Today IT security has become a critical issue for every company of any size. Just ten years ago hackers did not waste their time and energy on small businesses. But today cybercrime is a multi-billion dollar business and no company is immune — from Fortune 100 companies down to the smallest mom-and-pop shops.
What’s more, the type, number, and severity of security issues are on the rise. Threats come from malicious external hackers and even internal human error.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are several simple IT network security measures that companies can take to build a stronger defense against cybercrime — including limiting employees’ internet access, establishing email security guidelines, and maintaining strong passwords. These three suggestions should be an essential part of your business operation.
Limit or Restrict Your Employees’ Internet Access
Surfing the internet comes with certain inherent risks. When you log on, you step into the public arena. When your employees spend time surfing on company time, they put your company at risk for a wide variety of security threats. That’s one reason why (along with lost productivity) that many companies put restrictions on employees’ access to the internet at work.
Controlling internet access involves specific steps, including implementing policies and using tools for managing control. Policies can include rules such as blocking certain Web sites during work hours. Many companies use the honor system, which prevents your company from becoming too “big brother-ish.”
Establish Email Security Guidelines
Spam was a big deal at the start of personal computing. But many businesses assume that challenge has been conquered. Not so. Experts say it’s still the number one threat vector that hackers use to gain access to an organization’s IT network. In fact, some of the recent headline-grabbing big data breaches, like Target, started with email hacks.
Phishing, for example, involves hackers sending emails that appear legitimate, but contain corrupt links or attachments, or other nasty surprises. Malicious email links can wreak havoc on a business. If hackers gain access to an employee’s login access or to the network security credentials, they can access anything — including business-critical information. Average security breaches result in nearly $40,000 in damages.
Because every company depends on email, every company needs to keep their email systems secure. Email security is one of the best investments an organization can make, no matter its size. For example, no one should click on questionable links. Ongoing training about email security can help employees understand and avoid putting your business at risk.
Require Strong Passwords
Strong passwords are one of the easiest and most powerful ways to keep networks safe. Yet, many businesses don’t enforce password policies. To boost your security, require your employees to use strong passwords and change them regularly. Here are a few tips:
- The longer the better. The latest thinking on passwords is to make them long — think 65 characters. Use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Choose random letters. For the strongest passwords, don’t use words at all. Use random letters, numbers, and special characters. Some experts recommend long acronyms to help users remember their passwords.
- Change regularly. Change passwords regularly, about every three to six months.
- Keep them safe. Don’t write down passwords or store them on cell phones where others can find them.
When choosing your managed IT service provider, make sure the firm has security as a core part of its business. Check its record and look for a proven track record of defending businesses against multiple threats. The experienced team at Gulf South Technology Solutions can help your company guard against all risks to your business’s security.