When it comes to small business IT security, most businesses are aware that their web site and related facing applications need to have some layer of protection on them. However, securing your small business network is just as important to ensuring the security of your small business information. Often times, networks are the systems that cyber criminals target the most because of the sensitive data that they give access to.
Small businesses often times don’t know the different things they can do to protect their network. As with anything, the keys to securing your SMB network are grounded in the expectation that you will know the vulnerabilities that are there, common mistakes that are made, and what you can do to protect your business.
Keys to Securing your SMB Network
Have Password Policies in Place
We cannot over-state the importance of enforcing password policies within your organization. Why is this? Passwords are easily the most commonly used computer security tool in the world today. And while the risks associated with weak passwords are relatively well-known, weak passwords are often the weakest link in a SMBs network. In relation to the security of your overall network, it is important to distinguish that just because your personal credentials are secure and complex, does not mean that your data is protected. What many fail to comprehend is that it only takes one weak password to allow an attacker to gain a foothold into the entire computer network.
According to the 2013 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, approximately 76 percent of attacks on corporate networks involved weak passwords, most of which were attained through malware, phishing attacks, or the theft of a password list. These compromised passwords show that not only is it important to have a password that protects your network, having it set outside the default security standards is the best way to keep your data secure.
Get a Firewall
The first step for any attacker who is attempting to breach your network is to find vulnerabilities by scanning for open ports, which are what connect your network to the Internet. A properly configured firewall acts as the first line of defense on your network by determining which ports should be open and which should be closed. This allows you do essentially control traffic within your network, as well as limit or grant access to the network itself.
Keeping unwanted traffic, such as malware or computer worms, off of your network while allowing for traffic that is useful to business to successfully connect to your systems ensure that you can conduct business safely and efficiently. A great example of this would be a remote worker or an employee who is working at a client site. A properly configured firewall would allow this user to have access to the data that they need, such as a file server or messaging system, without compromising the security of the overall network. Sophos has a great model for SMBs in their UTM & Next-Gen Firewall
Secure your Wi-Fi
Securing the Wi-Fi will help you to protect yourself from several threats. Wi-Fi security is not a one step process. It requires many actions to be taken that all limit the ability for another user to access your Wi-Fi. For one, you should hide your SSID or turn off network broadcasting. This will limit the ability users who should not have access to your Wi-Fi to be able to locate it. While there are ways around it, it does require a higher level of dedication to get around the cloaked systems. Additionally, you should encrypt your network and make sure that you require a unique password to gain access.
Patch Your Systems
Failing to keep all the systems that are securing your network updated and patched is one of the most common vulnerabilities in small business network security. In fact, the 2015 HP Cyber Risk Report found that 44% of breaches in 2014 came from vulnerabilities that were two to four years old. Vendors release patches that fix these bugs all the time. In order to make sure that these do not allow for a cybercriminal to gain access to your network, all patches and updates must be installed. In fact, many government compliance regulations have this as a requirement in order to be in accordance with their restrictions.
Layer Your Security
Great security is like an onion. In theory, should an attacker get through one layer of your defenses, they should be looking at another. One of the best keys to securing your SMB network is to ensure that your security programs have multiple layers. The concept is simple enough, a single security solution may have flaws, and having another layer of protection makes it that much harder to be compromised. While some IT security professionals have a tendency to make layered IT security sound like something daunting, any effective security strategy should aim to have more than one layer of protection.
It is important to note that layered security does not apply to installing the same type of security device more than once. In fact, this can do more harm than good to your security posture. In stead, make sure that you have a firewall, antivirus, privacy/ parental controls, and many other layers that make it as difficult as possible for intruders to penetrate your network.
Make sure that all devices have up-to-date anti-virus software installed. If you are using a Windows machine, add anti-spyware protection. These things should be updated regularly, as out-of-date anti-virus software will do little to no good at protecting you.
Make Regular Back-ups
Having backups of your data will ensure that you can remain protected even if something on your network were to malfunction. Your backups should be done automatically if possible, to limit your need to have to remember to do it yourself. You should also take them regularly, we recommend at least weekly.
Educate Your Employees
The best security guidelines in the world wont make a difference if your employees don’t understand what they are. Conduct awareness training programs regularly to help with awareness.
For more tips on this, check out our blog post about creating a culture of security within your organization.