To ensure that a company’s data is protected against people with malicious intent, hardware or software failure, or even user error, small businesses must plan and implement cybersecurity best practices – both personal and work. These good habits are known as cyber hygiene. Just like washing hands can minimize the risk of infection, cyber hygiene can protect against infiltration and data loss.

Cyber hygiene encompasses a variety of security measures, and every employee has a role to play. By incorporating these methods into everyday actions, organizational data has a higher likelihood of remaining secure against common threats.

Passwords: 

Users should password protect every device. For text passwords and PINs that may be compromised, it’s important to use unique passwords and to change them frequently – at least once every six months. Password tools can ensure that users have access to their hardware and software without compromising the integrity of the password. Remind users to log out of their devices when they walk away.

Software: 

Businesses should ensure that software is always up to date, especially security software that requires updates to stay abreast of the most recent threats. Software companies offer releases as vulnerabilities are found. It only takes a few moments to update software as you go; although, this job can take much longer if updates accumulate. Periodically review software. If it’s no longer maintained, it’s time to find an alternative. Track all installations and upgrades

Hardware: 

Hardware should be inventoried and assessed just like software. Devices may require firmware or operating system updates to ensure the latest protection as well as compatibility with the software you want to use. Older devices may need replacing to those that offer more security and improved performance. Decommissioned hardware must be thoroughly scrubbed before disposal. Companies should consider which hardware has security features that best fit their needs.

Users: 

Limit who has access to your systems. Only add the necessary users and limit administration privileges. Users should be trained on how to spot potential attacks such as phishing attacks, dangerous attachments, and more. Users should only use approved software, including applications on mobile devices.

Data:

Data should be frequently backed up and backed up to multiple sources. For example, data can be backed up to a local server and the cloud. Businesses should consider how much data they can afford to lose. For most companies, the answer is “none.” Daily backups can prevent costly data loss if hardware or software fails or data becomes compromised.

Networks: 

Company networks should only be accessible by approved users. Firewalls prevent unauthorized access. Additionally, users should be careful with the software they utilize and websites they visit on company devices outside of the office. Personal devices that have access to the company network must similarly be secured.

Partners:

Whether outsourcing technical services, using third-party products or working with other businesses, an organization must ensure that all partners take security as seriously as they do. Just consider the 2013 hack of Target: hackers gained access to credit card information of Target shoppers through software used by the company that provided HVAC service to the retailer.

Many of these areas of vulnerability require oversight by an IT professional or team; however, everyone with an organization must do their part to ensure cybersecurity. In the era of mobile devices, company phones and computers must remain secure no matter where the user logs in. With some companies allowing employees to bring their own devices, the concern over security only increases.

Comprehensive security may sound overwhelming, but it can be tackled little by little. Proper security habits are not a one-time thing. Organizations can employ new lessons in the form of micro-learning to ensure users are engaging in good habits and apprised of changes. Annual or biannual training ensures that these good habits remain fresh in mind.

An internal security first culture starts with a strong IT action plan. Learn the steps your small business should take now to help you scale for the future.

Peters & Associates is dedicated to securing your network, with 24/7 monitoring and support, our Managed Services. Give us a call at 630.832.0075 or send an email to info@peters.com to get started!