With the way the internet has been integrated into day-to-day business, cybersecurity has become a pivotal part of company operations. For those looking to start improving their businesses’ online privacy, there are a couple of basic things that can be done to start keeping unwanted digital guests out.
Phishing and Malware
Phishing is when an email or other digital message impersonates a trusted source, such as a reputable brand, and invites the reader to click on a link, download a file or otherwise take some action that can result in the installing of malware on a device. Malware is any malicious software (usually disguised as something necessary or helpful) designed to exploit a user’s computer. Additionally, phishing messages may ask recipients to provide personal information.
It’s imperative that employees of a company are taught how to identify these threats and be knowledgeable about the dangers of falling victim to them. This is because phishing attempts depend on deception – they can be entirely defended against by simply ignoring them. An unwary user, however, will likely fall for these tactics. Once it’s on your device, malware can gain unprecedented access to nearly any part of the system.
Ultimately, unless employees are educated, there is no amount of cybersecurity that can defend against intrusion from these types of attacks.
Once you know you’re not inviting the hackers in the front door, you need to make sure they can’t pick the lock. Simplistic, short or predictable passwords are very easy to crack, and if we use them for more than one account, then the hackers can effectively have access to any.
Teach employees that a password needs to be a) unique to the profile, b) easy to remember, c) hard to guess. Consider making your password a sentence that’s 12 characters or longer; using positive phrases or things you like to remember can help. Keep your written-down passwords in a safe place away from your computer or consider using a password manager to make long, strong and unique passwords easier to set and maintain.
HTTPS and Email
When hackers can’t access a system directly, they often try to intercept or listen in on communications. This includes email and website traffic.
Store emails on a secure server, preferably encrypting both email and the attachments (more on that below). Avoid sending sensitive information via email, if it can be avoided. Be aware that your email recipients may not have any security features in place protecting their emails; so if your email is in their server and there’s sensitive information in it, and they get hacked, that data is vulnerable.
Try to host your organization’s website (the whole website) over HTTPS, which is much more secure than HTTP. HTTPS requires both parties (the company’s server and the visitor) to verify identity upon making a connection and then encrypts the communication. It doesn’t guarantee security on either end of the transmission, but it ensures data is not compromised during transmission.
Hashing and Encryption
In the event that hackers find a way into your system, you need your data to remain secure. This is achieved via things like hash functions and encryption. Encryption encodes information so that it can’t be read without having the encryption key to decode it. Use encryption to protect data (like emails) that you may need to retrieve and use again.
Hashing processes data, changing it so that it produces the same value every time a given piece of data is hashed, but it can’t be reversed. Like mixing blue and yellow paint, once you have the green, you can’t “unmix” the paint to reproduce the original colors. Consider using hashing to protect password data.
If this is all feeling a little over your head, you might consider hiring some experts. A solid cybersecurity firm can help you put all this in order, protecting against incursion and closing gaps in security. Hiring an outside firm also saves you from having to pay the overhead of hiring and running a security department for your company. It’s an excellent solution for businesses that either can’t afford or don’t want the hassle of running their own security departments.
About the Author
Danielle Adams is a freelance writer who works with various publications, including Fibernet. When she’s not writing, Danielle enjoys learning more about cybersecurity, reading crime novels and exploring her local coffee shop.