Digital threats lurk around every virtual corner as bad actors probe for opportunities to exploit gaps in a company’s cybersecurity. Too often, they find openings through legitimate users who are none the wiser of malicious attempts to exploit them.
While cybersecurity advancements can help safeguard business data, employees play a pivotal role in protecting sensitive information and preventing cyberattacks. Every team member, regardless of their position or technical expertise, contributes to the overall security posture of their organization.
Here are eight ways companies can ensure vigilance, accountability, and cybersecurity from their team:
1. Education and awareness
Corporate cybersecurity starts with education for all employees. Educating team members about common types of cyberattacks and their potential consequences empowers them to recognize and mitigate risks effectively. To this end, businesses must mandate cybersecurity training across the board, including modules on relevant topics such as phishing, vishing, and social engineering. Hold every employee accountable for completing the training.
2. Strong password practices
Too often, poor passwords are at the root of malicious access. To avoid this, make the decision at the organizational level to enforce strong password practices. This includes requiring password changes at regular intervals, disallowing passwords with names and dates, and mandating multifactor authentication. If possible, adopt single sign-on (SSO) credentials and implement high-level best practices in managing them.
3. Phishing and social engineering awareness
Along with education, organizations should test the vigilance of their employees regularly. Have your IT provider conduct in-house phishing campaigns targeting different users and require remedial training for those who fail the test. Provide examples of how social engineering via phone or email can expose team members to bad actors who will use the information to impersonate them for malicious means.
4. Internet security
Remote work has led to collaboration in coffee shops and almost any place with Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, public Wi-Fi is often unsecured. Teach employees about the dangers of unsecured networks, and ensure they access company systems only through a virtual personal network (VPN) if they work remotely. Better still, have your staff log in through a secure portal anytime they’re not on-site within the confines of the company’s secured network.
5. Device and physical security
In the work-from-home era, many organizations have implemented a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. But personal devices are often unsecured endpoints targeted by bad actors. A better approach is to disallow personal devices and instead use only company-managed devices. If you allow BYOD, have enforceable standards for how employees can access and share data from those devices. It’s also wise to establish guidelines for securing devices via biometrics or passcodes, with clear escalation paths if a device is lost or stolen.
6. Software and system updates
Forced updates on all company devices are imperative for patching potential attack points. Work with your IT provider to push software upgrades to all systems on a regular basis or enable automatic updates. There should be a well-defined process for users to log out to receive the update. This includes third-party software and anything utilizing an application programming interface (API) key. For physical devices, verify the software powering them is still supported by the vendor and that you have a depreciation process for the hardware being replaced.
7. Safe data handling and privacy
Companies must convey the importance of secure communication to all employees and make approved tools available. This is especially paramount in industries like finance and healthcare, which have stringent standards for safe data handling. Implement end-to-end encryption for any communication containing sensitive data, and allow file sharing only through secure, approved portals.
8. Incident reporting and response
Your employees are your first line of defense not only in preventing cyberattacks but also in addressing them. Encourage your staff to report suspicious activities or potential breaches as soon as possible, and establish audit capabilities to trace any issues. Provide a clear escalation path and incentivize self-reporting — or anonymous tips about possible noncompliance. Follow up with additional training as needed.
Mandate a higher standard of data security
The responsibility for maintaining a strong cybersecurity stance doesn’t solely rest on the shoulders of IT departments or security professionals. Every employee plays a role in protecting sensitive information and mitigating the risks of cyberattacks. By fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness and mandating safeguards within the organization, companies can create a collective shield against malicious actors seeking to exploit vulnerabilities.