Preventing Cyber Attacks – A Guide

Prevent your business data from cyber criminals

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and a few minutes of cyber-incident to ruin it.
– Stéphane Nappo.

Today, information is the most important asset for individuals and businesses alike. Whether you want to register for a service or make an online transaction, you end up sharing personal information about yourself. As more and more personal information is digitised and exchanged over cyberspace, the more potential there is that it won’t remain personal or private any more. The risk of data theft and cyberthreats has exponentially increased over the past decade.

Over the years, cybersecurity standards have significantly improved to battle cyberattacks. It is imperative for businesses to have high-standard cybersecurity measures in place, as they safeguard sensitive information, such as intellectual property, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and much more. Cybersecurity is one of the main pillars of business and will only become more important over time.

To prevent cyberattacks, companies must equip themselves with advanced cybersecurity tools. As more and more businesses move to the cloud, antivirus software and firewalls are simply not enough to ensure optimum cybersecurity.

So, what are some ways to prevent cyberattacks? Let’s explore.

Ransomware damages will cost businesses over $20 billion this year alone!

  1. Regularly Updating Systems and Software
    Updates and patches are regularly released, and usually contain critical code which fix vulnerabilities that have been discovered and could have exploited by hackers.

    Hackers are always looking for ways to get into systems through these “holes”, which can easily be fixed with regularly updated software. Investing in a patch management system can help your business keep all software and systems safeguarded against these cyberattacks.

  2. Installing Next-Generation Firewalls for Online Attacks
    Installing a Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) is one of the most reliable answers to the question of how to avoid cyberattacks. This advanced firewall uses multi-layer protection to block malicious access to your network, inspecting traffic across layers and analysing data transfers to ensure that they are safe.

    NGFWs come equipped with smart malware protection software and antivirus, which are automatically upgraded whenever new threats are discovered.

    They also only allow for minimise the number of apps that run on your firewall to reduce potential avenues of attack by hackers.

  3. Regularly Checking Your Account for Breaches
    This is a fairly simple way to prevent cyberattacks. Using platforms like “Have I Been Pwned”, or even a plugin for your browser, you can regularly check if your email address has been compromised in any data breaches. The platform can even notify you when a data breach that includes your email address has occurred. Conducting regular checks helps you become aware of data breaches, so you can change account passwords when they’ve been compromised.
  4. Increasing the Length of Your Passwords
    It has been proven that longer passwords are stronger passwords. An 8-character password with special characters, upper and lowercase letter, and numbers is weaker than a generic 12-character password with no special characters or numbers. This is related to mathematics, where the permutations and combinations of characters in a 12-character password are over 2000 times more than that of an 8-character password!

    For instance, the password “AGENERICPASSWORD” would be harder to hack than “aGnr!cp@sw0rd” by virtue of being longer. Any password less than 8 characters is considered too short. The length of a password should ideally be 12 or more characters. Just string some words together or make a simple sentence that you can remember effortlessly. Again, making the password complex with special characters or numbers won’t be as effective as making the password long.

    This being said, if you do have trouble remembering passwords, using a password manager is a great solution to ensure that your various passwords are both secure and easily accessible. And speaking of various passwords, it’s highly recommended that you never use the same password twice – doing so means that if your data is compromised during a breach, your other login details that use the same credentials are also at risk.

  5. Encrypting Sensitive E-Mail
    Emails being compromised is a very common issue. All emails travel over the Web in plain text format. This makes sensitive data that is sent in emails inherently vulnerable. Hackers can easily extract the information in them if preventive measures are not taken.

    Encrypting your emails using tools like IRM encryption and Office 365 Message Encryption can save you a lot of trouble. These encryptions protect your emails from being accessed by third parties without your permission. They also safeguarded against phishing attacks.

  6. Using a Managed Endpoint Protection Service
    The last thing that you want is for unauthorised devices to access your network, and this is easy to achieve with endpoint protection. It’s a tool for monitoring and restricting the devices that have access to your network by ensuring that every single device meets specific criteria before they can access your resources.

    Endpoints can include devices like smartphones, tablets, computer systems, routers, or any other devices that connect to your company’s network.

    But, as you may have guessed, managing which devices are permitted, and which rules devices should follow can be a full-time job. That’s why so many businesses hire Managed Endpoint Protection Service providers like Solid Systems to maintain their endpoint security.

