Passwords are used everywhere these days, in both personal and professional environments. You should encourage your employees to adopt the following practices and do the same yourself.
- Differentiate your passwords. Let’s face it – people can be lazy at times, which contributes to the unfortunate habit of using the same username/email and password for every online account. The trouble with this habit is that if one account is compromised, a lot of other accounts could also be… all the person responsible has to do is plug in those credentials on other popular websites or business applications.
- Keeping it simple is stupid. Another habit that we all tend to gravitate toward is to make a password as memorable as we can… which often means that our passwords usually include something about us that is easy to find out – pet names, birthdays, and other details like that. How often have you seen a movie where the hero hacks into a bad guy’s laptop by looking at a picture that the bad guy has on their desk of their pet, or remembering some other important details? This is so common, there is an entire storytelling trope around this phenomenon. Avoid doing this.
- Give passphrases a try. Passphrases have grown in popularity recently as an alternative to passwords that are both easier to remember and more secure than the recommendation of assorted alphanumerics. What would you remember more easily: “4n89Gk99q,” or “farmcakemeeting?”
- Use a password manager. To be fair, remembering a unique password (or even passphrase) for all of the accounts that the average person has nowadays is a pretty extreme expectation, and contributes to people reusing passwords across accounts for fear of forgetting them. A password manager is a secure program that saves passwords for a user, meaning that the user really only needs to remember the one that opens the manager.
A lot of threats out there are designed to fool a user into opening up their network to attack. This can be avoided through the adoption of a few best practices amongst your staff.
- Look twice at the URL. URLs are shockingly easy to disguise, so a malicious link could very easily appear to be something that you would click with almost no hesitation. Take www.google.com. If you were to click on a link that looked like this, you’d expect to be brought to the Google homepage, right? However, it is only too easy to use these expectations to mislead you and your users, as demonstrated here. One handy trick to use in this situation is to hover your cursor over a link, but not click on it. This will cause the actual destination of the link to appear at the bottom of your browser window.
- Business computers should never be business-casual. Some threats to your business can hide on websites that will attack when you download materials from them, or even just when you visit them. Therefore, a work device should only be used for work-related tasks, if only to minimize this risk.
- Leverage access controls and content filters. Of course, you shouldn’t necessarily put all of your faith in the reliability of your staff to make good choices. Even if they are putting forward their best effort to avoid online threats, accidents happen, so you should compound whatever efforts your team is putting forth with additional protections, like firewalls and content filters.
- Trust the pros. No matter how simple an issue might seem on the surface, it pays to enlist the help of an IT professional for assistance if you have to resolve an issue.
Phishing is a very effective means for cybercriminals to get their way, making it a common precursor to larger threats. Therefore, you and your staff alike need to be able to spot a potential attack:
- Urgency is a warning sign. Consider emergency signs: are there nondescript recommendations to please proceed thusly in an orderly manner? Of course not–there are bold colors and simple, urgent instructions to get people to act quickly. Phishing messages use a similar tactic to make their targets panic and act impulsively.
- Details are wrong. While this isn’t always the case, phishing messages can sometimes include misspelled words and odd grammatical choices. Links may not go where they appear to go. Take a few moments and double-check that links are correct by hovering your cursor over them and reviewing the URL that pops up.
- Check for legitimacy. If you find a message suspicious, and you have the means to double-check it through another means of communication, do so. The inconvenience of a quick call is far less severe than the ramifications of a security breach.
- Be quick to judge. If you can’t determine if a message is phishy or not, err on the side of caution. Report to IT and inform them of the message, then follow their guidance.
Finally, we come to your data. Depending on your particular industry, the data you collect and store could potentially be quite valuable. A cybercriminal could actually make anywhere from $40 to $200 per record by selling sets of a person’s name, address, phone number, and credit history on the Dark Web. Bank details can bring in anywhere from $50 to $200 each. If your business is the source of that information, you could be in serious trouble… and that’s without even considering all of the other consequences. Your data needs to be secured, so a few practices will help you to do so:
- Restrict data access. You need to maintain some pretty considerable authentication measures so your data is secured both digitally and physically. Access controls and authentication measures should be imposed on both sides of the coin, greatly reducing the risk of a breach or a leak.
- Update your security. Cybercriminals are always busy trying to devise new methods of undermining your business’ security, and cybersecurity developers are always responding in kind. So, as patches and updates are released for new and developing threats, you need to make sure that you are appropriately putting them in place.
- Regulatory compliance. Regulations are in place for many industries that are intended to maintain cybersecurity standards, including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the assorted data privacy laws that have recently been adopted. If you aren’t compliant, you need to fix that as soon as possible.
- Backup your data. Whether it is due to a malicious effort or simple bad luck, data loss is one of the worst things that can happen to a business in terms of its survival. Insulate yourself by maintaining at least a cloud-based backup.
Following these considerations can greatly contribute to the security of your business and its operations, but there is still more that you can (and need to) do. Reach out to Level5 Management at (561) 509-2077 for help in enacting all of them, and more.