Protecting your Data from the Hacker Threat in 10 Simple Steps: Part 2

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In part one of this two-part series, I presented the first five of my top 10 security best practice methods, which were:

  1. Don’t discard physical security
  2. Work with security consultants
  3. Monitor baseline performance
  4. Invest in SIEM solutions
  5. Manage device configurations

You have hopefully been waiting with baited breath for my second installment, and below you will find my remaining five best security practices to adopt in order to help ensure your organization is as protected as possible from security threats.

6. Educate all end-users

SolarWinds’ 2016 UK IT Security Survey found inadequate end-user training to be one of the top three causes for organizations becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Uneducated internal end-users often expose security holes that can lead to crippling data breaches. The opening of harmful phishing emails, DDoS attacks, and issues caused by personal devices connecting to corporate networks all inadvertently stem from end-user actions—yet, are also all preventable with the correct training.

To help ensure that end-users no longer pose a threat to data safekeeping, business leaders should encourage their IT departments to educate the wider organization on basic security principles. With a greater awareness of the security vulnerabilities they could be responsible for, as well as an understanding of the damage they could cause, end-users will see the benefit of adopting preventable measures into their daily routines. Measures such as reporting suspicious emails, and making sure to check with IT before installing a program or piece of software, are both simple yet highly effective.

7. Adopt a proactive patch management strategy

As mentioned in part one, you need to be proactive with security, not reactive. This is especially true for your patch management strategy. Here are a few pieces of advice to help ensure that your software patching remains proactive:

  • Begin your patching process with the most frequently used systems.
  • Don’t patch all of your systems at once. Rolling out several critical patches in one go could lead to network issues. Then remedying the problem by attempting to identify its root cause would be a difficult and lengthy task.
  • Have a contingency plan ready in case something goes wrong during a patch process.
  • Test your patches in a controlled environment before rolling them out.
  • Continue to monitor updated systems after patching for any issues.
  • Identify the impact of cyber-threats on unpatched software and update your strategy accordingly.

Your data center may have neither the staff nor resources available to carry out all of these processes. The good news is patch management software is available to automate and simplify software patching if this is the case.

8. Use web filtering

Ransomware sites are an easy trap to fall into and come with potentially devastating consequences. It only takes one machine to become infected with ransomware software for the entire network to become locked, leaving the safety of your data at the mercy of hackers. To mitigate the chances of this happening, IT professionals should regularly block known ransomware sites through web filtering—either manually or with a third-party software tool.

However, with flexible working now an integral part of many working environments, devices will often be connected to private networks that do not have safeguarding filters in place. This could easily result in an individual inadvertently landing on an unblocked ransomware site. This possibility further stresses the importance of end-user education to help avoid security issues.

9. Revise your anti-malware software

This practice isn’t called “procure anti-malware software” for good reason—that should already be in place. However, with anti-malware protection, it is still important to periodically reassess whether or not you have the best software in place for the specific needs of your network.

Further still, protocols should be in place to ensure that this software is never mistakenly turned off—an all-too-frequent situation that no one wants to be responsible for. Therefore, it’s a good idea to set up a group policy control that will prevent end-users and lower-level administrators from disabling your anti-malware.

10. Introduce accountability

Accountability is key in order to adhere to the previous nine best practices. Making individuals accountable for certain tasks will introduce ownership within your data center. This will result in everyone doing their best to perform their individual responsibilities, while working towards the common goal of protecting the data center from security threats.

That completes my top 10 security best practices. The approaches discussed in parts one and two cover various issues that can stem from a lack of investment, inadequate training, and at times, simply overlooking standard protocols. 

Applying these methods will not guarantee that your data is kept watertight against any threat. Nonetheless, they should all be adopted as part of an in-depth security strategy to harden defenses and mitigate the possibility of a data breach. This will help ensure that your organization is able to withstand many of the various threats posed by the current cybercrime landscape.

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