    The providers proactively monitor your anti-malware or antivirus software, and even ensure that your endpoint security is running perfectly, notifying you instantly if any threats are detected. You’ll get enterprise-class endpoint protection managed and monitored 24/7 by IT pros.

  7. Educating Your Employees and Teams
    Any business’ employees are the first line of defence against cyber threats. The most effective way to prevent cyberattacks is to ensure that your staff knows all about the common, and not so common, ways that hackers can access their data.
    And their education shouldn’t be once-off either. With cybercrime constantly evolving, your employees and teams need to stay up-to-date on the latest developments through regular training. New updates and software patches could require awareness and training, but you may also find your business regularly putting new policies in place to increase and enhance security.
    A good place to start would be putting together a rigid security policy and creating a comprehensive set of guidelines to train employees. For example, here are a few best practices that you could implement:

    • Check links and making sure that they’re relevant or legit before clicking them
    • Only send sensitive information to verified resources
    • When asked for sensitive information, make sure it’s from a known source. If you don’t know the person asking for the information, follow up to find out who they are and why the information might be needed before you decide to share it with them
    • Double-check that you’re sending mails to the right addresses
    • Include a disclosure policy signature for emails that may contain sensitive information.
  8. Activate Two-Factor Authentication
    Two-factor authentication or “2FA” is a great way of preventing cyberattacks. It is an extra layer of security to confirm that the users accessing accounts or information really are who they claim to be.
    As the name suggests, 2FA is a two-step process, where a user first enters their name and password and is then asked to confirm the login in a second way. Often this would involve a code being sent to the user’s listed email address or cellphone number, but it could be as simple as answering a question, or as complicated as needing an iris scan or fingerprint.
    2FA is easy to set-up and makes it practically impossible for hackers to access accounts, even if they have somehow managed to get a user’s login information, because they won’t have access to the address or phone that the security code is sent to.
    Of course, this reinforces the need for having separate passwords for each of your accounts – 2FA would be made redundant if your email login details are the same as the user login details that the hacker gained access to!

  9. Use Advanced Email Security Services
    According to research, 91% of cyberattacks originate from email phishing. As humans, we have an instinctive tendency to trust people. Hackers often exploit this trust using psychological manipulation.
    That’s why advanced email security services are so necessary. They add an extra layer of protection to all the emails that you send and protect them by encoding the contents during transit. This could include attachments, spoofing, links, signatures, and more.
    They also add a layer of protection when receiving emails, providing a warning when a link looks suspicious, and often sending malicious emails into a separate SPAM folder.
  10. WATCH OUT! You’re a Cyber Target
    Now that you have a good idea of how to prevent cyberattacks on businesses, it’s time to put these best practices to use. The threat of a cyberattack is constant and you can easily become a cyber target. Here are just a few more tips for improving your cybersecurity protection:
    • Avoid clicking links sent in emails. Rather, go to the website directly through your preferred browser. Malicious email links can sometimes trigger the malware installations, while visiting the site through your browser will avoid that trigger.
    • Be wary of links that ask for your personal information or passwords. Most legitimate companies will avoid sending these requests via email if they need these details at all.
    • Adopt a common-sense approach to cyber threats. If you receive emails from unknown sources that include strange grammar or unusual requests, don’t download any attachments or click on any links.
    • Avoid sharing personal information without first confirming that it’s entirely necessary. Even if you know the person asking for your details, it is always a good idea to confirm with them in person or over a call, or even to check with your manager that sharing your sensitive information is allowed.

While all of these tips and best practices are useful in avoiding cyberattacks, there is no definite set of instructions that anyone can give you to prevent attack altogether. Technology is evolving every day, and so are hackers and cyber criminals. This is why it’s so important make the most of cybersecurity experts like Solid Systems to ensure that you’re taking all the measures that you possibly can to prevent any looming or new cyberthreats to your business.

Michael Claxton

Michael Claxton

Co-Founder and CEO of Solid Systems | I am a father of two, and a mentor of many. My calm focus makes me a natural leader, both in and out the office, and I have a unique skill in nurturing leadership qualities in others as well. But most of all, I understand the true value of time and the ways that technology can optimise efficiency within a business and see humans making the most of the time available to them, both in terms of productivity, and in terms of personal growth. 

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