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What Is Cybersecurity? Best Practices for Protecting Your Business

If you run a business, it is your responsibility to keep client information safe as well as to protect your own data. Here’s what you need to know to understand and implement cybersecurity best practices and protect your systems.
July 20, 2020

In this Article:

What is Cybersecurity?

Without cybersecurity, your company information would be wholly unguarded and susceptible to theft or unauthorized use.

Types of Cybersecurity Threats

The list of threats continues to evolve, and keeping up with them is critical.

The Scale of Danger

Any person, company, business, or enterprise can fall victim to cybercrime. 

Cybersecurity Best Practices

Here is a (nearly) comprehensive list of what you can do to protect your data and systems. 

Components of Cybersecurity

Learn what steps do you need to take to implement a fully protective cybersecurity solution.

If you run a business, it is your responsibility to keep client information safe as well as to protect your own data. That is easier said than done. These days, security threats are common. There are many types of cybersecurity threats, each with their own unique challenges. This makes understanding and implementing cybersecurity best practices paramount. Here’s what you need to know to protect your systems. 

 

What is Cybersecurity?

Think about how much of your life is reliant on technology and how much personal information resides on all sorts of electronic devices including computers, tablets, and smartphones. Now think about how many websites you may have used to purchase something with your credit card, how many times you swiped your debit at a fast food place or a convenience store, how many times you have gone to the pharmacy and paid for your medication with a credit card — the list goes on. That information is data, which you likely would not care to get into the wrong hands.

The sad truth is that as technology has advanced, so has the threat of bad actors who choose to leverage technology for criminal means. Since nearly everything these days relies on being accessible or sharable on the internet, measures to safeguard data and networks have grown alongside the rapidly evolving criminal technology. Cybersecurity is the worldwide practice of protecting your devices, networks, and data housed in all types of digital storage from unauthorized access and criminal use. Without cybersecurity, your information would be wholly unguarded and susceptible to theft or unauthorized use.

 

Types of Cybersecurity Threats

There are many types of cybersecurity threats, and the list is constantly growing an evolving. Some of the most common cybersecurity threats include. malware, ransomware, phishing, and DoS/DDoS attacks.

We've listed a few of the different types below, but if you want to learn more about defending against specific attacks, read our in-depth threat guide.

Malware

“Malware” is a shorthand term for malicious software. It is an umbrella term for any malicious code or program that is harmful to an otherwise normally functioning computer system. Malware is any damaging software that gets installed on your PC, by various means, which aims to monitor, invade, damage, degrade or disable your computer, digital device, or network that the device may be a part of.

While malware is not capable of damaging your device physically, it can cause a number of issues. These issues may include: slowing down your system, crashing it repeatedly, using up your system resources, changing your system’s preferences, increasing your internet activity, eating up hard drive space, and more. 

Ransomware

Ransomware is an especially malicious type of malware that can deny users access to their system or personal files until the user agrees to pay a ransom to regain access to their system. The original version of ransomware demanded that the payment be mailed, crippling the ability of a user to access their device(s) for days. Modern forms of ransomware often demand payment via credit card or cryptocurrency.

There are several common types of ransomware:

  • Screen Locks. Some ransomware locks your screen, preventing you from accessing your device. An example may be where a full-sized window appears, posing as a message from the US DOJ or the FBI, stating that illegal activity has been detected on your computer and you are being fined.
  • Scareware. Scareware may pester you with ads insisting your system is compromised to try to sucker you into volunteering “payment” through the use of your credit card.
  • Encrypting Ransomware. This type of ransomware essentially allows for your files to be overtaken and encrypted, meaning you have no access to them until you pay a ransom to have them released. If you do not pay, your files can be purged, and you may not be able to restore them.

Phishing

Phishing attacks involve an attempt to deceptively solicit sensitive information from a user. These often come in the form of emails or texts from individuals posing as a work colleague, government agency, bank, or a friend. The email or text usually contains frightening language, preying upon stress and panic overtaking the victim’s better judgment. Phishing attacks typically demand that the victim go to a particular website, then intimidate them into taking an undesirable action or risk like entering their username and password. What can make these attacks even more confounding is that the website or email address used can be made to look completely legitimate.

