7 data protection tips to stay secure online

June 26, 20185 minute read

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We spend our lives online these days. People go shopping, conduct business transactions, and message colleagues about confidential business matters without even thinking about it. But when hackers roam the internet just as freely as everyone else, how secure is all that data?

The answer, as most IT pros know these days, is not very. Fortunately, there are ways you can stay on top of data protection and network security. And, just as fortunately, you can do the bulk of the work with common sense instead of fancy, expensive solutions. Here are some basic tips every IT team can follow to protect the business’s data and bolster its cybersecurity.

1. Choose an encrypted messaging app

Messaging apps are great for communication but, perhaps, not so great for data security. If a hacker breaks into your company’s messaging platform, what details could they see? Imagine the PR disaster if a hacker managed to leak a private conversation about a customer.

Some businesses use ephemeral messaging apps to keep data protected from breaches and prevent employees from creating ongoing message histories. However, your industry may have regulations that prevent getting rid of messages related to certain topics. In that case, you can still select a secure message platform by opting for ones with end-to-end encryption.

2. Set and enforce strict password policies

Do you use a different password for every site you access? What about your employees? Contrary to popular belief, the best passwords to use aren’t long and overly complex—all you need is a random set of four simple words strung together, like “carriagebottleorangechair.” This format makes it easier to remember your password, but at the same time, it’s nearly impossible for automated systems to decipher.

Even the best user-generated password can fail, though. To be extra secure, you may want to consider using a workplace-wide password manager. Password managers often suggest passwords consisting of randomly generated strings of characters. They then store these strong passwords so end users don’t need to remember them. Even if you don’t use a password manager, you’ll want to publish—and enforce—rules about how to choose a strong password and how often to change them.

3. Screen workplace devices for unauthorized apps

Although many organizations allow employees to bring their own devices to work, doing so increases the possibility of unauthorized app usage, putting the network at risk. Statistics indicate one in three people who use apps in the cloud don’t check with their IT departments first, so workers may be unknowingly compromising mobile device security simply by using applications they don’t realize are insecure.

Besides creating a “safe list” of approved apps, IT managers should look at gadgets individually and ensure all of them—whether they’re company-owned or brought by employees—don’t have any insecure applications on them. Enforcing policies about what apps they can download will also keep your network more secure.

4. Secure all your endpoints

Computers and smartphones are what you may typically consider as endpoints, but what about the other devices connected to the network? The age of IoT means oft-overlooked devices, like smart printers, are now connected endpoints—and if left unsecured, they can become serious security threats.

To ensure endpoint security in the twenty-first century, make sure all your devices come with built-in security capabilities. For example, printers that detect and stop endpoint threats and devices that streamline a company’s security policies can go a long way in locking down those vulnerable network entry points.

5. Perform regular security audits

In February 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published guidelines noting that publicly traded companies must provide information about potential cyber risks and incidents promptly. That’s difficult to do if you aren’t aware of vulnerabilities that could evolve into risks or, even worse, hidden malware that’s currently sitting on your network.

Periodic security audits carried out by a cybersecurity specialist can highlight problem areas and help you mitigate them before they cause long-term problems. You could also use monitoring tools to detect suspicious network traffic.

6. Integrate security with employee workflows

While 65 percent of surveyed employees understand their responsibility to protect confidential information, many of those same employees feel security programs limit their productivity. Also, nearly a quarter of people who received cybersecurity training at work still engaged in unsafe practices to complete tasks.

These statistics illustrate why it’s important to not only educate employees on how to keep the workplace safe but also be receptive to potential negative feedback about security rules. Cybersecurity policies won’t accomplish much if they’re so unwieldy your users are tempted to circumvent them.

7. Share what you know

Even a highly secured workplace is only resistant to hackers if online security is a team effort. That’s why it’s smart to fill in others on the tips you’ve just read and assist them in putting them into practice. You could host informal discussions at work, for example, or put together a sheet of tips to help colleagues get computer security basics down pat.

In this increasingly connected world, the likelihood of data breaches and malware infiltrations is higher than ever. Casual online activities your users do every day can put your company data in serious danger. These seven easy-to-implement strategies, though, will help you ensure strong data protection, mobile device security, and network security—in spite of growing risks. Roll them out as soon as possible to keep your workforce safer online.

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