5 Important Ways to Improve Your Cybersecurity

$3.9 Million. 

That’s the answer to the following question…  What was the average total cost of a single data breach in 2020?  Cybersecurity is expensive, but the alternative is more than many companies can pay.  I won’t take any more of your time with numbers and, instead get to the point of my email.  I’ve put together a list of five really important things you should have on your radar if you have not implemented them yet.  How many of these can we check off together?

1.  Modern Windows Computer Operating Systems and Patching

There are roughly a billion computers, worldwide that currently run the Windows 10 operating system, however, there are still millions that run older, obsolete versions.  Using Windows 10 Pro in your business provides a solid foundation for centralized patch management systems to see and apply critically important Windows patches.  Doing just this means hackers are less likely to exploit the vulnerabilities they constantly seek, find, and use that are inside un-patched and older systems.

2.  Next-Gen Firewall

Traditional firewall filters through inbound and outbound traffic to inspect packets of data to understand the type and source of the traffic connection.  This information is utilized to determine whether a packet should be permitted or denied.  Firewalls also maintain protocols and functions that permit devices at disparate locations to pass traffic inside the “network”, called Virtual Private Networking.

“Next Generation” firewalls are a more advanced version of the traditional firewall.  Next Gen firewalls are “software defined”, meaning they are implemented with software, as opposed to firmware, making them easier to keep updated.  Most critical, like antivirus software, Next Gen firewalls are centrally managed, meaning there is a built-in ability to accept and install software updates and new features that are critical to staying ahead of hackers.  Because they are far easier to upgrade and update, they are considerably more effective than traditional firewalls.

3.  The Human Factor

According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, 85% of breaches involved stolen credentials or other “human elements”.  Companies continue to invest in infrastructure to protect their data and operate continuously.  But many are overlooking the human factor.  Most experts agree that practicing good password hygiene and empowering people to prevent cyber incidents could, in fact, be the best defense against cybercriminals.  Almost all breaches originate as a targeted phishing attack, and there is no way to rely on IT to block emails to prevent phishing since many social engineering attempts also target BYOD devices and text messaging.

I see it every day.  As diligent as you may be at avoiding the pitfalls, others in your organization are not.  It’s important to know who’s vulnerable so they can be targeted with the proper training.  Doing this is a critical layer of your cyber defense.

4.  Multi-factor Authentication for Email & Desktop VPN

You’ve been told you need this, but what does it mean?  Multi-factor, or two-factor authentication (MFA), is a perimeter protection method that helps ensure the person asking for access is who they say they are.  MFA is a hardware and software method that requires a user seeking access to a system to utilize at least two diverse factors to get in.  The different factors are categorized into three types, “something you know”, something you have” and “something you are”.

  1. Something you know – i.e., your password or PIN.
  2. Something you have – i.e. your mobile device or hardware token.
  3. Something you are – i.e. Biometric like your fingerprint.

Implementing MFA for Office 365 and VPN generally prevents a cybercriminal that has stolen a user’s credentials from gaining access since they would not have the user’s mobile phone or token, even though they have phished the correct password to the account.  This is very important because, if not protected, a cybercriminal can steal data and wreak havoc once inside a network.

5.  Improved Security Software

Traditional antivirus is very important to prevent a user from browsing to sites that may inadvertently install malware.  Antivirus works because the software brand has teams of ethical hackers on hand to reverse engineer zero-day exploits so updates can be built and sent to their antivirus software as signature files.  It’s widely accepted that antivirus should be installed, and subscriptions renewed so these signature files continue to be updated on your computers. 

With the scourge of ransomware at epidemic levels, some additional software solutions are available, in addition to the traditional antivirus.  One of those options is called Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR).  Like antivirus, EDR software runs on all your Windows desktop computers.  When deployed, EDR then provides a foundation for administrators to perform queries that allow them to expose potential threats.  When a threat is detected, EDR assists in the forensics search, so admins quickly detect and remove the threats before they lead to additional damage.  EDR is so important, that many cyber insurance providers are specifically recommending and, in some cases, requiring that EDR be deployed in your environment.

The VAF Difference

Having complete confidence that your network is secure, inside, and out, is invaluable in today’s day

and age. At VAF, we understand that more than any other company does. Putting our time and resources into perfecting our services and finding the best practices to bring to our loyal customers to keep them and their information safe. We do not take online security lightly and neither should you, if you are ready to take your network security to the next level, get in contact with us today.