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Stay Secure: 5 Key Steps to Taking a Proactive Approach to IT Security

Daan Pepijn
Daan Pepijn

Is your business handling IT security properly? Despite the increasing activity of hackers and the rise of security leaks and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, many companies are still underestimating the costs of the modern security threats.

Around 63 percent of small to medium businesses still do not have a comprehensive system for controlling, securing, and tracking their company’s sensitive data (PDF).

This oversight can lead to a variety of consequences. The leak of crucial information to your competitors is among the most common. It can jeopardize any opportunity to leverage a competitive advantage, thus inhibiting your company’s growth.

The leak of sensitive data, particularly company credentials and customer information, may also lead to other serious repercussions, such as identity theft, loss of customer trust and even the collapse of your IT infrastructure.

While most security breaches can be rectified through standard security protocols, the damages that can be incurred are most likely to be irreversible. Remember that the first mistake businesses can make is to have a reactive approach when it comes to IT security threats.

Most businesses will already have safeguards, but a common mistake is to rely on these safeguards too much. By being reactive, you are still at the mercy of attackers, who can find the weakest point in your system and use these to their advantage.

This is why you need to develop a proactive approach, which will find potential security threats or loopholes and prevent any untoward incidents from happening in the first place. Here are five steps you can take in order to ensure better security through such a proactive approach.

Step 1: Inventory of Authorized Software, Devices, and Other Assets

Businesses that have an unprotected and accessible network are highly vulnerable to digital threats. As a company grows, it gets harder to monitor and keep track of the people and devices that could be accessing your data.

One means of improving the security of your organization is to have an accurate inventory of all assets, including software and devices, and to determine a whitelist of devices that should have access to your network resources.

It is also important to define the persons or departments responsible for each item. This includes devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other gadgets that can access a local network. You must also have a complete record of network addresses, machine names, and the purpose of their connection.

To make sure no one gets unauthorized access to your business network, it is crucial to update and monitor your inventory in real-time. Also, enforce network access control protocols and require authentication to prevent unauthorized connections.

Step 2: Enforcing Security Configurations and Policies

Another crucial step is to proactively configure the security configurations and policies of your business network. To help you optimize your safety settings, identify the processes, data, and information systems that are most important to your company as well as who could be after them. You can tweak the configurations of operating systems and software toward more secure access, even if it sacrifices ease-of-use. Also, be sure to keep operating systems and any security software patched and updated.

Management can specify company policies that focus on safeguarding your data. A common security policy is to completely prohibit new devices from being authenticated by the network, without explicit authorization by the IT department. Since employees are discouraged from bringing additional devices apart from the ones that are already being monitored, it significantly reduces the chances of unauthorized connections and makes network access exclusive to registered devices.

Step 3: Training Your Personnel 

Even with the most secure network in the world, having uninformed and uncomplying employees can still compromise the protection of your data. In addition to implementing security policies in the office, you should see to it that everyone is duly trained to keep your critical data safe.

Some of the key points you should cover include changing their behavior when accessing the Internet through your business network. Employees should avoid shady links from unknown emails, habitually back up their work, stop unnecessarily downloading anything, and use strong passwords. If you are using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to secure connections, encourage your employees to use it whenever they access the business server in public places or remote offices.

Step 4: Deploying Low-Footprint Defense Systems

Installing new security application, including firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, anti-virus, and anti-malware tools, can result in an adverse impact on the user's end. Simply deploying software may lead to suboptimal device performance, slowdowns, and even crashes.

Here is where a low-footprint security software would be a good line of defense. Such applications proactively protect against targeted attacks such as ransomware. The low system requirements means that such solutions are also very easy to deploy and will have no impact on the performance of your machines.

Such a solution prevents security threats without the need for detection, and it also protects essential applications from being tampered with. This includes browsers, email apps, and other software that handle sensitive data.

Step 5: Continuous Assessment and Quick Response Before Incidents

Finally, you should prioritize real-time monitoring and assessment of your secure network. Establish a routine inspection of all the vulnerabilities in your network, which will be conducted by a security specialist. In addition to security software, you should also monitor your employees and how they act to preserve the security and integrity of your business data.

Remember that internal attacks performed by disgruntled employees can be considered as one of the greatest security risks for businesses. As there is no real way to fully prevent this, you should carefully monitor all network activities and be quick to respond. Be sure to track, log and audit all the activities of privileged accounts as a precaution. This will allow you to respond quickly to threats of any real damage.

Image Credit: RossHelen / Getty Images
Daan Pepijn
Daan Pepijn Member
Daan is a Cloud Computing, Web Security Expert and Blogger for Hire. His current interests include enterprise automation, cloud-based security and solutions.