This is one the simplest types of cyberattacks, yet it is still highly effective and dangerous. People who are not good with technology or lack enough knowledge about these sorts of schemes are particularly vulnerable to them. Phishing schemes, therefore, are not designed to uproot the use of your system, but rather to exploit people through social pressures. Because these are not technologically based, no device is safe from encountering these.

DoS & DDoS Attacks

Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are especially vexing.

  • A DoS attack is when a server is flooded with TCP and UDP packets, overloading it, and making it unavailable for use. These attacks can shut down anything from individual machines to whole networks.
  • A DDoS attack is where multiple systems end up targeting a single system with DoS attacks. Because the victimized network is slammed with packets from a multitude of locations, the system is forced to go offline due to overload.

 

The Scale of Danger

Any person, company, business, or enterprise can fall victim to cybercrime. Because technology is in a perpetual state of development, new features are always introduced, dragging along with them new weaknesses and vulnerabilities that hackers quickly learn to exploit. Cybersecurity, in this sense, is always playing catch-up to the innovation of criminals who seek to exploit its weak points.

Many companies have been hit with ransomware attacks, in some cases suffering theft of client, financial, or proprietary data. Entire enterprises have had to revert to paper systems in some instances as their network was taken over by hackers. Due to this constant looming threat, many industries have invested heavily in cybersecurity. When cybersecurity best practices are followed, your business can stave off many major and minor scale attacks which could otherwise do harm to your organization or your customers.  

 

Cybersecurity Best Practices

A company should never assume that all of its employees will have the knowledge or common sense to sidestep the many types of cyberattacks that can be levied against their company. It is important to educate your staff about different types of cyber threats and to document company policies. Pay special attention to policies for accessing unknown software, downloading, or installing software.

Security compromises are often not done by malicious means but by unknowing employees. This is largely due to lack of user training. The bottom line is that all employees should be trained to properly use the systems they are working with, and specific focus should be applied to functionality and security practices. 

Implement a Security Framework

Security frameworks determine how your company will recognize and protect against threats, and then isolate and respond to attacks if they are successful. There are many ways you could outline these plans for your organization, but one of the most common is the NIST framework. Originally developed at the federal level, any non-federal groups across various industries have partnered with NIST to achieve framework compliance while developing their own cybersecurity programs — and seen significant improvement and reduction of risk because of it.

Document & Train Employees

A company should never assume that all of its employees will have the knowledge or common sense to sidestep the many types of cyberattacks that can be levied against their company. It is important to educate your staff about different types of cyber threats and to document company policies. Pay special attention to policies for accessing unknown software, downloading, or installing software.

Security compromises are often not done by malicious means but by unknowing employees. This is largely due to lack of user training. The bottom line is that all employees should be trained to properly use the systems they are working with, and specific focus should be applied to functionality and security practices. 

Multifactor Authentication

Any security is doubly hard to break through when two pieces of authentication (or more) are required to be provided for access. By fortifying your network’s and devices’ security in such a manner, any hacker attempting to force their way in through a rogue program would still struggle to attain the necessary clearance.

Data Back-Ups

Frequently backed up data is another key component of cybersecurity. Even if data is compromised and potentially deleted, having a recent backup somewhere else that can be relied on to restore your systems can help to reduce or eliminate the impact of an attack.

Cloud-based backups are even more formidable. Data stored locally on a device or a server is centralized, which means an invading party has to only get their grip on some unsecured aspect of one central storage space to cause serious chaos. However, by decentralizing the process among multiple encrypted servers, access to the data becomes a lot harder for those with malicious intent.

Password & Access Management

Employees may get annoyed at frequently changing their passwords, but doing so with some regular frequency keeps your data more secure. Additionally, instituting management access levels or privileges can prevent anyone with no business looking at certain data out of it. Leveraging passwords to limit what each user has and does not have access to can help to mitigate the damage of one user’s password being compromised. If a user’s password is compromised, the attacker will still only have limited access to your systems. 

