Cyber Hygiene

Cyber Hygiene 101: Protecting Your Business from Digital Threats

We all know the importance of practicing good hygiene, and your IT is no exception. Just like in your personal life, implementing proactive cyber security measures helps bolster your London business’s barricade against bugs, viruses, and all sorts of other threats that could grind you to a halt. In this blog, we’ll give you five basic but powerful best practices to help you master the fundamentals of cyber hygiene and build a more resilient digital environment. Let’s get you protected!

1. Use Strong, Unique Passwords to Boost Cyber Safety

First on the list, and we’re starting off nice and easy. Setting strong, unique passwords for all access points to your business’s digital environment is a super simple but incredibly effective defence, and it can be done in a matter of minutes. Strong passwords typically consist of a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters, and are at least 8-12 characters long.

Why It’s Important: Passwords are the first line of defence against unauthorised access to your systems. Weak passwords can be easily guessed or cracked by cyber attackers using entirely unsophisticated methods, leading to potential data breaches and system compromises. It’s not worth your business losing valuable revenue and reputation over an easily avoidable cyber safety blunder like ‘password123’.

How It Helps Secure Your SMB: Fortifying your passwords reduces the likelihood of outsider access, ensuring that confidential business data and critical systems remain safe and beyond cyber criminals’ reach. And, to address any concerns your team may have regarding complicated login details, using password managers can keep them complex and original enough without the risk of being forgotten.

2. Employ Threat Management Tools Like Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security by requiring two or more verification methods to gain access to your systems. These methods usually consist of something you know (a password), something you have (a smartphone or security token), and something you are (biometric verification). In practice, this might look like your team being required to enter their password and verify the login attempt with a code sent to their mobile before they can access their email account on a new device.

Why It’s Important: Even if a hacker were to obtain one of your (now far stronger) passwords, MFA means that it’s not enough to get them into your systems. When one authentication factor is compromised, the presence of an additional layer can still keep unauthorised access at bay and eradicate it for good if it’s paired with ongoing monitoring by an IT support team who will be alerted to the threat. MFA acts as a second line of defence, and layering up your cyber security measures in this way is the key to conquering cyber hygiene.

How It Helps Secure Your Business: By implementing multi-factor authentication, SMBs can drastically reduce the chances of security breaches resulting from compromised credentials. In the era of widespread phishing attacks, which made up 84% of all cyber attacks on British businesses last year, installing threat management tools like MFA is an essential component of contemporary cyber safety.

3. Add Regular Software Updates to Your Cyber Security Practices

Security threats don’t just come from beyond your business’s walls; slacking on system maintenance could leave you just as culpable. Regular software updates involve periodically updating all operating systems, applications, and network tools used by your business with the latest security patches and bug fixes released by their vendors. Usually, these can be set to occur automatically outside of business hours, so you don’t have to sacrifice productivity waiting for your IT to get back online.

Why It’s Important: Software updates often include patches for security vulnerabilities that have been discovered since the last version of the software was released. Cyber attackers actively exploit these vulnerabilities, so failing to update your software can leave your business open to attacks. Even when updates aren’t security-specific, they often include patches that optimise the way a software runs, meaning your team never miss out on peak IT performance.

How It Helps Secure Your Business: Since digital threats are always evolving, all the perks of your current software could turn into weak spots over time. Implementing regular updates ensures that the software running on all your team’s devices is protected against new vulnerabilities as they become known. This practice is a cornerstone of effective threat management because it proactively prevents attackers from exploiting outdated software rather than waiting for them to strike before resolving the problem.

4. Opt for Frequent Backups and Data Encryption

While we’re on the topic of regular steps to introduce to your cyber hygiene routine, let’s talk backups.  It’s not enough to only back up your data to on-premises servers. These days, a hybrid approach that involves in-person and cloud-based storage offers SMBs a significant advantage, especially in London, where physical space is a scarce. Adding robust encryption protocols to all your data also ensures it’s secure no matter where it’s located. In non-techie terms, encryption essentially scrambles your data into a format that’s unreadable to anyone without a specific key (i.e., anyone outside your business). It won’t disrupt internal operations, and it keeps out prying eyes rather effectively.

Why It’s Important: Regular backups act as a shield against data loss due to system failures, cyber attacks, or even office accidents (like a coffee spillage taking out your servers). Enhancing your cyber safety further with encryption means that even if they manage to gain access to it, individuals without a decryption key won’t be able to read your data, rendering it useless to them.

How It Helps Secure Your Business: Backups ensure that in the event of data loss, you can quickly restore your data and get your team back up and running with minimal downtime. Encryption, on the other hand, acts as a strong deterrent against data theft, enhancing your company’s data security and adding an essential layer to your threat management framework.

5. Employee Training and Awareness Programs

All these cyber hygiene tips mean nothing if your team don’t understand why they’re expected to follow them. Conducting regular training sessions to educate employees on common cyber threats such as email phishing and social engineering attacks provides them with up-to-date knowledge and renewed confidence in their ability to handle company data responsibly.

Why It’s Important: Believe it or not, employees are often the weakest link in a business’s cyber defence strategies, with as many as 9 in 10 data breach incidents being caused by internal mistakes. Empowering them with knowledge about cyber threats and how your company’s security protocols are designed to address them significantly reduces the risk of accidental breaches resulting from ignorance.

How It Helps Secure Your Business: Well-informed employees are less likely to fall victim to cyber attacks, making your business’s network safer and more secure at every level of operations. Annual or semi-annual awareness sessions ensure that cyber safety remains a top priority for every member of your team, fostering a culture of security and vigilance that reassures both them and your customers.

Step Up Your Business’s Cyber Hygiene

Congratulations, you’re now well on your way to becoming a cyber safety master! Ensuring that these practices are part of your regular operational procedures can transform your company’s approach to cyber security, putting you in an optimal position to manage and mitigate digital threats effectively. By implementing these fundamental cyber hygiene practices, you can significantly enhance your SMB’s resilience against cyber threats. Remember, a commitment to good cyber hygiene not only protects your business assets but also reinforces your reputation as a secure and reliable partner for customers.

Elevate Your Cyber Security with 4TC: Managed IT Support for London Businesses

At 4TC, we strive to help businesses across London and the Southeast realise their untapped potential using technology. From IT management that reduces downtime to custom cyber security solutions that address persistent threat management challenges, we can help you harness technology to deliver improved outcomes for your customers. To find out how we could help you elevate your cyber hygiene, reach out to our expert team today.