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Exclusive: Six cyber improvements you can’t delay

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Cybersecurity will always be a concern. As long as devices and applications live online, they will remain vulnerable. How much depends on the security solutions in place, their scalability and their overall reliability.

Maintaining proper cybersecurity is an ongoing task. The solutions must continue to evolve because attackers are also adapting.

Plus, things change, like COVID-19 forcing more remote work. It’s no surprise that we saw record numbers of data breaches and cyberattacks. Online scammers staged a 13-fold increase in nefarious activity between April and June 2020.

The upward trend will continue into 2021 and beyond, which means you must be ready. Here are some cybersecurity improvements you should make this year.

Cloud security

You probably don’t have the resources, equipment, staff and time to dedicate to proper security. That’s where cloud security solutions come in. This is where a third party with the experience and knowledge handles all security operations from outside the network. Think of it as outsourcing your security program.

Not all cloud security solutions are created equal, though. Some are better managed than others and some are better equipped for handling certain types of networks or scaling more rapidly.

Ultimately, it puts the security of your devices, network, data and customers in the hands of someone more capable and vigilant. Cost has been a significant barrier for many, but due to recent attacks and an increase in security requirements, cloud adoption will grow.

Virtual Private Networks

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have gained a lot of attention in recent years. They offer a long list of benefits, including enhanced privacy, better security and the ability to bypass geoblocking.

Every internet device has an IP address, which attributes all connections and activity to the assignee. A VPN acts as a “middleman” by masking the original IP address and substituting an anonymised one. VPN servers may be located in any region, which gives the impression you’re surfing the internet from someplace other than your real location.

It obfuscates one’s online activities by allocating them to various IP addresses instead of just one. The connections are secured with advanced encryption to make in-transit data inaccessible to unauthorised parties.

Approximately 93% of IT professionals report challenges with ensuring data privacy, which is something VPNs can solve.

Data backups

Data is stored on hard drives, company-owned computers, remote servers, or portable drives. Whatever the case, hardware is the main factor and hardware can fail. It happens more often than most people know.

If there’s only one copy of a dataset on a drive and it fails, that data is lost forever. The best solution is to make frequent, encrypted data backups of sensitive content.

Ransomware has become incredibly common. It happens when attackers take control of a system and block access to the original owner. Any data they can access can be manipulated, leveraged, or deleted. If there is a backup ready, you can deal with the ransomware separately without losing proprietary data.

Segmentation and authentication

Two critical measures should be established to secure networks and lock-down data. The first is reliable authentication.

This is where an access solution is put in place and user permissions are managed to ensure only trusted parties or authorised teams can access a system, terminal, or data application.

The second is network segmentation, which involves creating a separate and highly secured network for sensitive systems, devices and content. For example, when installing commercial IoT within a facility, you’ll want to connect the devices using a segmented network that is not accessible to outside parties or general Web traffic. IT and maintenance crews can access the network to manage and make changes, but only if they’re trusted and authorised.

When used appropriately, these two security measures can eliminate attacks, including insider threats from disgruntled employees.

Basic security training

Phishing has become one of the most successful methods today’s attackers use to gain access. There are many ways to do it, but hackers often create an identical link or website to collect account information or sensitive details. Unsuspecting employees may try to use these portals to gain access, none the wiser that it’s a trap. Hackers then use the collected credentials to log in or gain access to vulnerable systems.

All employees should receive training to ensure they’re following basic security guidelines. They should be using strong password etiquette, avoid sharing access to accounts and devices and avoid any suspicious links, content, or messages. Most importantly, they should be trained to spot and report potential attacks.

System and software updates

Most software gets patched regularly with security patches and performance improvements to enhance safety and the general experience. That’s why software should be upgraded and updated regularly. Hardware, too. You don’t necessarily need new hardware all the time, but they do receive updates to their firmware.

All software and firmware should be updated as soon as new patches come out. Dedicate a team to servicing and upgrading terminals or software at a company. IT crews may or may not do this already.

With a remote workforce, it’s also necessary to have employees turn in equipment or monitor their gear to ensure upgrades are being applied.

Make cybersecurity a priority

Cybersecurity should be a priority for every business, including yours. It’s an evolving concept, which means there’s no room to lose focus.

Create a training program for employees to improve awareness and education. Conduct regular data backups and secure your systems — through cloud security, network segmentation and proper authentication. Stay vigilant, stay prepared and keep the momentum going.

Devin Partida is a technology writer and the Editor-in-Chief of the digital magazine, ReHack.com. To read more from Devin, check out the site.