Tips to Tighten Your Cyber Defenses and Combat Sophisticated Threats

Cybersecurity is becoming a top priority for businesses in all industries and with good reason — it’s critical for protecting the privacy of your organization and customers, and avoiding reputational damage from a phishing or ransomware attack.

Cyber threats are also constantly evolving, and throwing up new challenges in a world where workplaces already feel the pressures to adapt. And, despite the general assumption that security professionals are more than likely to have a powerful cybersecurity strategy in place, the truth is that some are often outed for not protecting themselves enough against cybercrime.

While the sophistication of cybercriminals continues to grow, businesses specializing in electronic security equipment and technical solutions need to be well defended and vigilant to stay one step ahead of cyber attacks. Protecting your data with a comprehensive cybersecurity plan and investing more in your cyber defense strategies isn’t just good practice, but remains a vital element of any business strategy.

Here’s how to ensure your company and its systems are protected with a successful cybersecurity strategy.

Assess Your Current Business Operations

Before you can successfully update your cybersecurity plan, you need to know where you’re starting from. Assess your business’ security measures and the operations that need to be protected, so you can build a plan that’s tailored to your specific needs.

A strong cybersecurity plan needs to target the common areas that present a security risk, but also the hidden gaps that could be accessible. For example, thousands of printers are accessible online, making them unsecured devices that could be compromised in the wrong hands.

The more entry points your business has in place that aren’t protected, the more opportunities there are for cybercriminals to exploit, from sensors and Internet of Things devices, to other end user devices.

Part of the reason you need to audit your operations and existing strategy is that it will give you a chance to see what’s working and what isn’t, so you can build your tools and protocols around the risks your organization faces on a daily basis. Taking a risk-based approach to your strategy requires you to know what you’re up against and the threats to your business and industry, which means an assessment should be your first port of call.

Monitor Your Networks

It’s impossible to know if your systems are in danger if you’re not aware of the activity taking place within them, which is why ongoing threat detection systems are essential to provide visibility across all digital environments.

Network management can help you to spot components of your security plan that are failing and could jeopardize the whole system, so you can make changes before an unfortunate event occurs. If a detection system spots a breach, it will send an alert of the type of malicious activity that’s been identified so you can determine how best to respond.

Use Multiple Layers of Defense for Emails

Emails are a huge cause for concern in a business when it comes to malicious activity and an obvious route for causing full-blown network chaos. Inadvertently clicking on a link or following instructions without really questioning what’s being asked could leave you falling victim to ransomware or a phishing attack, causing devastating effects to your organization.

In fact, phishing attacks across the U.S. were alarmingly high in 2021 accounting for 90% of the total number of data breaches. Meanwhile, CISCO’s 2021 Cybersecurity Threat Trends reported that 65% were spear phishing attacks on U.S. email systems.

So, for these reasons, key elements of your cybersecurity strategy need to be email threat protection which has multiple levels of defense that will help protect your business against social engineering attacks.

Education, naturally, needs to still remain to help employees spot risks and stop them in their tracks, but software can also provide additional protection against viruses, spam and persistent threats.

Prevent Insider Threats

Insider threats are one of the biggest risks to a business, and also one of the least talked about. Cyber-related activity across an organization encompasses various tasks and levels of authority, and whether knowingly or not, insiders can facilitate an attack. Restricting IT use to those who truly need it can help to prevent accidents, and remove access instantly when an employee leaves the company to maintain security.

If your business operates on a hybrid basis, with staff working remotely or using their own devices, make sure that you have a policy in place to prevent unauthorized access and restrict VPN access to only the employees who need it to keep fraud risks to a minimum.

Implement an Incident Response Plan

Part of implementing a successful cybersecurity strategy involves having a plan in place should anything go wrong. A carefully considered incident response plan will keep everyone who needs to be informed kept in the loop in a timely manner, that incident tickets are logged and that the steps needed to resolve the issue are taken in the correct order.

When an incident strikes, chaos can ensue in a bid to clear up the mess as quickly as possible. An incident response plan keeps everyone on track and makes sure that no steps are missed which could prove catastrophic.

Keep on Top of Training

It cannot be forgotten that staff are a vital part of good cybersecurity. If your team doesn’t have the knowledge to know how to deal with situations, investment in even the most powerful cybersecurity features won’t be effective

It should be considered essential to provide staff with regular, high-quality training on the latest cyber threats and what to do about them.

With cybersecurity threats evolving all the time, your training plans need to follow suit. Businesses hoping to prevent attacks and cybersecurity risks need to ensure that everyone in the business is kept up to date with the correct training and understands cybersecurity best practices.

As we’ve already examined, insider threats are one of the weakest links in any organization, and relevant training is one of the best ways to strengthen those links and keep the business protected. Not only do employees need to be educated on threats specific to their industry and be made aware of prevention measures, but their training needs to be updated periodically to keep it relevant and fresh in everyone’s minds.

A Proactive Approach is the Most Effective

Cybersecurity challenges affect all organizations, and while they may seem overwhelming, a proactive approach is the best defense against threats. From monitoring access controls to staying on top of education, using detection software to provide alerts to risks and having a plan in place should anything go awry, businesses can implement a successful strategy to protect their reputation, their employees and their customers.

A successful strategy requires team buy-in, so it’s not enough to simply put antivirus software and firewalls in place and call it a day, leaving the IT department to handle any issues. The issue for software such as antivirus and firewalls is that these are reactive forms of defense.

In other words, they are only able to react when an attack has either just struck or have already taken effect. At this point the virus may have already been able to do some significant damage. That is why it can be so important to invest in proactive cybersecurity technologies such as network and endpoint monitoring.

For true protection and stability, you need the whole team to be on board. Your strategy needs to be built on a foundation of understanding all the elements that make your business unique, as there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to digital security.

What works for one business may not work for yours, so to ensure success, you need to know your organization inside and out and identify what could pose an issue so as to prevent it effectively.

Mike James is a UK-based cybersecurity professional and author.

*Originally published on*