5 Best IT Security Practices for 2021
As companies continue to gather large amounts of customer data, the need for robust cybersecurity protocols remains critical.
We live in a data-driven world. Companies are constantly accumulating new data – both from their own internal processes and external business operations – which provides the basis for a wide range of decisions and activities.
While the expansion of cloud-based data storage services has removed some of the burden that companies previously faced in securing large databases, hackers are still finding ways to take advantage of vulnerabilities in networks in order to access sensitive data.
And although companies globally reported less cyber-attacks in 2020 compared to the year before, the threat is still very much present – and not simply limited to large companies, but small and medium-sized ones too.
Indeed, the Verizon Business 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report found that of all the data breaches that affected businesses in 2020, 28% involved small companies.
Unfortunately, small companies are usually the ones that have less resources available to deal with the financial aftermath of a data breach. And these can be significant, whether it’s recouping the losses that can be incurred through a disruption to business, paying ransom to hackers for a return of important data, or fines from regulators seeking to punish the failure to protect customer data.
So, with all that in mind, below we present the 5 Best IT Security Practices for dealing with the threat of hacks and data breaches in 2021. Although not exhaustive, these are the basic precautionary steps companies of all sizes can take to ensure they stay ahead of the ever-present and evolving threat posed by hackers.
1. Data Policy & Framework
The first step for a company with digital assets is to have a clear and considered data security framework. This framework should outline a detailed protocol for:
- how data will be classified according to its sensitivity,
- and how that data will then be processed and protected.
Having a robust data policy and framework will allow a company to plan and implement the types of data security methods that are required for its own unique circumstances and data types.
The framework should take into consideration what kind of data will be held by the company, what kinds of risks it might be most vulnerable to, and what laws and regulations governing data privacy it might be subject to.
By enlisting the services of a professional IT security consultant, a company will be able to develop a framework that can be effectively managed by its permanent team, and to create a classification system for data that can be applied seamlessly to the types of data being handled by the company.
While the framework should not attempt to detail every security process that will be implemented by the company and all its various departments, it should form the backbone for how data security will be approached on a company-wide basis.
2. Risk-based Approach
In recent years, risk-based approaches to data security have become the benchmark for most companies, due primarily to the enormous volumes of data that they have to deal with.
Put simply, a risk-based approach allows an organization to identify and label data according to its security sensitivity. This helps to allocate data security resources to where they matter most – high risk data – while avoiding expending unnecessary attention and resources on data that is low risk.
While risk-based approaches allow a company to maintain a clear picture of the type of data they are dealing with, they also provide a more structured and organized method for remaining compliant with regulations governing how customer data is stored and protected.
With customer data constantly growing and becoming increasingly multifaceted and complex, companies need to have clear protocols for classifying this data according to its sensitivity – and implementing the appropriate measures to protect it.
3. Cross-network and Endpoint Security Systems
As the Internet of Things (IoT) has proliferated and increasing numbers of devices become connected to companies’ networks, so too have the potential entry points for hackers.
Indeed, as large databases have moved to the cloud, IoT devices have become one of the most commonly exploited vulnerabilities that hackers look for when trying to access a network.
The concept can be loosely explained by the age-old proverb of “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”.
Companies need to pay attention to every link that is connected to their networks by implementing robust endpoint security systems such as antivirus, antispyware, pop-up blockers and firewalls on each networked device.
They should also ensure that high-risk data can only be accessed on a network following verified and robust identity verification.
4. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
One of the most effective methods for ensuring different parts of your network are accessed only by users with the necessary permission to do so – is through using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).
MFA is one of the most robust security protocols currently available because it prevents access to a network to anyone who simply possesses a password: they need to be able to provide another level of identifying information that can be very hard to access, such as a code sent to a registered cellphone number.
Implementing MFA on your website indicates to your customers that you take data security seriously, which is especially important for certain industries such as banking or healthcare.
5. Train Employees
Ultimately, a company’s IT security cannot simply be left to an IT security consultant – it needs to be considered and understood to a basic degree by all employees in order to be successful.
For this reason, it’s important to explain your security protocols to your employees, communicate the need for them to practice care when it comes to the data security of their own devices, and to ask for feedback on how the security protocols may by affecting their work.
Even if a team is non-technical, it’s important for them to be able to follow basic security practices, and to be able to identify and flag any vulnerabilities or breaches as quickly as possible.
By training your team in basic IT security standards, you can actively safeguard against one of the most common vulnerabilities and entry points for hackers: human error. Fostering vigilance and care across a company’s workforce can go a long way in ensuring that your data security framework is being implemented and followed as best as possible.
As data security is a complex and constantly evolving field, having a professional and trusted IT security team or specialist to establish your network’s security architecture is highly recommended.
However, if you do decide to partner with an external provider for the service, then doing your due diligence on who they are is also recommended, as they will likely require access to potentially sensitive data.
At Bocasay, we can implement a range of different security approaches and protocols for our clients’ websites and apps, depending on their unique needs and strategies. Contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss your next project, and ways to ensure it is as secure as possible.