According to a report published by the Identity Theft Resource Center in 2020, there were approximately 1,100 reported data breaches in the United States. This estimate considers the more than 300 million people whose personal information has been compromised due to data breaches that have been made public.
In addition, the average ransomware payout surpassed 233,000 dollars per incident in 2020, a significant increase from the payout of just under 10,000 dollars at the end of 2018.
These alarming statistics highlight how crucial it is for small businesses to implement network security measures as soon as possible. After all, more than half of all cyberattacks are directed toward private companies.
In a situation where the costs associated with an insecure network are so high, and the trends are so apocalyptic, what can you do right now to strengthen your position for the future? We have recommendations for improving network security that businesses of nearly every size can implement.
In its most general form, network security refers to the policies, procedures, and technologies an organisation implements to safeguard its information technology infrastructure. On the other hand, this infrastructure comprises all the data, programs, applications, web networks, software, and hardware that are utilised by your company and are managed by it.
The efficient management of your information technology systems is essential for two reasons. In the first place, it ensures that any digital assets that are client-facing or public-facing, such as your website, client account portals, or a payment page, are reliable, compliant, and, most importantly, safe to use. Second, it protects your reputation by ensuring that the data and information utilised in your business operations are handled appropriately.
Practices such as these, which are typical examples of network security measures for small businesses today:
- Software such as anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-malware, which is typically sold as a suite of software and can be purchased separately, prevents so-called “viruses” from seizing control of your electronic devices and wreaking havoc on them.
- Cloud storage allows users to access their programs and work from any location with an internet connection. This is possible because the program or application is hosted on the internet.
- Computers and mobile devices, as well as the networks, programs, and applications used by businesses, should both have password protection. It would be best if you also used passwords.
- You can program firewalls and other similar internal network controls to monitor only the incoming and outgoing network traffic that has been approved.
- Local device storage is the process by which programs and work are hosted on a particular hardware or device. When this occurs, only the pieces mentioned earlier of hardware can be used to access and manage data files and information.
Most companies almost certainly already use some combination of the aforementioned technological components in some capacity, if not all of them. However, incorporating them into your network is a separate matter. Maintaining and updating your IT infrastructure following today’s best practices is an entirely different challenge, especially considering how frequently these best practices appear to change.
Some Relevant Statistics on Network Security:
- The use of mobile devices to access the internet now accounts for more than 55 per cent of all internet traffic worldwide. This not only creates new challenges for networks to handle mobile traffic smoothly, but it also creates new challenges for them to protect the data that is being transmitted.
- Almost three-quarters of all reported instances of cybercrime, also known as ransomware schemes, are carried out to obtain financial gain.
- Every day, there are approximately 4,000 ransomware attacks that take place.
- If a customer has a negative or suspicious experience with a company’s digital offerings, or even if they hear about hostile or suspicious digital offerings, nearly 46 per cent of customers say they will not do business with that company again.
- Malware that spreads through email is found in one out of every 131 emails. What is the daily average for the number of emails sent and received by your company?
- Automated sources, such as bots, hacking operations, spammers, and impersonators, are responsible for initiating 56 per cent of all of the traffic that occurs on the internet.
How Do Security Breaches in Data Occur?
This is known as a data breach when an unauthorised third party can penetrate your organisation’s digital defences and gain access to your private data. This entity then engages in several activities to cause significant disruption, such as stealing and deleting customer information and demanding ransom money in exchange for not causing any long-term damage to the network.
In most cases, a data breach will start in one of these two ways:
A skilled hacker can research weaknesses in your network defences, such as weak passwords, outdated operating systems, or even ineffective anti-virus software. These vulnerabilities can allow the hacker to gain access to your network and cause damage. After that, they can tunnel through these weak spots to plant viruses or directly steal information. The most severe network attacks can present indefinite risks of data extraction, which can only be remedied by performing a complete overhaul of the system.
Hackers or programmed bots can spam your employees through email or disguised website traffic. This type of attack falls under the category of social attacks. They will try to trick your employees into divulging their passwords and logins, clicking on a link, opening a file, or downloading materials by disguising these actions as something secure and essential to the operation of the business. The hacker can set up a direct entry point into your network if this is successful. It will be the same as giving them the key to your front door.
Although this is the typical method by which a data breach occurs during a cyberattack, other processes can result in significant data loss, such as accidental or malicious data damage. These processes include the damage caused by heat or liquid to a hard drive, power outages, and human error when deleting files.
