In today’s technological world, hacking has become a major concern for businesses, governments and other organizations. What once was a relatively unknown concept to the average person has become something that concerns everyone. This is why it’s essential for you to protect your network from hackers and the malicious programs they create. Fortunately, there are computer security companies who are constantly working to create new programs to defeat hackers and a number of other things you can do to protect your computer network from attack. Here are six essential measures needed to keep your network safe.
The first step is to keep informed of the latest hacking news. You can do this by following tech blogs, of course, but there’s more you can do, too. You can check out various hacking forums online, including some that are ethical and more of an academic discussion than plans to take down businesses. Learning what kinds of cyber-attacks and hacks are taking place will help you learn what types of defense you need.
Educate Your Team
One of the easiest ways for hackers to get into your system is for employees to leave the “virtual doors” wide open. That’s why it’s important to make certain that everyone who has access to your system knows the proper security protocols. It’s important you do more than simply tell staff to create strong passwords — create a security protocol document that outlines everything needed to protect your network, such as locking computers when not in use, limiting the number of files removed from the office on personal flash drives or computers and other guidelines relevant to your organization. This document should include password policies, of course, such as creating passwords that consist of easy-to-remember sentences and having unique passwords for each account. Additionally, if your organization supports two-factor authentication and/or other strong authentication methods, it’s important for employees to be aware of how they can use these tools to protect their accounts and sensitive company information.
Unless everyone understands the ways networks can be hacked and what they need to do to prevent hacking, your system is only as secure as the least-knowledgeable employee.
Along the same lines, your IT department has to keep on top of updating software as needed, making certain all network security programs are configured correctly and installing new programs as needed to protect your system. They also need to know when employees leave the company so they can immediately remove their access to secure files so no one can use that account later.
Know Avenues of Attack and Preempt Them
Careless employees are only one avenue hackers can use to get into your system. While putting password policies in place can help defend that entry point, it’s important that you know the other entry points and take steps to block them before an attack occurs. The first thing to do is to change all of the default passwords on routers and any other hardware and software. Leaving these passwords as they are leaves your system very unsecure.
Also look at what ports are open on your network and have your IT department decide whether those ports are necessary. Closing them down can help block hackers from entering your system. Along those same lines, you’ll want to remove any programs or services that you don’t use. While it may seem harmless to leave these applications on your computer, they may have vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Also remove any test or default pages that came with your server.
A properly configured firewall will also help, since it allows or denies traffic into your system. However, you will want to make sure your firewall software is up to date and test it regularly to make certain it is functioning properly.
Finally, make sure all wireless traffic is secured with strong encryption.
Install Antivirus and Other Security Programs
Once your firewall is in place, you’ll want to back it up with antivirus programs and anti-malware scanners. These programs will help detect if a hacker has slipped something into your system that will compromise it from the inside. They will also help prevent lax employees from letting viruses onto your network. You may also want to install an intrusion detection program that will monitor your network and let you know if unauthorized users have tried to log in or if someone is accessing files that they should not. Popular versions include AlienVault, Snort and FortiGuard. For a list of free security software, visit staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/free-security-check-ups/.
Make Sure Your System is Physically Secure
After going to all the trouble to install anti-virus software, train employees on good password habits and lock down your system; the last thing you want is for someone to physically walk in and access it. Ensure your physical servers are protected and only authorized personnel have access to them. This is also where your employees have to practice good security habits. They will need to make sure any computer has been locked if they have to step away from it, especially if it’s in an area such as a lobby or registration desk that customers may be able to access.
Employees who take files home on flash drives or on their personal laptops or smartphones should also understand that those files may contain information that cannot be shared and must be protected.
Test Your Security
Finally, you want to test your system to make sure you haven’t left any areas vulnerable. You can have your own IT department do this but you can also hire an outside agency to perform an independent test. These agencies often hire hackers who have experience in attacking computer systems and will do everything possible to gain entry to your system. Once they have or have not, you will receive a detailed report on what needs to be changed.
By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to avoid many of the common pitfalls that can lead to network and data breaches.
About the Author
Joy Mali is a certified digital analyst who helps online businesses to perform better on the web with best solutions & advice. Her content is featured on many mainstream sites and blogs. You can follow her on Google+.