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Business success relies on network security. Proper security requires diligence and attention to detail, but some key best practices make it easier. Recent surges in cybercrime and ransomware attacks mean companies must increase their efforts.
Here are some tactics that can help companies of any size defend themselves and stay safe amid rising digital threats. Businesses would be wise to invest in them to prevent cyberattacks and keep their sensitive information secure.
Why Securing Business Networks Is Crucial
Network security has always been a top concern for businesses, but it’s particularly important today. Cybercrime has been on a nonstop upward trend since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The widespread shift to online operations was a boon for hackers, who took advantage of vulnerable systems that were set up or expanded quickly.
Other trends are making the situation worse, particularly ransomware-as-a-service, or RaaS. These are prepackaged ransomware attacks that amateur hackers can buy and deploy with minimal effort. RaaS makes hacking more accessible, so the number of criminals launching attacks on businesses is increasing.
Cybersecurity data clearly reflects these trends. For instance, statistics showed a 105% increase in ransomware attacks worldwide in 2021. Unfortunately, the ongoing surge perpetuates and worsens things. Experts note that when organizations pay the ransom a hacker demands, it encourages other criminals to use that same strategy and target that company again.
Best Practices for Securing Business Networks
What can businesses do about this situation? Ideally, a company’s security infrastructure can keep hackers from getting into their systems at all, preventing the need to either pay a ransom or lose stolen data. These best practices can help organizations get their networks as close to this security level as possible.
1. Block Traffic by Default on the Firewall
One of the first steps businesses can take to strengthen their networks is to secure their firewall. A network-level firewall is responsible for managing traffic, often acting as the primary line of defense for a company’s system. Setting up the right firewall rules can make a big difference.
One rule businesses should have enabled on their network firewall is blocking all unknown traffic by default. It will automatically prevent unwanted access attempts. Some of these may be legitimate requests from employees, but it is much better to be safe and block everything until it can be verified.
2. Monitor Network Traffic
Businesses should also monitor all traffic on their network. There are a couple of reasons for this. It allows companies to identify devices, programs or users unnecessarily using the system. Eliminating these draws on resources can reduce traffic and improve overall performance.
Additionally, reducing traffic makes it more obvious when an intruder is using or attempting to access the network. Consistent monitoring allows businesses to quickly identify potential threats and respond to them before it’s too late.
3. Use a Zero Trust Approach
The zero-trust cybersecurity framework is gaining popularity today among all kinds of organizations. It prioritizes minimizing attack opportunities and maximizing visibility. Businesses that see everything happening in their networks are more likely to notice anything out of place.
Every access attempt and user must pass verification in a zero trust security model. Legitimate users can verify their identities while hackers will be stopped in their tracks. User privileges are minimized to include only what someone absolutely needs and nothing more. This limits the blast radius of any compromised accounts.
4. Use Network Segmentation
Network segmentation can be a lifesaver in today’s cyberthreat landscape. This tactic works by splitting up a network into isolated segments. Businesses essentially create “islands” that can’t be accessed between one another. This means that if a hacker does manage to get into one part, the others will be safe since they are isolated.
All network segments should be well protected, but segmentation also makes it possible to create different levels of security. For instance, a business could isolate its most valuable data in a particularly well-secured area. Less useful information that needs to be accessed more often could be on a less strictly secured section without endangering anything else.
5. Keep Security Software Updated
Antivirus and anti-malware software are the bread and butter of cybersecurity. However, businesses and individuals often make the mistake of downloading and never updating it. One of the easiest steps companies can take to secure their networks is to keep security software updated.
Security software developers regularly release updates and patches that include new attacks and threats. Hackers will not hesitate to exploit outdated programs. In fact, some may even develop ways of intentionally thwarting popular offerings. Updating the software ensures it can recognize the most current wave of cyberthreats.
It is important to update security software on all fronts. Businesses should make a consistent update schedule for all employees’ devices in addition to the network itself. Individual gadgets are often hackers’ entryways into a network, and vulnerable devices can be used to conduct things like botnet attacks. Therefore, companies should install and update security software on all business-related machines.
6. Test or Audit Network Security
Business networks should be professionally audited or undergo thorough security testing. A company could hire a white hat hacker who uses their skills to help organizations improve their cyber defenses. They are also known as ethical hackers and look at a network from a criminal’s perspective to find vulnerabilities that might otherwise be overlooked.
White hat hackers will test a business’s network security by attempting a staged attack. They won’t actually harm the system or any data — they will simply try to break into it. Conducting these tests is a great way to see how effective security measures are, identify ways to improve and practice responding to cyberattacks.
Keeping Business Networks Safe
Securing business networks is a matter of covering and minimizing all potential avenues of attack. Businesses should prioritize increasing the visibility of their systems and reducing access to sensitive data. Mock cyberattacks are a great way to test security measures and practice responding to cyberattacks. Companies can build safe, resilient networks with diligence and attention to detail.
Writer: Zac Amos
(This article is authorized by Zac Amos to repost)