IT security keyboard

Your guide to IT security basics

Every business, no matter how large or small, now faces daily cybersecurity threats. 60 percent of small businesses are hacked every single year, and the burden of attacks seems to be doing nothing but increasing in scope. As a result, all business owners need to have at least a basic IT security strategy in place.

Here are six fundamental IT security principles your company should employ to safeguard itself from potential attacks.

Monitor and record everything

To protect yourself from breaches and shore up defenses if they do occur, it’s important to have strong network monitoring and recording systems in place. Monitoring can help you head off cyber attacks before they do severe damage.

Recording the events that occur on your network, meanwhile, will help you trace back any attacks that do succeed and fix the vulnerabilities that allowed them to happen in the first place.

Protect your data with encryption

When your organization’s data is stored or transferred, it needs added layers of protection to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Encryption protocols applied to storage media and data transfers over your network can keep data safe by making it unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have the necessary decryption keys.

Apply the principle of least privilege

Employee data theft is a huge problem for businesses of all sizes. 85 percent of employees take sensitive data with them if they are fired, while one-third access such data while still working. This is why it’s important to apply the principle of least privilege, which states that employees should be given access only to the data and resources that are absolutely necessary for their work. By granting employees more than the minimum required permissions, you could be leaving yourself open to data theft from the inside.

Test aggressively

Achieving IT security means that your team has to proactively identify and fix vulnerabilities, rather than waiting for attacks. The best way to do this is to test your defenses regularly and rigorously. Running penetration tests on your network can highlight weaknesses that can then be addressed.

Testing your systems is a good IT principle in general and should not be confined to security applications. From mock trials of your disaster recovery plan to testing your data backups, active testing should be an integral part of your IT team’s work.

Educate your employees

Cybersecurity should be emphasized to your entire staff, not just your IT team. Teaching employees better security practices can help to make your entire company safer. Specifically, employees should be instructed in safe email opening policies, website usage and password management.

If you need help training your staff, an IT consultant may be in order to educate both users and administrators on security best practices.

Keep your systems up to date

Outdated hardware and software can open your network up to hackers, especially when vendors stop servicing their old products. A surprising number of successful breaches result from failure to keep systems updated. In fact, some 60 percent of companies have experienced security breaches due to vulnerabilities for which patches have existed for a decade or more.

If you want your network to remain secure, it’s important to keep all of your software and hardware up to date and upgrade to more current alternatives when ongoing support for old products is no longer available.

By keeping these IT security basics in mind, you can help to keep your company and its data safe from malicious attackers. Although you may not be able to stop every single attack before it becomes a problem, maintaining a strong security strategy will help to minimize damage and keep most attackers at bay.