A Practical Guide to IT Security

It can take a lot of resources and effort to keep your IT infrastructure safe. It’s a complex task that covers multiple fronts these days, and it’s important to take a proactive approach to it. You should always be using the top solutions the market has to offer, and you should have the consulting expertise of specialists with enough experience in the field. It’s important to understand that the most expensive IT security solution isn’t always necessarily the best one. You have to adapt your search to your specific circumstances and understand the requirements of your company.

Understand the Threats Your Business Faces

In order to determine what kind of security setup would be adequate for your business, you must first understand the threats that you face on a regular basis. This requires you to take a deep look at all processes involved in your operations, and everything they link to.

Pay special attention to points concerning data. This includes both customer data as well as the information of your employees. You should do your best to ensure that those processes are as isolated as possible, and that they don’t interact with any other parts of the system unnecessarily.

Once you have a good overview of your current situation, you can start thinking about security solutions that you can integrate into your workflow. Understanding your requirements will allow you to direct your search much more effectively.

Cyber Essentials – Is It Worth the Investment?

The Cyber Essentials program aims to cover the five pillars of information security. Going through the program and obtaining the certificate can go a long way towards improving your IT security knowledge, and it can help you improve the practices within your organisation very quickly.

For example, you’ll learn about the benefits of a good firewall, and how to set one up correctly. This will be just one step in the overall security setup of your company, but it will play an important role in the grand scheme of things. Other details from the course can be quite useful in figuring out how your information is flowing as well.

You must also learn about the configuration of the software you’re using. All programs you use on a daily basis require some basic setup in order to get the most out of them. Sometimes it’s not just about convenience, but security. Improper configurations are one of the most attractive targets for attackers looking for an easy way in. This also includes software updates. Many companies are behind on their update practices, leaving them with a large number of holes constantly open. And, of course, you should change default settings like passwords and other security-related configurations.

It’s a good idea to set up a detailed access control system as well. This usually involves some sort of account and authentication setup, which allows you to verify the credentials of anyone interacting with your network. You should take the time to ensure that everyone you’re giving access can only see the things that are directly relevant to their work. It will likely take some time to set this up properly, especially in a larger organisation with a lot of employees. But in the grand scheme of things, this is one of the most important steps you can take.

Keeping your company safe from viruses is also important – that’s why you’re going to need a good malware protection suite. There are lots of options available for that on the market today, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s a good idea to spend some time exploring different solutions because this is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make with regards to the security setup of your business.

Last but not least, pay attention to software updates. As we mentioned above, falling behind on updates is a common problem for many organisations. And considering how severe the results from it can be, it’s important to set up some sort of system for keeping track of this from the very beginning. If the decision is left in the hands of employees, most of them will just skip those updates for as long as they can. This is obviously not an ideal situation if you’re trying to keep your company safe and protected. It’s a good idea to invest in a solution that manages your software updates automatically and with minimal user intervention.

Keep Your Data Protected Locally

You should always be wary of people trying to access devices that they shouldn’t. Physical access is the ultimate aim of any attacker trying to extract information from your business, which makes it crucial to protect your important devices in every way possible. You should do your best to ensure that devices stay separate when that doesn’t interfere with their regular operation. In addition, look into splitting up your network as well. You would probably be surprised to find out that you’re allowing a large number of connections that shouldn’t really be allowed in the first place.

Think about network connectivity in general. Not everything needs to be online to get its job done. Some processes that work with data in batches, for example, can run perfectly fine offline. And when that data is valuable, it’s a good idea to keep them separated from any network connections as much as you can.

The same applies to devices being used outside of the office. You need to have adequate security practices in place for people doing remote work and taking company equipment home. A large number of attacks are targeted at home workers, and this trend has been growing over the last year thanks to the pandemic. Don’t allow any unsecured devices to connect to your company’s network without a good reason.

There’s also a good saying about data – if it doesn’t exist in at least two separate physical locations at once, it’s not properly backed up. It can take some time to develop adequate security practices for offsite storage, but it can be very beneficial. Do everything in your power to keep offsite data secure. Use encryption and other protection tools to restrict access. You can also take advantage of the remote wiping functionality offered by many IT management suites these days. That way, if a device on your network gets compromised, you can quickly erase its contents and prevent it from connecting to any nodes.

Keep Your Cloud Data Safe

You’re probably using various cloud solutions for data storage nowadays. Companies in general are taking great advantage of the cloud market and are actively integrating these products into their work. And while that’s great in general, it also opens you to another potential security risk. Protecting your data in the cloud is trickier than data you control locally, because you typically need to coordinate everything with the cloud provider. This may not always be possible, and it can result in some issues remaining unaddressed.

Always know exactly what kind of data you’re storing in the cloud, and what devices have access to it. Some devices have backups enabled by default, allowing them to sync their data with cloud services without any user interaction. When you forget to disable those features, they can create various potential risks for your organisation.