Different Kinds of Breaches in Network Security
Because according to Experian, sixty per cent of small businesses fail within six months of suffering a significant data loss, so it is more crucial than ever to be knowledgeable about the latest network threat trends and strategies.
To begin familiarising yourself with the most common network security breaches, you won’t need to rush out immediately and hire a group of specialists in information technology defence.
Brute-force hacking differs from other types of data attacks because rather than trying to trick users or get around system defences, it simply charges at a network. In most cases, hackers who employ a strategy known as brute force will bombard a network with many different guesses at possible passwords. Many of them will use specialised software that can try hundreds of different password combinations per minute, which will speed up the hacking process and give them access to the information of an entire network through a single point of entry.
Although phishing can take many different forms, its primary purpose remains the same: to trick real people into divulging sensitive information. This information may be vital to the operation of the business, such as the passwords to the network, or it may be private data, such as emails, social security numbers, bank account information, and medical history. In contrast to other data hacks, phishing scams use a human “touch” to acquire the information they require. As a result, they are frequently more successful. Phishing hackers frequently communicate with their victims by sending messages and framing information as if it came from a reliable source. They may even look like emails sent from people you know or services you use, such as your coworker or your bank, and they may contain links that take you to a website that is not easily noticeable. The hacker can then either install Malware onto your computer or have you enter the specific information they are looking for while still pretending to be someone you know. They can carry out both actions while the hacker is impersonating someone else.
Malware is a malicious version of the software that hackers plant into your network that has the potential to cause a wide variety of problems. They can accomplish this goal by employing the social or network attacks described earlier. However, Malware is often introduced by human error, such as when a person clicks on a pop-up link containing an already-installed malware bug or downloads an illegal file. Cybercriminals use Malware to carry out the following activities, frequently without your knowledge:
- Extracting data from your computer system • Monitoring your computer’s use, history, screen activity, and even keystrokes
- Giving you access to the camera or microphone on your device
- Having full command of all of your machine’s components
If you want to know more, check out our article about different ways to avoid malware attacks.
Denial-of-service attacks, as their name suggests, are carried out when hackers flood a network with so much traffic that your website cannot function, which means that its services are effectively denied.
The power of this kind of network flooding lies in that it targets something that companies and customers tend to take for granted. It is also possible to launch it from multiple attack points, using dozens of computers or computer programs synchronised to launch an assault on a business network and disrupt traffic. In addition, denial-of-service attacks, even though they do not necessarily steal data, are both expensive and crippling. In addition, they might indicate that the IT infrastructure of your small business as a whole isn’t quite up to par and requires serious attention.
An individual session ID categorises a user’s query history and browsing activity whenever that user accesses the internet. This session ID allows your internet activities to function as it communicates to nearby servers who you are and what you request from them. This is what makes it possible for you to engage in internet-based activities. After that, those servers will send the information back to your device, and you can continue your everyday activities, such as Googling, shopping, emailing, and instant messaging. In its most basic form, session hijacking is analogous to having a fly on the wall during your sessions. Hackers can now pose as your computer or mobile phone, steal query information, and then access other data stored on other servers if the ID linking your device with a nearby server is no longer considered private. It is a sophisticated form of hacking that can result in the loss of a significant amount of data very quickly.
The Significance of Protecting Computer Networks
The response to why network security is so essential may change depending on who you ask. However, at its most fundamental level, having a properly secured network means your company can reliably provide the goods and services your clients anticipate receiving. Your company’s digital ethics need to progress in tandem with the increasing amount of public pressure that is being put on issues such as data privacy and the use of personal data.
In addition, the fact that we live in an increasingly digital world underscores the significance of maintaining strong network security. This is a reality that businesses, from start-ups to those in the Fortune 500, must come to terms with. Businesses must learn to stop viewing technology as an add-on to their offerings and start viewing it as integral to those offerings. This world, dominated by digital technology, will only get more advanced as more people anticipate that the day-to-day services, transactions, and information they require will be easily accessible at their fingertips, whenever and wherever they may be. If a company cannot keep up with these expectations, customers will look elsewhere for a provider who can.
Network security helps prevent things like business interruptions and data loss. Even relatively minor cyberattacks can significantly impact a company’s operations, putting it at risk from loss of financial data and interrupted inventory to a complete shutdown of digital operations.
Costs of Violation and Possible Legal Consequences
In addition to correctly reporting the depth and breadth of a cyberattack, your company could be subject to specific “mishandling” fines mandated by the government, in addition to the loss of compliance or standard certifications.
