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How to fend off cyberattacks and data breaches

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | March 30, 2017
Experts in online security and data protection explain how smaller businesses can prevent security breaches and digital attacks.

Most importantly, “don’t forget to keep your signatures up to date,” he says.  “Not updating your antivirus software is almost as bad as not having it at all.”

3. Turn on firewalls

In addition to having antivirus software, “make sure that you have firewalls enabled on your desktop/laptop computers as well as your servers,” says DeSot. “This not only lessens the attack surface of the host; it also helps prevent systems from becoming infected by worms or other types of malware that are looking for services such as FTP or file shares to infect another host. 

“If your host does not come with a native firewall, there are plenty of internet protection suites that have a firewall built into them as well,” he says. “Many of the anti-virus vendors sell these types of suites and often bundle them with their anti-virus software.  This goes a long way to protecting your systems from attack and keeping your data safe.”

4. Make sure everyone has strong, unique passwords

“Seventy-six percent of attacks on corporate networks are due to weak passwords,” says Anscombe. “Your child’s birth date, your home town or a pet’s name [are all examples of weak passwords, codes that can be easily hacked].”

Instead, make sure all employees use strong passwords. And by ‘strong’ he means it “should have numbers, special characters and upper and lowercase letters.” Also, passwords should not be re-used or shared on different sites.

To ensure passwords are unique, “employ password managers [such as LastPass] that will generate unique, strong passwords for you.”

5. Use encryption/SSL

“The No. 1 security measure that small businesses should not overlook is encryption,” says Doug Beattie, vice president, GlobalSign. “SSL/TLS certificates allow sensitive information to be sent securely. Without them attackers are able to intercept all the data being sent between a server and a client (a website and a browser, for example).

“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.”


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