Use Regular Backups

The importance of a backup system cannot be overstated. Losing all your data can destroy your business, and even when it doesn’t do that, it can still force you to spend months recovering from the issue. You may also be in violation of certain regulations if you allow your data to be lost. It’s important to ensure that you have an adequate backup solution, and to keep it in check on a regular basis.

There are some important points to consider about proper backup practices. First, keep your backups separate from your main network. Having them constantly accessible may seem like a convenient setup, but it also exposes them to attacks from ransomware that might make the data unusable. Second, as we mentioned above, always ensure that you have at least one offsite backup for every important dataset you’re storing. Ideally, you should have even more. But never limit yourself to just one backup, even worse, one that’s stored in your main office. With a setup like that, you’re always one incident away from a major disaster that could cost you your entire company.

The Importance of Staff Training

Even if you have the best software solutions, proper security also requires an educated workforce. Ideally, you should provide regular cybersecurity awareness training to all your employees, to ensure they understand and spot any potential security threats such as phishing emails. This training may an online course.

Do your best to encourage your employees to follow appropriate security practices. Reward people who’ve shown good discipline in this regard, and, of course, you can’t allow your own knowledge of IT security practices to become outdated. Always keep yourself up to date on recent developments in the field and pay attention to major trends on the horizon. Sometimes it’s nothing to worry about, but in other cases, you’ll be glad that you were prepared in advance.

Stay Alert for Issues

Finding out that an attack is underway means that you’re too late. You need to be proactive in keeping your systems safe, and this requires constant vigilance. Of course, it can be difficult – and even impossible – to manually keep track of a large infrastructure. That’s why you need to invest in solutions that will do the watching for you and will alert you if anything seems out of the ordinary.

Of course, simply having those systems in place is not enough. You must also pay attention to their output and actually take action when something seems wrong. Many people fall for the trap of setting something up once and then forgetting about it. Or even worse, ignoring its alerts, thinking that it’s a false positive. If you’re going to go through the trouble of deploying active monitoring systems, you should pay attention to what they are reporting. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.

On top of that, you should also run regular vulnerability checks on your systems to see if you might have missed something. New vulnerabilities appear all the time, and it can be difficult to keep track of all of them yourself. Even security experts are challenged by this. That’s why you should rely on automated tools to do the hard work for you. But just as in the above case, it’s important to actually pay attention to what those systems are reporting instead of just letting them run on their own.

Understand and Revise Your Policies

If you have a system of well-written security policies in place, this can relieve a lot of stress when something goes wrong. Instead of scrambling to find a solution, you’ll just have to follow a list of steps until you’ve resolved the situation. And the more time you spend preparing that list, the better it’s going to serve you when the time comes for that.

This usually starts with a major revision of your current systems and assets. You should evaluate what systems are responsible for which parts of your data and organise its storage accordingly. Then, assess the risk of each component of your infrastructure. Some will be more vulnerable than others, and some might be responsible for storing sensitive data that you can’t afford to leak. Assess each component of your networks with regards to the risk it introduces in your overall setup and take measures accordingly.

Don’t Store Data You Don’t Need

Data hoarding is a problem, not just for individuals obsessed with media, but for companies as well. With the great storage capability we have nowadays, it’s easy to say “why should we delete that, just keep it in case we need it later”. That’s a very bad way to approach data storage though. It’s important to take the time to evaluate how much of your data you actually need to retain. Then, take steps to ensure that anything that doesn’t fall into this category is properly purged when the time comes.

That deletion should be done in a very specific way. You need to have detailed policies in place for things like data destruction and retention and ensure that anyone working with that data follows them precisely. Failing to observe proper deletion policies may sometimes mean that you’re stuck with data you didn’t even know you had, which is a great situation for anyone looking to break into your systems and extract something useful. After all, what are the chances you’re even paying attention to this data if you don’t know it exists in the first place?

Keep Your IT Contractor(s) in Check

If you’re like most companies on the market, you likely outsource a great deal of your IT services to external contractors. Sometimes you might even handle everything externally. And while that’s a great way to optimise your expenses while bringing some advanced expertise to the table, it’s also something that requires a lot of caution. You must make sure that you’re working with the best IT contractors on your market from the very beginning. And even then, it’s important to keep their work in check. Even if you were impressed with how things were going in the beginning, you can’t let your guard down.

If there is an opportunity for it, try arranging for a visit to the offices of your IT contractor. This should give you a good idea of how serious they are about their work, and what their internal organisation looks like. Sometimes it might not be possible for various reasons, including privacy. Don’t let that discourage you – some companies are just more protective of their assets and trade secrets than others. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have something unpleasant to hide.

But in any event, as long as you’re working with an IT contractor for your company’s infrastructure, you must make sure that you know what they are doing at every step. Take the time to hold regular meetings with the company if appropriate and ask them for progress updates on active tasks. If something goes wrong, they should always be available and should keep you up to date about new developments on the problem’s resolution. These are some signs to look out for that can tell you if a company is worth working with in the long run.