4 Cybersecurity Best Practices for Ending the Year

December 26, 2018 Eric Dosal Eric Dosal

The end of the year is fast approaching. However, while many businesses and their employees are getting ready to take a break and relax for the end-of-year festivities, there’s a group of people who are seeking to take advantage of the hustle and bustle of the holidays for their own benefit: cybercriminals. All too often, companies suffer cybersecurity breaches right at the end of the year as they lower their guard or become distracted by other priorities.

Because of the risk cyber threats pose to businesses all across the country, the Compuquip team thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of cybersecurity best practices for ending the year on a high note:

Cybersecurity Best Practice #1: Make Sure Your Network Security is Up to Date

It isn’t unusual for a company to have an uneven attack surface. What is an “uneven attack surface?” That’s the term for a network where some of the assets that face the outside world are less protected than others. For example, if one server in a network has an old, single-factor authentication protocol in place when every other server has two-factor or multi-factor authentication, then that network would have an uneven attack surface—and the server with the outdated authentication would be a weak link in the company’s network security.

There are a few reasons that a company’s network might have an uneven attack surface, such as:

  • Some assets acquired in a merger/takeover have not been updated to match other assets yet;
  • “Minor” systems are missed during regular patching and maintenance efforts; and
  • Individual IT assets running an operating system are not compatible with the company’s preferred cybersecurity solutions.

One important end-of-year cybersecurity practice, in this case, would be to check your perimeter network security to ensure no assets are significantly easier to crack than others. If you find such a vulnerability, be sure to address it by updating that asset’s cybersecurity protections or by taking the asset offline if it cannot be fixed.

Cybersecurity Best Practice #2: Clear Data from Non-Critical Systems

Sometimes, sensitive data may be accidentally left on a relatively unprotected asset that it shouldn’t be on—like someone’s credit card data being left on a point-of-sale (POS) terminal. This kind of sensitive data should be regularly cleared from non-critical systems to prevent data thieves from having easy access.

If a cybercriminal were to breach the network and access a relatively unprotected asset with sensitive data, that could easily lead to a data breach that would take a long time (and a lot of money) to fix. By clearing out these non-critical systems ahead of time, you can minimize the potential impact of a cybersecurity breach—both for your business and your customers.

Additionally, putting systems in place to prevent sensitive information from being stored on every employee terminal in the business is a common requirement for data safety regulations.

Cybersecurity Best Practice #3: Don’t Skimp on Security Event Management!

Suffering a cybersecurity breach is bad enough, but failing to properly manage the breach because you didn’t have the right tools and people in place to act on an alert is worse. In cybersecurity, speed of response can be a crucial differentiator between a mild inconvenience and making the list of the worst data breaches of the year.

Security information and event management (SIEM), intrusion detection systems (IDS), and similar software can help provide an early warning to abnormal traffic on your network that may indicate an attack is taking place.

However, simply having SIEM and IDS tools is just part of the issue—there also needs to be sufficient capacity in the cybersecurity team to manage these systems and act on the information provided. Some companies use intrusion prevention systems (IPS) to help automate the response process—though even these systems need proper management since they cannot handle absolutely everything.

So, when setting up your cybersecurity protections, it’s important to make sure you set aside the right resources for both early detection systems and for the personnel to manage them.

Cybersecurity Best Practice #4: Using a Managed Security Service Provider

Many people assume that using their own internal cybersecurity team would be the ideal best practice for maintaining strong network security. However, hiring an internal team of cybersecurity pros can be prohibitively expensive, as an experienced security engineer can command a six-figure income—and they know it.

The real best practice for cybersecurity is to use a managed security service provider (MSSP) to acquire the services of a whole team of IT security pros for a fraction of the cost hiring them internally. In addition to reducing your cybersecurity costs, using an MSSP to manage your cybersecurity practices can:

  • Provide a broad range of technical expertise in different aspects of cybersecurity;
  • Allow you to benefit from any lessons the provider learns when managing other companies’ network security; and
  • Help you identify crucial gaps in your cybersecurity architecture.

The second benefit mentioned above can be especially powerful. For example, if your cybersecurity provider works with another company that suffers a “zero-day” exploit, they will be better equipped to deal with that attack if it gets used against your network.

Prepare your business to start the new year with a stronger cybersecurity posture—talk to the cybersecurity experts at Compuquip to learn how!

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