How to fend off cyberattacks and data breaches

Experts in online security and data protection explain how smaller businesses can prevent security breaches and digital attacks.

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“SSL certificates from a trusted certificate authority (CA) are imperative, especially for secure credit card transactions, data transfer and securing browsing,” he states. “But problems and vulnerabilities often come into play when their lifecycles are not properly managed and the certificates expire. An expired certificate leaves your doors wide open for a hack (i.e., allows the browser to become an entry point), so it is important to [keep] track [of] when your certificates are up for renewal” and renew them promptly.

6. Update (patch) your operating system and software regularly

“Hackers are constantly probing operating systems, browsers and software for vulnerabilities,” says Troy Gill, manager of Security Research, AppRiver. “It is not a matter of if they will find these flaws as it is a matter of when. Once vulnerabilities are discovered, software vendors work quickly to patch these vulnerabilities. The fix comes in the form of an update, and the failure to apply these updates can leave you very exposed.”

So to prevent exposure to hackers, “make sure your operating system is set to receive automatic updates,” and regularly check for or download updates (patches) for your most regularly used software and apps, too.

7. Enable two-factor authentication

“Enabling two-factor authentication provides far more security (and thus peace of mind) than a password alone,” says Mike Catania, CTO, PromotionCode. “The odds are that you have your mobile phone on you anyway, so the level of inconvenience is extremely low for a huge return in keeping the bad guys out. 2FA, as its popularly referred, essentially confirms you by requesting a PIN verification from your mobile device if someone attempts to log in from an unrecognized machine.”

8. Use a virtual private network (VPN)

“The growth of bring your own device (BYOD) in the workplace means employees may be tempted to use their own cloud-based apps to store or share customer data with colleagues,” says Julian Weinberger, director of systems engineering, NCP engineering. That “may leave sensitive company data vulnerable with only the strength of an employee’s password to protect it.”

To protect against mobile breaches, “small businesses can restrict [or prohibit] BYOD or use a virtual private network. A VPN will enable remote offsite employees to create an encrypted, end-to-end connection with the company network and transfer data securely regardless of their location or the application they are using.”

9. Minimize risk from third-party vendors

“SMBs need to talk to third party vendors about their security policies [before they do business with them] to ensure they’re properly protecting company information,” says Kevin Haley, director of product management, Symantec Security Response. “Ask questions such as: Are you using multilayer security? Are you backing up the data? Are your systems up to date? SMBs should also limit the amount of customer data they share and only provide what is absolutely necessary in order to minimize risk.”

[ Related: 5 data breach predictions for 2017 ]

How to protect data when cyberattacks happen

1. Back up data regularly

“By constantly backing up your data and storing a copy safely in a separate location, you create a strong last line of defense against a wide range of threats, from hardware failure to equipment theft, fire, flood and file-encrypting ransomware,” says Stephen Cobb, senior security researcher, ESET. “Be sure to test recovery from your backup copies on a regular basis to make sure everything can be restored and the appropriate employees know how to restore it.”

2. Have a disaster recovery (DR) plan in place

“SMBs should have a disaster recovery plan ready to go in the event of a cybersecurity [breach],” says Brady Keller, digital manager, Atlantic.Net. “If all of your business's data is stored with a cloud service provider, have autonomous and complete backups of that data somewhere else. This can be done by paying either a third party vendor to back up your data or your staff to create the backups internally. These backups and the corresponding recovery plan should be tested thoroughly in disaster simulation exercises.”

3. Consider cyber liability insurance

This is one of the best backup lines of defense small business owners can invest in,” says Ted Devine, CEO, Insureon. “Often available to businesses as a rider to a general liability policy, cyber liability insurance can cover costs, including credit monitoring services and investigation fees, when a virus or hacker breaches a business’s defenses and exposes customer data.”

This story, "How to fend off cyberattacks and data breaches" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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