Cybersecurity has become a major topic of discussion in the business world. The rising frequency of cyberattacks—combined with several high-profile breaches in the past few years—has put the spotlight on the impact a successful attack can have.
Despite growing awareness, many businesses still don’t have basic cybersecurity policies in place, putting them at greater risk of a data breach or other kind of successful attack.
These are some of the most critical considerations for enterprise network security. Considering these tips when developing a business security policy can help managers and leaders build strong cyber defenses.
1. Keep devices and software updated
Outdated software and firmware can contain vulnerabilities that make devices more vulnerable to an attack. Keeping these items updated will help ensure they can’t be compromised by hackers taking advantage of vulnerabilities.
This tip is especially important for businesses with a large number of Internet of Things (IoT) or smart devices. Each of these items is connected to the internet and provides another vector of attack for hackers.
IoT security can be much more challenging than securing devices like computers and servers, but the right practices can keep them secure. When setting up a new smart device, IT workers should be sure to change any default usernames or passwords and turn off features the business won’t use — like remote access capabilities.
Once active, all devices should be regularly checked to ensure they are running the latest security patch available.
Read more on eSecurity Planet: Top IoT Security Solutions
2. Use multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a common enterprise cybersecurity tool that requires users to present both a password and another form of evidence for their identity when attempting a login.
Often, this evidence is a code sent to the user’s email address or phone number they then enter after providing their login credentials. This strategy ensures people are who they claim to be—thus reducing the risk that hackers can compromise network accounts.
Though MFA isn’t as strong as passwordless authentication or a broader identity and access management (IAM) strategy, adding an extra layer to the login process is an effective way to prevent successful cyberattacks if a user’s password becomes compromised. As such, many password managers offer MFA as an additional cybersecurity measure.
Explore top solutions: Best Password Managers for Business
3. Segment the network
Limiting the access users have to the business network can reduce the impact a compromised account may have. This is called least privilege access, a core security principle that grants employees access to the minimum systems, applications, and information they need to do their job.
The principle of least privilege access is at the heart of tools like Privileged Access Management (PAM) software and frameworks like zero trust security and microsegmentation. These solutions seek to create visibility around which users have access to which systems and control what kind of permissions they have.
This also applies to the various types of devices that may exist on a network. For example, a company may create a network segment just for smart devices, allowing them to connect to the internet but reducing their access to critical or sensitive business information. If one device is compromised, the network segmentation will prevent the impact from reaching other segments.
Read more on eSecurity Planet: Top Microsegmentation Software
4. Provide employees with cybersecurity training
Hackers can often gain access to organization networks without confronting the security software that defends the network. Social engineering attacks are a common tactic criminals use to gain access to business networks.
Phishing attacks have caused several high-profile breaches, including the successful attack on the COVID-19 cold supply chain in 2020. These attacks usually involve convincing emails that deceive employees into taking an action or providing information. Cybercriminals can then access secure applications or data and launch subsequent attacks.
Training employees on how to spot attacks like phishing emails can help protect your network against these threats. After the initial training, it’s a good idea to run a test or simulation to see which employees are still likely to become victims of a real phishing attack.
Read more: Insider Threats on the Rise
5. Prepare for mobile devices and shadow IT
It’s become common for employees to connect their personal mobile phones and tablets to the workplace network. Though many employees can work more efficiently when they’re able to use their own devices, this can make the system less secure without the right precautions.
To address the problem of shadow IT, businesses should implement a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) security policy that specifies what types of personal devices are allowed as well as how and when they can be used. This policy should also outline specific requirements for those devices, including how they are secured and how frequently they are updated.
Implementing and enforcing a strong policy will help reduce the risk personal devices can pose to the broader network.
Learn more on TechRepublic: Why your organization needs a BYOD policy
Essential ingredients for a network security strategy
Network security is likely to become even more important as hacking becomes more profitable and businesses adopt more complex networked technology. Knowing the fundamentals of an effective network security plan will help business owners and IT leaders prepare for the threats cybercriminals can pose.
These essential ingredients include endpoint and IoT security tools, password managers with MFA features, zero trust and microsegmentation tools, effective cybersecurity training for employees, and strategic BYOD policy enforcement. The precise combination of these tools depends on the organization’s unique infrastructure and corresponding needs. Some businesses may need to plan for a substantial annual investment in advanced network security tools, but some baseline cybersecurity measures rely more on intentional planning and preparation than budget.
Read next: 8 Low-Cost Ways to Improve Cybersecurity