or not before visiting it
Secure websites with a valid Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate begin with "HTTPS." Eventually, all sites will be required to have a valid SSL, but until then it’s a good idea to double check that a site’s using HTTPS before you give away any personal or private information. When you’re on a website that isn’t using HTTPS, there’s no guarantee that the transfer between you and the site’s server is secure – and this may play into exactly what the email was trying to get you to do.
The only attached file type that is always safe to click on is a .txt file.
Related Reading: 7 Steps to Protect Yourself Against Corporate Spear Phishing
4. Keep Your Software AND Hardware Up-to-Date
Software updates are typically provided for three main reasons: to add new features, to fix known bugs, and to upgrade security. It’s important to always update to the latest version of your software so you can protect yourself from new or existing cybersecurity vulnerabilities. It’s better to meet the costs of security rather than pay the price of a data breach.
Outdated hardware may not support the necessary recent software security upgrades. Old hardware also responds slower to cyberattacks if one were to occur. It’s better to be safe than sorry and upgrade hardware while things are sailing smoothly.
5. Have a Cybersecurity Policy
Having a documented policy that serves as a formal guide to all cybersecurity measures can make a huge difference. It not only allows security specialists and employees to be on the same page, it also gives you a way to enforce the set rules put in place to protect your data.
While a company-wide centralized security policy can be beneficial as a basic guideline to follow, it however shouldn’t cover every single process in each separate department. Rather, consider allowing each department to create their own security policies based on the central policy.
There is an abundance of benefits to creating security policies in a hierarchical method as such. By doing this, the needs of every department are considered, and nothing will be compromised in the name of security.
Related Reading: Three Reasons You Need an Updated Security Policy
6. Connect to Secure Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi networks should be encrypted and secure. If you’re working remotely, you can help protect critical data by using a virtual private network (VPN). VPN’s encrypt your connection and protect your private information, even from your internet service provider. When doing work outside of the office, a VPN is essential.
Be sure to avoid connecting to public, unsecure Wi-Fi networks. Public Wi-Fi means you’re sharing the network with everyone who is also connected – even those with malicious intentions. Because any information sent or retrieved on public networks is vulnerable, stay away from them – or use a VPN.
7. Use Antivirus and Anti-Malware
If you’re connected to the web, it’s essentially impossible to have total and complete protection from malware. However, you can significantly reduce your risk of turning into a cybersecurity cautionary tale by ensuring you have an antivirus and an anti-malware application installed on your computer(s).
Server-level anti-virus applications are also just as important to have. It’s a good idea to choose anti-virus software that’s native to your OS. For example, many organizations use Windows software on their Linux, IBM I, and AIX environments. However, they find it doesn’t protect them and actually bogs down their systems.
Related Reading: Malware, Virus, Anti-malware, Antivirus: What’s the Difference?
8. Embrace Education and Training
The key to making cybersecurity work is to make sure you and your fellow employees are in sync, well trained, and consistently exercising the best security practices. All it can take is one mistake from an improperly trained employee to cause an entire security system to crumble. Being well versed in what to do vs. what not to do can make a huge impact if a mishap were to occur.
9. Use a Secure Managed File Transfer Solution
Your files are only as secure as the tools you use to share them with. Adopt a secure managed file transfer (MFT) solution that can encrypt files while they’re in transit and at rest to prevent unauthorized access and most importantly – keep your files safe. It might sound obvious, but protecting your company’s data, sensitive information, or intellectual property is important for a reason.
Implementing an MFT solution in your organization will help guard your data against data breaches through robust security and encryption methods, all while streamlining the file transfer process to save you time and resources.
GoAnywhere MFT, our all-in-one file transfer solution, provides secure connections for the transmission of data, integrates with existing critical applications, allows for role-based security and user authentication, workflows that can be automated and scheduled, plus so much more.
10. Talk to Your IT Department
It’s a good idea to work with IT directly if something like a software update hits a snag or if you receive an email you think may be a phishing scam. Always report security warnings from your internet security software to IT and don’t let a simple problem become more complex by attempting to fix it on your own. If you’re unsure, IT can help.
If you think a piece of the puzzle is missing, reach out. Your IT Department is your friend! Talk to them about creating an incident response plan if one is not already in place. With a solid cybersecurity plan and solid incident response plan in place, a compromised system vulnerability can be dealt with quickly, effectively, and cleanly, without any data or personal information stolen.
- Limit privileged access to only those that need it. 70 percent of users have more access privileges than required for their job. This opens organizations up to extra risk if/when credentials get hacked, you have malicious insiders, etc.
- Conduct vulnerability assessments. Conducting a vulnerability assessment at least once a year to find the weak points in your IT environment can help you make a conscious, evidence-based decision about which security issues to fix instead of waiting for an attacker to find them first.
- Periodically, do a test restoring data. Making sure that all required files are being backed up correctly and can be restored without any issues can be a lifesaver if the server ever crashes. Caution is the best practice for safety!
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