In the age of digital transformation, every business is entrusted with sensitive information from customers, suppliers, and associates. No business is too small to attract the attention of the ever-expanding world of 21st Century cyber-crime.
Whether we call them hackers, the dark web, or malicious actors, the risk of data breaches and network intrusion by any name is usually summed up by the professionals in the network security field as "not a question of if an attack will occur, but when." With that sobering warning in mind, we will review the essential tools and practices which can prevent and deter security breaches at your business.
Antivirus software provides protection by scanning computer files and memory to detect patterns or "signatures" that indicate the presence of known malware programs. The keys to optimized antivirus protection are to scan regularly and ensure that the antivirus software is continuously updated. New and updated malware is identified by antivirus providers on a daily basis, and it is essential to keep antivirus definitions current, so the software can effectively detect, block, and cleanse new forms of malware from the system.
Firewalls, Access Controls, and Privileges
Firewalls enforce access control between networks such as an organization's LAN and the risky environment of the public internet. The firewall functions as the front door security guard, blocking or permitting traffic and even aiding in the apprehension of offenders. The firewall protects in 3 ways:
- It blocks incoming data which could be a cyber-attack.
- The firewall uses NAT (Network Address Translation) to hide network information. Outgoing information appears to have originated at the firewall rather than the actual network address. A good firewall should conceal its IP address as well as IP addresses on the LAN. To launch an attack, hackers need to know the IP address of the target.
- Limits internet use or access to remote sites by screening outgoing traffic.
Firewalls not only block attacks, but they can alert network administrators when an attack is detected and track the data back to the malicious sender. The usual best practice for firewall setup is to configure it to deny access to all incoming traffic, and then open discriminating incoming traffic gates as required for operations.
Patches & Updates
By now it is obvious that updating antivirus and security software is critical, but all software updates can optimize performance as well as security. Patches plug holes and security weaknesses discovered in software and operating systems. Hackers are quick to share this information and black hat coders go to work to exploit these specific vulnerabilities. Updates also remove outdated features, fix bugs, update drivers and add the latest new improvements. The best practice for updates is to install and restart as soon as they are available. Choosing the "Remind me later" option can leave the network door open to known threats.
The most sophisticated firewalls and IDS can all be defeated by a single compromised password. The password is the key that can get a hacker inside the firewall where he can masquerade as a legitimate user and wreak havoc on the network. Any Network Use Policy should include strong passwords as a priority, following the guidelines below:
- 12 characters or longer. The longer, the better.
- Contain a combination of upper and lower case letters.
- Include at least one numeric and/or special character (&, @, etc.), punctuation, and spaces.
- Avoid saving or storing passwords on software.
Using a complete sentence as a passphrase or easy to remember mi55pelling$ simplifies the use of strong passwords. All personnel should be briefed on phishing scams which entice a user to reveal a password and best practices for maintaining strong password integrity.
Security Best Practices
Total Computer Solutions can provide the network security expertise to protect against cyber-attack and assess the security risks to your business from inside or outside of the organization. We have made it our mission to provide the customized computer solutions which are best suited for your smooth day-to-day digital applications so don't hesitate to contact us.