Did you know October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month? The Department of Homeland Security notes this is an annual campaign to raise awareness about cybersecurity. We live in a world that is more connected than ever before. The Internet touches almost all aspects of everyone’s daily life, whether we realize it or not. Here are five simple steps you can take to help protect data without breaking the bank.
1. Know email scams and warn others in your office. People are increasingly the weak link in organizations’ cyber armor. You know not to give your checking account info to an unknown foreign government dignitary. But what if you get an email from your CEO instructing you to wire funds for a deal that you know is about to close? Since the FBI started tracking business e-mail scams in late 2013, it has compiled statistics on more than 7,000 U.S. companies that were targeted. Total losses exceeded $740 million
2. Maintain a strong connection with IT Professionals. Businesses and their IT professionals have a common interest in protecting sensitive and confidential data. What you can learn from each other will likely surprise you. Stay connected with your IT staff and encourage informal dialogue with them by holding regular discussions. Bring in lunch and make sure everyone is on the same page. Clear priorities help IT work more efficiently and save money in the long run.
3. Stay on top of free updates/upgrades. According to the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation, research shows there is on average one defect for every 2,500 lines of programming code—just regular human mistakes. Cyber criminals exploit these mistakes to break into systems. Software updates to correct these vulnerabilities are often overlooked by busy users. Most of the time, updates are free, so use them—on computers, smart phones and any other devices used for business purposes.
4. Adopt a stronger password policy. If your password can be found in a dictionary, it is not secure. If it’s the name of a child, pet, spouse, or car, it’s probably not secure either—unless you take some special precautions such as substituting numbers or special characters for letters. Despite the inconvenience, implementing and enforcing a good password policy is a free and simple way to protect data. Good policies should include guidelines for how often to change passwords, where to store passwords, and instructions for creating them.
5. Develop a plan—and practice it. Yes, this advice appears in every business article about cybersecurity, but its importance cannot be overstated. You should already have answers to questions like: Who is the cybersecurity point person? and Who outside this office needs to be notified of a breach? Conducting practice exercises will help key people understand their role and help you work out any kinks. Update the plan as new threats arise. When it comes to cybercrime, you can never be over prepared.
Staying vigilant about the security of your data is important. Your business depends on it.