Few can deny that cyberattacks are on the rise in Australia. In 2018, there were more than 800 data breaches reported to the Office of the Australian Commissioner (OAIC), with each quarter reporting more breaches than the last. This is largely because hackers are only getting smarter and developing more potent attacks.

However, not all hope is lost. By following the cybersecurity checklist below, your business will be well-protected.

1. Assess the risks

Every cybersecurity strategy starts with an IT risk assessment. This involves listing all the potential threats that could affect your organisation (e.g., malware, denial of service, online scams) and reviewing their likelihood and severity. You’ll also need to evaluate how well your IT infrastructure and business practices fare against real-world threats with a penetration test. The results from these tests will help you develop sound risk management strategies.

2. Secure the network perimeter

Cybercriminals often infiltrate an organisation’s systems through vulnerable networks. Mitigating network-based attacks requires the following:

Firewalls – allows employees to access only trusted networks while denying access to dangerous websites and services
Intrusion prevention systems – block unusual network behaviour that could indicate an attack
Email security software – filters spam and dangerous emails

3. Install anti-malware software  

Anti-malware programs are designed to defend against every known type of malicious software, including computer viruses, spyware, keyloggers, worms, Trojan horses, and more. Full-system scans will also detect and remove threats within your systems; just make sure to keep this software up to date.  

4. Update your systems regularly

New software vulnerabilities are discovered every day, so what’s secure today may not be tomorrow. Even the tiniest bug can become entry points for hackers if left unfixed for too long. To minimise these risks, make sure you:

Maintain an inventory of every IT asset in the company as well as their patch versions
Check hardware and software developer websites for critical updates
Use automated patch management tools to install the latest updates across company devices and applications
Conduct regular vulnerability scans, especially after major infrastructure changes
Remove old, unused software

5. Set access privileges

Organisations may have a wealth of apps and data, but it doesn’t mean everyone should have unfettered access to them. You must set airtight policies that limit users to only access the apps and files they need to do their jobs. This minimises the chances of privacy breaches, unauthorised installations, and other insider threats.  

6. Create removable media policies

External hard drives and USB drives are valuable for backing up and transferring large amounts of information, but they’re not without their risks. They can be misplaced or stolen, and hackers can use them to distribute malware.  

Standard protocol should therefore deny access to removable media as much as possible. In cases where the use of removable media is unavoidable, make sure to scan all media for malware and train users never to connect unusual devices to the corporate network.  

7. Monitor your systems

Round-the-clock monitoring allows you to detect attacks and address them quickly. Key areas you need to keep a close eye on include workstations, servers, network traffic, and user activity. If you don’t have the manpower to do this, consider working with a managed IT services provider (MSP) that offers 24/7/365 monitoring services.

8. Provide security training

Several reports by the OAIC found that human error and phishing attacks are the leading causes of data breaches. This means employees need to be trained on how to recognise online scams, the importance of setting strong and unique passwords, and being cautious of every website, email, and network they encounter.

Keep in mind that developing good security habits will require more than just a quick presentation. You’ll need to run simulations, engaging seminars, and refresher courses regularly.   

9. Establish mobile security

Although mobile devices let employees work remotely, they do increase a company’s exposure to cyberattacks. Similar to USB drives, mobile devices can be stolen and tampered with, enabling hackers to gain access to corporate networks. This means your company needs to:

Specify who is authorised to use personal devices for work
Teach remote workers to avoid connecting to free public Wi-Fi hotspots
Use virtual private networks (VPNs) to encrypt data being transmitted across a public network
Minimise the amount of sensitive information stored on mobile devices

10. Develop an incident response plan  

No matter how well-protected your systems are, it’s vital to have an incident response plan in case of an attack. Here’s what you need to do:  

Assign a response team in charge of identifying, containing, and analysing the breach
Back up files in onsite servers and the cloud for maximum data redundancy
Create a contact plan so employees know who to notify in the event of a breach
Test the plan regularly and ensure recovery procedures are working properly

These cybersecurity best practices are essential, but they can be fairly difficult to implement. That’s why you should work with a top-notch managed services provider like Empower IT Solutions. Call us today for all your cybersecurity needs. We’ll ensure wrongdoers never lay a finger on your most important assets!

Download: Cyber security for business infographic – 8 steps to setting up a risk management strategy

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