The internet has revolutionized how we do business, but it has also changed how business owners need to approach security. Cybercrime remains a serious threat, but there are steps organizations can take to safeguard their digital assets better.
What is Information Security?
Information security is an umbrella term used to describe any activity that aims to safeguard the integrity and usability of your network and your data. It can include both hardware and software components and is designed to target and stop threats from entering your network. If a threat does manage to slip past your outer defenses, information security is also responsible for helping contain the threat so that it can’t spread to other areas of the network.
Information security relies on multiple layers of protection at the network’s periphery, with each layer implementing pre-set controls and policies that must be observed if a user wishes to gain access to the network. These multiple layers are designed to allow authorized users through while blocking access for unauthorized users who may have malicious intentions.
How Does it Impact My Business?
For many modern businesses, the network is a crucial component both for daily operations and for storing personal or confidential information on your company, your employees, and your clients. If the network’s defenses are compromised, it could have catastrophic consequences.
Types of Information Security
Good information security relies on a variety of different layers to protect the network. Each layer performs a different task.
Not every employee or contractor necessarily needs to have access to your network, and not all access should be equal. To safeguard your company’s digital assets, you need to have a network that can recognize each authorized user and each authorized device and reject users and devices that have no business accessing your network.
You should also make sure that not all employees are granted unrestricted access. For example, while some employees (such as your accountant) need to access sensitive files (such as financial records), not every employee requires this access to do their job effectively. Access to sensitive areas of your network should be limited to only employees who require it, and no employee should be granted higher access than they require. If an employee temporarily requires higher access, that access should be carefully monitored and revoked as soon as it is no longer required for the employee to do their job.
Your house is only secure if you lock your doors and windows, and your network is only secure if you protect your endpoints. An endpoint is any device (such as a laptop or smartphone) or app that can be used to access your network, allowing you to communicate with both your network and other users on it.
Malware, such as ransomware, viruses, and spyware, is becoming an increasingly serious problem in the cybersecurity world. These malicious programs can infiltrate a network and remain dormant for weeks or even months before wreaking havoc. While a good antivirus program will scan for malware as data enters the network, a managed security service provider can monitor your entire network, and keep an eye out for sneaky programs that may have slipped past that initial scan.
While you can take steps to secure your endpoints, a managed endpoint detection and response service can help you adapt to new potential threats and carefully monitor all endpoints for signs of trouble (such as an infected computer) and respond appropriately.
Any software that runs on your network, whether it was built by your IT staff or purchased from a third party, needs to be audited for potential weaknesses and secured from potential threats. Unfortunately, even the most well-built application may include security holes or vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit to gain unauthorized access to your network.
Application security allows you to carefully review each application that has access to your network and address any vulnerabilities that could be exploited. One simple thing you can do to improve network security is make sure software is kept up to date. This allows your organization to take advantage of any security patches or fixes released by the software company.
Humans tend to follow predictable patterns, especially when performing familiar tasks such as those that make up their jobs. Behavior analytics can help you determine what normal user behavior looks like, establishing a baseline to compare all traffic against. This helps make abnormal behavior (such as a hacking attempt or other malicious action) easier to detect so it can be investigated and addressed more quickly.
The cloud has changed how we conduct business, but it has also changed how we need to approach security. With the cloud, more employees may choose to work outside the office, potentially using their own devices (which may not be as secure as yours) and opening your network to new potential threats.
There are several steps you can take to improve your cloud security and protect your network even in a bring-your-own-device setting.
Data Loss Prevention
As part of your cybersecurity policy, your organization needs to limit the ability of employees to move sensitive information off the network, either intentionally or unintentionally. Data loss prevention technology can help by limiting what information can be uploaded, forwarded, or printed off the network.
Email is one of the most common attack vectors used in cybersecurity breaches, with many cybercriminals relying on phishing or other scams to gain unauthorized access to networks. Many would-be attackers rely on social engineering to trick employees into revealing personal information (including usernames, passwords, or financial information such as credit card numbers or banking details) so they can gain access to the network or perform other malicious actions.
While most email providers include at least some basic protections (including automatically reporting and filtering out potential spam), it’s still important to review these precautions and reinforce them with additional software if necessary.
Firewalls act as a barrier between your internal, trusted network, and external, potentially untrustworthy networks (such as the internet) and can rely on hardware, software, or a combination of both. Like the security guard stationed at the front desk, firewalls follow pre-defined rules to allow authorized traffic to pass through and block unauthorized or suspicious traffic.
Network segmentation uses internal firewalls to add an extra layer of security around particularly sensitive parts of your network. Different areas of the network are classified differently based on how sensitive they are, which limits which users can access them. Access rights can be figured based on location, role, or other factors so that only authorized employees or users can access critical or sensitive areas of the network and infected devices, which may infect the wider network, can be more easily quarantined.
A managed firewall comes with the added protection of 24/7/354 monitoring by cybersecurity professionals, who can analyze any suspicious activities and react appropriately.
Intrusion prevention systems are configured to actively scan your network and block attacks and other suspicious activities. These systems work using threat intelligence to compare your network traffic against known threats to track suspicious programs and files on your network and isolate potential threats to contain outbreaks before more of the network can become infected.
Security for Mobile Devices
As mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets become increasingly popular, they are more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals than ever before. As such, these devices, like any other endpoint on your network, need to be secured. You also need to carefully configure your network settings so that only authorized apps and devices can access it, and make sure that the connection between these authorized devices and your network is private.
Web security solutions allow you to monitor and restrict which websites users on your network can access, allowing you to block malicious or unsecured sites and preemptively block web-based threats.
Web security can also refer to the protective measures you take to safeguard your own website.
Wireless networks are, by design, more accessible than wired networks, but that blessing can quickly become a curse without the right security measures in place. Since wireless networks can be accessed everywhere, users don’t need to physically be in the building to login. This can be great for employees who work remotely, but it also means that it is easier for unauthorized users to gain access, so extra security precautions need to be taken.
Making sure your network is secure is an ongoing task, and if you don’t have a background in cybersecurity, making sure you’ve addressed everything can be a daunting prospect. That’s why more organizations are choosing managed security service providers (MSSPs) to help them keep their networks and other digital assets secure. A great MSSP will not only help you audit your current cybersecurity measures and secure your network, but they will also actively monitor it for potential threats, help you create tailored response plans, assist with employee cybersecurity training, and help you mitigate or even avoid damage if an incident does occur.