7 Simple Ways to Enhance Your Cybersecurity

The threat landscape of the cyber world is continuously evolving, requiring continued advancements on the security side of cyber. Fortunately, there are multiple proactive steps organizations can take to reduce their vulnerability to cyber threats, and mitigate the risk of falling victim.

#1 Keep your systems updated

There is a misconception. Software and firmware updates only include new features or user enhancements. This could not be more false. Although updates do include those things, they also patch security holes found since the last update. When developers find these holes, or are informed of them by white hat hackers, they patch the security hole and release an update to the application or system users. It is also at this time that the security holes patches are released to the public – meaning, hackers don’t have to dig too deep to learn about vulnerabilities within the system.

If these updates are not deployed in a timely fashion, your network becomes a sitting duck.

#2 Remove unused programs

Unused programs are often found on devices. This may be deemed as bloatware, or it could just be a program or app that you once downloaded, used, and no longer have use for. If you are no longer using a program or application, delete it from the device. By doing so, you’ve completely eliminated the unnecessary risk of having a security hole where hackers can exploit your device, network, and data.

#3 Use a VPN while on public networks

We all know public networks are far from secure. However, the amount of data transferred on public networks is astounding. The best way to keep your data safe while using public WiFi networks is to use a virtual private network (VPN). This masks your location, and will encrypt data while in transit; meaning, if you send an email or pay a bill online, the data sent is completely scrambled making it completely unusable for any malicious party trying to intercept it.

#4 Backup your data

One of the best ways to improve cybersecurity and ensure data is secure from the growing cyber threats is to keep timely backups. For some, this may mean backing up data using an external harddrive; however, doing so may create additional issues. External harddrives must be disconnected from the network after each backup process. If not, they become vulnerable to cyber threats attacking the network as well, which ultimately defeats the purpose of backing up the data. Additionally, these external harddrives must be kept in a secure location, which creates an access control process that must be in place.

Alternatively, some may opt for cloud-based solutions for their backup needs. This reduces the risk of backups being on-site, as well as the need to remove them from the network after the process is complete. Regardless of which option is chosen, always spot check the backup data to ensure it is complete and updated as expected. There is not much worse than believing the process is occurring to find out after the fact, that it was not.

#5 Change passwords

Passwords are also a weak link in the cybersecurity chain. They are used everywhere, from internet of things (IoT) devices to access points. Passwords are required for personal and professional use, and far too often those lines get blurred. Passwords become repurposed for the simple fact that they are needed for everything, and it’s easier to remember one password than the 148 that you really would need if you kept each unique. Using the same password for multiple programs, devices, and applications is a problem. Couple that with using the same password for personal and professional use, and there is a far bigger issue. Now, let’s add another layer. When was the last time a password was changed or updated?

Why does this matter, you may ask? Breaches. Cyber attackers may not have hit your network yet, but they likely have your email address and possibly password too, after breaching a third-party you trusted with your data.

If you do not change or update your password at least once a quarter, it is just a matter of time before the information hackers obtained through the Experian, Yahoo, or any other breach, is used against you.

#6 Implement zero-trust

You may trust certain applications to run, but verifying they are secure before allowing them to run on your devices is imperative. This is the concept of zero-trust. Verifying software, programs, and devices are secure before granting them access to run greatly reduces the risk of cyber threats.

The reality is, by injecting a single line of malicious code into a legitimate program, a cyber attacker can wreak havoc on a network. Testing programs and adding them to an allowlist, will only permit tested and proven secure programs and devices to run. If changes are made to the program in any way, like malicious coding, the program is automatically flagged and retested before allowing it to run again.

#7 Employee training

According to Verizon, 82% of data breaches are a result of human error. Training staff to spot red flags of phishing emails, business email compromise (BEC) attacks, and what to do if they find malware like ransomware or a virus on their device is important. Too often, employees will try to hide the issue, when they should be speaking up to the IT department immediately to report an issue. By knowing the red flags, and being properly trained, the risk of employees making mistakes that lead to a successful cyber attack are greatly reduced.

As mentioned earlier, there are several steps one may take that do not require major financial investment, or concepts like recreating the wheel. By taking proactive measures like keeping systems updated, backing up their data, and training their staff, cyber risks can be mitigated.