 

Components of Cybersecurity

What steps can you take to implement cybersecurity best practices, and what tools do you have at your disposal? Here are some of the most common components of cybersecurity:

Up-to-Date Software

Companies that design and sell software are at the forefront of the latest reported hacker news. They are often the first to react by identifying the flaws and vulnerabilities in their software, then patching it. To keep your business systems safe, it’s important to ensure you are running your systems on the latest patch. Many software programs offer automatic updates. These should be enabled whenever possible so that the software can be updated the moment an update is released.

Firewalls are one of the most critical pieces of software in business cybersecurity. Operating according to prewritten security rules, firewalls are applications that monitor and manage the traffic flowing into and out of your network. There are two main types. Stateful firewalls are capable of monitoring and detecting states of all traffic on a network to track and defend based on traffic patterns and flows. Stateless firewalls, however, only focus on individual packets, using preset rules to filter traffic. Because of the difference in cost, small businesses tend to opt for stateless firewalls. 

Antivirus & Malware Detection Software

Don’t leave yourself open to criminal activity by not having protection from viruses or malware. Make sure to use reputable antivirus and malware detection software to catch, isolate, and dispose of threats.

Most modern antivirus programs will prevent anything resembling a threat to be permitted to be installed on a device. You have to go the extra mile to permit access to most programs you might want to install. As with any software, these need to be updated often, and it’s important to enable any new updates available immediately.

Endpoint DLP

Most data breaches occur as a result of user errors. This being the case, putting protections in place at the fringe ends of a network (end-user devices) seems to carry the most efficacy. Installing Endpoint DLP solutions may be an intimidating process, because it involves installing the software on every PC. But it is a great protective measure and does not take that long to get up and running.

Endpoint controls can also prevent employees from copying sensitive or restricted information to a portable device by restricting such ability only to company-approved devices. 

Cloud Security

These days, almost every business has some part of their organization running or being hosted in the cloud. Implementing quality cloud security requires a working balance of policies, software, and procedures. The goals of successful cloud security are regulatory compliance, cloud data protection, and customer and employee privacy. There are many ways your business can use the cloud, and each requires specific security services and policies to be effective.

For an in-depth look at cloud security, read our guide.

IoT Security

IoT stands for the “Internet of Things.” One of the most overlooked potential threats is the connection of internet-accessible devices that do not have malware protection. Take modern televisions, for example. These TVs have many components permitting internet connectivity but no real way to secure or protect them from malware. They may even come pre-equipped with malware. Once linked to a company’s network, the malware rips through, infecting the network all around. At that point, it is very hard to identify and to stop the threat.

Some ways to address IoT security are to turn off many of your devices’ social features before they are brought onto the network. It’s also important to ensure that your company is using the latest update to antivirus and malware scanning software, so you can quickly identify and flag any sources of harm spreading through the system. 

Third-Party Security Services

Cybersecurity services can offer companies of any size an in-depth look at their security posture. If you don't have cybersecurity experts on hand, a trusted partner can help you identify gaps in your defenses through penetration testing, white-hat hacking and other means. From there, consultants can help you implement additional layers of security and even help monitor, automate and manage your security profile offsite.

CDW Amplified™ Security services consultants have over 30 years of experience designing, implementing and managing security solutions that protect you from an evolving threat landscape. Explore Amplified Security

Intrusion Prevention System

One other common cybersecurity components is the setting up of an intrusion prevention system. This is a network monitoring mechanism that perpetually seeks out identified threats. The continuous monitoring uncovers any new malicious software and captures information about it.

IPS is a great way to identify unforeseen security flaws within a business’s network. With so many potential risks, incidents, and threats, persistent monitoring, and a prevention protocol are critical in greatly reducing potentially harmful intrusions and take the appropriate action. If an action has not been designated for a particular type of threat, it signals the IT team to quickly come up with a way to adapt to the security issue.

 

Protect Your Business with CDW

Now that you understand the many types of cybersecurity threats and cybersecurity best practices, it’s time to take action to defend your systems. CDW offers a range of cybersecurity solutions to keep your business safe.

Learn more about how to safeguard data against evolving threats.

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