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Network Security: Protecting Your Data in the Digital Age

What does your company do? Even a small business is likely to have some records with personal information that must be protected. Medium to large-scale companies, service providers, etc. likely have more information that must be kept secure. 

If history has taught people anything, it’s that even the largest company can fail when it comes to security. Sometimes, the issues are caused by sloppy work ethics, such as a company that keeps using “password” as the password that protects their databases, cloud storage folders, etc. You also have companies that think they’ve done things right but soon learn they just weren’t as secure as they thought.

Take a Closer Look at the Increased Risks of Cyberattacks

Just over 20 years ago, Pew Research started tracking internet use. In 2000, 52% of U.S. adults used the internet. Ten years later, usage had increased to 76%. That percentage neared 100% with 93% of U.S. adults using the internet in 2020.

In addition to increasing rates of internet usage, the number of homes using broadband connections increased drastically. Only 1% of homes had broadband connections in 2000 compared to 77% in 2020. That’s just home internet use. 

Companies across the country rely on high-speed internet to do everything from completing a sale, booking an appointment for a client or patient, sharing information with others, and holding business meetings. Here are a few statistics related to business use of the internet and cloud services.

  • Seven out of ten businesses have a website, but 70% of all businesses with websites fail to put in a call to action.
  • 93% of global internet traffic comes from Google.
  • 47% of internet users will leave a site if it takes longer than two seconds for it to load.
  • 43% of small businesses are prioritizing website performance in 2023.
  • 28% of all business is conducted online.

Keep those facts in mind as you learn that fraud cases have increased by 70% since 2020. Cybersecurity experts believe that IoT attacks are going to increase, and healthcare breaches are one of the most costly at $10.1 million per breach. Smaller businesses are not exempt from risk. While global cyberattacks can happen to anyone, these are the common targets.

  • Education
  • Energy and utility companies
  • Financial services and banks
  • Government agencies
  • Healthcare
  • Retail

When a cyberattack takes place, it’s usually one of four types. 

  • Denial of Service (DoS) or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) – The attack prevents you from accessing your business system.
  • Malware – A virus, malicious software, or spyware is installed onto a computer allowing the breach.
  • Phishing – A fake message is sent to try to get the person to share information like passwords.
  • Ransomware – Data is stolen or a system is attacked with a DoS/DDoS and a demand for payment (ransom) is made as the only way to get things back.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Company?

The best defense against a cyberattack is a strong network. Tech experts believe a company’s cybersecurity budget should be around 12% of the annual IT budget. A strong network is one of your best defenses, but there are several other steps you should be taking to protect your data.

1. Build a Strong Network

Start with a strong network. Your company should have a physical firewall device in place. A firewall provides a block between the uplink (traffic from the internet or network) and systems (employee computers, company servers, etc.) and uses filters and pre-configured settings and rules to determine who can get through the firewall to the business’s systems. 

There are software firewalls, too. They are installed on a specific device, such as a worker’s computer, and are configured to keep undesired traffic from accessing that computer.

While a firewall device is one of the best starts for network security, Only 96.6% of companies use them. Just over half of companies also have software firewalls as a secondary level of protection.

Another device to consider is a network switch. A network switch allows multiple devices to talk to each other, but some departments or computers can be blocked out. Only authorized users are allowed in. As you choose a network switch, you want to look at the network security options like VLAN, SDSN, or MACsec.

2. Continually Monitor Threat Intelligence

Even after setting up a secure network, make sure you have team members constantly researching the latest trending threats and exploring how your company or organization would respond. Mitigating risk is one of your biggest responsibilities when it comes to network security.

It may be better to hire a specialist in threat and vulnerability management and have them identify breaches as soon as they occur so that threats can be quickly handled. What steps can be taken right now to prevent that threat from ever having an impact?

3. Test Your Systems

Even with the strongest network and system framework, you have to keep testing them for vulnerabilities. If you’re able to breach a firewall or get through somehow, why was it able to happen? Take notes and make immediate improvements to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

4. Train Your Staff

Most breaches and hacks are tied to human error. Take time to train all of your staff, not just the key players in your IT department or administration. Make sure they understand the different types of attacks and how they happen.

All workers need to understand the importance of never clicking a link in an email, opening an unsolicited attachment, or giving away secure information like passwords in a phone call. If they’re asked, they need to verify it’s a legitimate request first. 

Don’t settle for one training session either. Hold refreshers each year or every quarter. If you have a lot of remote workers, you could set up video training that they can do on their time.

5. Turn On Multifactor Authentication

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is important for improving security. With so many passwords to remember, it can become a hassle with dozens of password resets happening every hour in a large company. MFA helps with this.

Instead of having to rely on a password, customers or employees can use another way to sign in, such as a security code, fingerprint, or facial recognition option. When it’s appropriate, make sure you have it turned on and that employees use it. Encourage your customers to use it, too.

If an employee is logging in from your building, they wouldn’t have to use MFA. If their device is connecting from a new location, such as a hotel room, they would. It’s a way to protect against unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Your Network Equipment Shouldn’t Be a Case of “Best Guess On What We Need”

You may have a solid IT team, but make sure they know exactly what is required to keep your business safe from cyberattacks. Your IT team may understand security, but not the exact rules your health practice must meet to comply with HIPAA. Training helps, but the expertise of a specialist in network equipment like network switches and hardware firewalls is essential.

BrightStar Systems works closely with your team to ensure you have the right network equipment for your needs and budget. As our high-quality used equipment is up to 95% off, optimal security doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With a combined 45+ years of expertise in network equipment, we’re happy to share our advice and offer free quotes. Reach us online or by phone, whichever is most convenient for you.