To many in the business world, IT is something that’s only worth worrying about when it clearly goes catastrophically wrong. Otherwise, it’s assumed to be a non-issue, with “good enough” being sufficient to meet their requirements.
It’s fair to say that this is a problem. The proliferation of complacency leads to risks building up in the background — and when the dam finally bursts, people wonder how it could have happened, not knowing their own culpability.
But maintaining a reasonable degree of IT network security isn’t an arduous or prohibitively-expensive task these days. In fact, it can be done on a very modest budget that will always pay for itself through avoiding data loss and fraudulent activity.
So how do you improve your IT network safety, and why specifically does it matter that you do? Let’s go into some more detail.
It doesn’t matter how good your security system is if you undermine it by failing to meet decent internal security standards. By internal security, I mean everything offline within your business: the people with admin access, the password strength, and the physical security preventing someone from reaching your networked devices.
Admin access should only go to people you absolutely trust, because it only takes one person being irresponsible with login details or leaving their terminal unprotected to compromise a system. Password strength is a must — not only should you change your passwords semi-regularly, but you should also avoid choosing anything obvious. And anything connected to your network should be under lock and key outside of working hours.
All software ships with vulnerabilities of some kind, but over time they’re discovered and subsequently patched. Most of the time this process is fast enough to prevent any detected vulnerability from causing too much damage, but it doesn’t matter how fast the patching process is if the system admin either forgets to update the system or simply chooses not to.
Most systems today support automatic updating, and if you’re not sure exactly what to do, then it’s best to leave that option enabled (and possibly enable some restrictions to ensure you don’t get stuck waiting for updates in the middle of the working day). Alternatively, if you’re working with an IT support provider, you can leave it to them (as we’ll see next).
There are numerous resources available on best practices, but not every business is in a position to run its own IT network without supervision. Perhaps there are too many people in managerial roles who would need to be trained to use the system safely, or perhaps it’s just too costly or time-consuming to justify the expenditure.
In such cases, it’s often best to hire an IT support provider to do it all for you. As well as giving you guidance on how you can be security-conscious in your daily dealings, they can implement important updates, inform you of attempts to compromise your system, and even help you make basic system alterations.
Now that we’ve covered how you can make your IT network safer, let’s take a closer look at some of the main reasons why it’s so important that you do it:
Back when data was stored in physical formats, there was only so much that a small business could do to protect it. If someone broke in, that wouldn’t really be held against them — after all, they couldn’t exactly afford armed guards. But today, there isn’t a vast financial difference between having a weak IT network and maintaining one strong enough to stand up to most hacking attempts.
Let people know that your business was relentlessly attacked and hacked despite your best efforts by an assortment of brilliant criminals, and they might be somewhat understanding. Admit to them that you were hacked because you kept using 1234 as a password or decided not to update one of your networked computers for 2 years and you won’t get much sympathy.
In the end, you can’t guarantee that your network won’t be hacked, but you can make a concerted effort to protect it — do everything you can, and it should be enough.
Article contributed by:
Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who uses needlessly-lengthy passwords. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.