Cybersecurity is a topic that everyone knows should be addressed, but when it comes down to it, few know where to begin—or, even worse, companies assume that just having some level of compliance with industry standards is sufficient. But with the standards constantly changing and bad actors using increasingly sophisticated tactics, it’s ill-advised to wait for a problem to arise before addressing the data protection essentials.
While certain industries tend to prioritize data protection more highly due to the confidential nature of the subject matter—financial services and healthcare are two that immediately come to mind—every company, large or small, stands to benefit from having the proper security practices in place. Although there are standard practices that can be applied in every industry, there is a strong case to be made that going above and beyond the basics is the best approach.
Here are the top three practices that every company, regardless of industry or size, can implement today to keep their data secure and take a proactive approach to cyber threats.
1. Update your software consistently and as soon as an update is made available.
This may seem overly simplistic, and even inconvenient, but downloading the newest versions of software or patching them as soon as updates are available is without a doubt the easiest way to protect your system. It’s impossible to avoid vulnerabilities in technology—code is complex, and no one has yet to design a system that is impervious to attack. However, updates often include security fixes to address any existing deficiencies, in addition to new features and bug fixes to improve performance. Don’t be tempted to press the button to be reminded about the update later on—even if it takes a few hours, it’s worth the time to keep your system protected.
When the bigger names in cybersecurity first released their programs, many larger corporations immediately got on board with their integration—but at this point, there are an untold number of organizations with outdated legacy systems still in place, vulnerable and unsupported.
It’s understandable that companies are looking to make the most of that initial investment and may be resistant to switching over to newer versions or entirely new platforms, but without the regular maintenance and security patches, massive amounts of data are being left at risk unnecessarily. The cost of breach is usually far greater than the cost of migrating to a new system, so keep that in mind and act swiftly to upgrade your system before it’s too late.
2. Educate your employees on risk and security best practices.
Even with the most advanced software protections in place, your cybersecurity strategy isn’t going to work if the people on your network don’t understand their role in keeping it secure. Human-based risk in cybersecurity is a major problem, with data showing that 83% of organizations experienced a successful email-based phishing attack in 2021.
Educating employees about any warning signs or red flags, as well as how to best use the security protocols to help keep their data safe, will go a long way toward protecting your systems. Especially with the growing popularity of remote work, it’s never been more important to engage your employees to help in keeping your company data secure.
3. Establish a response plan before you’re attacked.
Even major corporations with entire departments dedicated to cybersecurity experience breaches. It is naive to assume any combination of defenses, no matter how robust, can completely rule out the possibility of a breach, so it is best to have a well-developed response plan. Detecting a breach is the first step to patch security vulnerabilities in the event of a compromise and can be achieved through deploying internal tracking tools and newer technology like Dark Web information surveillance.
Unfortunately, this seemingly obvious step is often overlooked, and data is often vulnerable for months before the compromise is even detected. Subsequently, determining the mechanism of the attack and responding with a prepared procedure for the most common threat vectors is the quickest way to resecure your data. Most importantly, it is critical that the response plan be preconfigured rather than thrown together after a cyberattack, because it will greatly increase the speed and efficiency of the defense.
Data breaches are always possible even with the proper precautions in place. By utilizing these three strategies, you have a better chance of keeping your system and data safe, but it’s always absolutely necessary to remain vigilant and take a proactive approach to your cybersecurity strategy as the tools – and attacks – continue to evolve.
Tobin Shea is the CEO of Mindwise, a venture-backed fraud prevention and cybersecurity platform with solutions to help financial and non-financial enterprises secure their data. As CEO, Tobin oversees all activities of the company and is personally responsible for the development and deployment of the company’s fraud protection technology.