IT Security: Four Foundational Layers Every Organization Should Have

IT-securityIt’s not a question of if your business is at risk for a cyber attack. But when. IT security should be at the top of every business’s priorities, and rigorous attention and multiple facets of protection are essential.

Hackers and cyber terrorists are smart and growing smarter. They have access to ever improving technology. While you’re sitting and reading this post, they are probably actively looking for ways to get and exploit sensitive information.

And if you think only big businesses are at risk, then think again.

As we wrote in an earlier blog post, more and more small- to medium-size businesses are falling victim to cyber attacks, often due to the perception of laxer security measures. In the same post, we mentioned that cyber victims may not even be aware of security leaks for months or even years after they happen.

Of course, sometimes a business knows immediately when it has been the victim of an attack. A malicious attack can immediately cripple a network, and the business may even receive ransomware demands—blocking access to data, and possibly deleting or publishing it, until money is paid. But there is no guarantee the payment of a ransom will discourage future attacks; often it encourages them.

So how do you protect your business, and your customers? Here are four layers of protection you should implement immediately, if you haven’t already.

  1. Incorporate artificial intelligence-based security

Endpoint protection is the most common form of security—arming work stations and electronic devices with programs that block or root out malware. We’re all familiar with standard anti-virus software programs, but they are hardly enough to fight off today’s attacks.

Older systems rely principally on signature-based security—software that checks programs against a list of known malicious files, or the signatures of those files within programs. But that form of protection is ineffective against new malware strains, or encrypted ones.

Artificial intelligence-based security works differently. Rather than limiting analyses to specific codes, these programs identify techniques and patterns often associated with malware. They analyze both good and bad software, figuring out what factors, or combinations of factors, are associated with each. The program then calibrates the probability that something could be harmful before accepting it. The more software and malware it examines, the smarter the security system gets. For example, a program that starts encrypting files without notifying the user could be identified as malicious.

But as this article from Forbes explains, analyzing the necessary amount of data to make such decisions would be overwhelming for an IT team; however, “With machine learning, [a] mountain of data could be whittled down in a fraction of the time, helping organizations quickly identify and then mitigate a security incident. Artificial intelligence could be a game-changer for security teams.”

  1. Ensure strong email security

Email is a common entry point for malware, spam and phishing attacks. Deceptive messages can entice recipients to divulge sensitive information, open attachments, or click on hyperlinks that install malware on the victim’s device.

A strong email security system is important which can quarantine dubious emails while letting safer ones through. The best security systems will examine the origin of the email, and analyze its attachments. Tighter security systems often implement email authentication policies, only allowing emails from approved sources.

There are many practical strategies businesses can create to prevent email entry of malware. According to digitalguardian.com, these include:

  • Educating employees of email security risks
  • Requiring employees to use strong email passwords
  • Utilizing email encryption
  • Insist on best practices for BYOD
  • Implement scanners and other tools to scan messages and block emails containing malware or other malicious files before they reach your end user
  1. Limit web access to halt Command and Control

Command and Control capability is a critical component of most malware.

For example, let’s say a user searches online for information, and stumbles on a website embedded with small, malicious files. These files reach out to a central server, which then sends malicious commands to a network of compromised computers. These computers can number in the thousands, their malware lying dormant, hidden, waiting to be activated.

These infected computers, each known as a ‘botnet’ (a combination of the words robot and network) can then launch a concerted, organized and overwhelming attack. Botnet attacks are difficult to defend against using traditional security solutions, and can cause considerable, sometimes irreversible damage.

The best defense? Avoid the infection from happening. Software systems can block user access to different websites or even entire website categories. The same systems can also block links.

  1. Have sufficient and timely back-up protection

Once you’ve been hit by a cyber security breach, avoiding damage and removing it from your system can be costly and even impossible. In the end, your best security may be only as good as your last, best back up. For example, rather than paying ransomware, a better option is to restore your blocked information.

Don’t have a back-up plan in place? What are you waiting for? As outlined in our two part blog post on the benefits of the Cloud (Part 1 and Part 2),

Cloud computing offers easier access to files from any location, seamless integration with existing systems, and also superior back-up opportunities and security protocols. Electronic devices can be backed up regardless of where they are located and who is using them, and can rapidly restore a compromised network.

Ramp up your own IT security

Rooting out malware and keeping your system protected isn’t always easy, and getting rid of it can be expensive. But SinglePath can help you get and stay protected, with an IT security bundle that falls within your budget. We work with small- to mid-size businesses like yours, and make sure the size of your budget doesn’t compromise the size of your security. We’ll create a multifaceted, layered approach that will leave you safe from most attacks.

At Single Path we can provide comprehensive IT security, from managed firewalls to data loss prevention threat solutions to risk assessment. We’re a true collaborative partner that can provide expert advice, ongoing analysis of your needs and support. For your IT security needs and beyond, Single Path is ready to serve … and protect.

Ask us how to get started!

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