Loss of Business in General
Very few customers are willing to put their faith in a company whose reputation has been sullied by digital mismanagement. This directly impacts your bottom line and your ability to remain in business.
Losing face in the business world is the least of your concerns when dealing with a cyberattack. The consumers’ right to privacy and their agency, and your relevant business data and sensitive information, have been violated.
In addition to preventing the data breaches and hacks described above, we have listed the benefits of network security to help strengthen your entire company.
A safer and more streamlined network is more productive, efficient, and easier to manage.
Reduces the Likelihood of Catastrophic Data Events
Installing a robust network security system that employs several strategies should be standard operating procedure from the beginning.
In today’s business world, virtually every sector has a regulatory body responsible for establishing the rules and guidelines for cybersecurity. Increasing the security of your network makes your compliance efforts more effective.
Being proactive rather than reactive in a business setting will almost always result in significant cost savings. Putting your company at risk by using an unsecured network could result in lost revenue, compliance penalties, legal fees, fines for the company, and much more; this could be a nightmare scenario for your profits.
Time is saved because many individuals have the misconception that the work required to strengthen the defences of an IT system takes more time and is more complicated than the work required to fix them. You couldn’t be further from the truth if you tried. Any IT data glitches or shadow activity will negatively impact your company’s productivity, services, and potential for future growth.
Maintaining the Safety of Your Network
You can take various steps immediately to protect and improve a company’s network security. A small business can implement these steps.
Regular Data Backup
Although it may appear common sense, many companies continue to operate without any comprehensive data backup system. If your data security is compromised, these safeguards will allow you to regain access to any information that may have been lost or corrupted.
Establish Controls for Access
Only a select group of users can locate particular data sets within your network when access controls are protected with a password or require ID verification. Access controls are a great way to strengthen anti-virus and firewall software, and they also limit the number of people who can view, copy, or send unauthorised data.
An Operating System and System Anti-Virus Software Upgrade
Most attempts to improve security will be unsuccessful if the blueprints upon which they are built are outdated. Even though the majority of the time, this entails bringing your Windows operating system up to date for a small business, it can also refer to updating other fundamental computer operating programs, such as Linux and some built-in firewalls.
When you schedule fixed upgrades, you can rest assured that any vulnerable areas will be patched with updates directly from the vendors. This is a significant first step in the process of protecting your data.
When it comes to keeping your network and devices safe, Norton 360 Standard is the only security software you need. You will have access to cutting-edge resources for identifying and avoiding threats like ransomware, phishing, viruses, and more. Invest in a password manager to protect your sensitive data and a VPN from surfing the web in complete anonymity.
Have Web Content Filters
Another group of internal controls that you can program is called content filters. They protect the hardware of your employees from infections caused by viruses and Malware by preventing them from accessing questionable websites and drawing their attention to potentially harmful sources.
Utilise Enterprise Cloud Storage in Conjunction with Public Cloud Storage
With a hybrid cloud system, you can take advantage of the convenience of public internet-based applications while also benefiting from the security and reliability of a private cloud. Your data is stored in a more diverse array, making it more difficult to access while still providing you with access to most of the digital resources your company is accustomed to. To ensure a seamless transition with all of the applications that your company requires, you may even choose to form a partnership with a cloud computing service.
Additional Suggestions Regarding the Safety of Networks
You can further reduce the risks of an unsecured network by implementing even more recommended best practices for your small business’s information technology:
Consider connections using WiFi Protection Access (WPA) II or Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
WPA II strengthens your company’s WiFi security, making it much more difficult for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities such as session hacking. Consider establishing a virtual private network (VPN) connection for your mobile workers and field teams so that only authorised users can connect to your network.
Changing Your Passwords
More than eighty per cent of data breaches occur because hackers gain access to insecure or stolen passwords. It is the most common method of a data breach, and it is one that you can prevent by using passwords that are difficult to guess and frequently changed — preferably in the form of passphrases.
It’s estimated that nearly half of all data leaks result from careless or naive employee data accidents. Meetings and special seminars are great opportunities to impress upon your staff the significance of good data management. If they understand the rationale behind the practices you use to secure your network, they will likely continue using those practices.
Evaluations of the Safety of Networks
To locate the security flaws in your system that pose the greatest threat, you can conduct penetration tests and other types of system checks on your own or with the assistance of a third-party partner.