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12 Best Cybersecurity Practices in 2021

It’s no exaggeration: any company can fall victim to cyber crime. Reports of cyber attacks come from government organizations, educational and healthcare institutions, banks, law firms, nonprofits, and many other organizations. Hackers, insider threats, ransomware, and other dangers are out there. Smart businesses are investing more in cybersecurity to eliminate risks and keep their sensitive data safe, and this has already brought the first results. Look at our infographic below to see the latest trends in cybersecurity.

The question, then, is the following: What can I do as a business owner to protect my data in 2021?

The image above shows an impressive decrease in the number of data breaches alongside the fact that both governmental organizations and businesses have begun to invest more in cybersecurity.

Don’t know where to start with enhancing your cybersecurity policy? We’re ready to tell you about cybersecurity trends and the latest cybersecurity techniques.

Here’s our checklist of IT security best practices to prevent cyber attacks in 2021:

1. Consider biometric security

Biometrics ensures fast authentication, safe access management, and precise employee monitoring.

Verifying users’ identities before providing access to valuable assets is vital for businesses. Voice recognition, fingerprint scans, palm biometrics, facial recognition, behavioral biometrics, and gait analysis are perfect options to identify whether or not users are who they claim to be.

Using biometrics as one of data security best practices provides more secure authentication than passwords and SMS verification. That’s why biometrics has already become an essential part of multi-factor authentication.

However, authentication isn’t the only use for biometrics. Security officers benefit from a wide range of biometrics-driven tools that allow them to detect compromised privileged accounts in real time.

Behavioral biometrics analyzes the way users interact with input devices. If abnormal behavior is detected, a tool sends a warning to security officers so they can react immediately.

Here are several types of behavioral biometrics that can be employed by user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) systems:

  • Keystroke dynamics – considers typing speed and the tendency to make typical mistakes in certain words to create user behavior profiles
  • Mouse dynamics – tracks the time between clicks and the speed, rhythm, and style of cursor movement
  • Eye movement biometrics – uses eye and gaze tracking devices to record videos of eye movement and detect unique patterns

A 2018 forecast from MarketsandMarkets predicts growth of the biometrics market from $16.8 billion in 2018 to $41.8 billion by 2023. So keep an eye on biometric security technologies and choose the best one for your use case.

2. Form a hierarchical cybersecurity policy

Why is a written cybersecurity policy so essential?

First, a written policy serves as a formal guide to all cybersecurity measures used in your company.

It allows your security specialists and employees to be on the same page and gives you a way to enforce rules that protect your data. However, the workflow of each department can be unique and can easily be disrupted by needless cybersecurity methods and measures.

While a centralized security policy can be beneficial as a basic guideline for the whole company, it shouldn’t cover every process in every department. Instead, allow your departments to create their own security policies based on the central policy.

There are many benefits to staking out your security policies in such a hierarchical manner. By doing so, you consider the needs of every department and ensure that their workflows and your bottom line won’t be compromised in the name of security.

The Illinois state government website provides a great cybersecurity policy template to use as a starting point for your hierarchical approach.

If you want to learn how to prevent, detect, and remediate insider attacks, you should consider building an insider threat program.

3. Employ a risk-based approach to security

Regulatory compliance can’t protect your data.

Each industry has its own specific and hidden risks, so focusing on compliance and meeting all the standard regulations isn’t enough to protect your sensitive data.

Pay attention to the risks that your company faces and how they affect the bottom line. Your best tool here is a thorough risk assessment. Here are some of the most important things a risk assessment allows you to do:

Proper risk assessment allows you to avoid lots of unpleasant things like fines for failing to comply with regulations, remediation costs for potential leaks and breaches, and the losses from missing or inefficient processes.

Identify the weak points in your cybersecurity and make adjustments accordingly. Also, keep an eye on new hacking techniques using databases and frameworks, such as the MITRE ATT&CK for enterprise.

A thorough risk assessment will help you prioritize your security measures and make your strategy serve the corporate bottom line in the best way possible.

You can find a practical example of a risk assessment worksheet and assessment report on the Compliance Forge website. Take a look at it if you need more information on how to conduct a risk assessment in your company.

4. Back up your data

Ensure the security of your data by regularly backing it up.

Backing up data is one of the best practices for information security that has gained increased relevance in recent years. With the advent of ransomware, having a full and current backup of all your data can be a lifesaver.

How can you handle backups? You need to make sure that they’re thoroughly protected, encrypted, and frequently updated. It’s also important to divide backup duty among several people to mitigate insider threats.

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) provides a document detailing different data backup options. There’s also an excellent write-up from the FBI on ransomware that you should read if you want more information on this topic.

5. Manage IoT security

This year continues the trend from 2018 – IoT devices keep gaining popularity.

Bain & Company, Inc. predicts the Internet of Things market will grow to about $520 billion in 2021. However, no matter how badly we want to see new technologies, safety always comes first.

The most challenging thing about IoT devices is their access to sensitive information.

Security cameras, doorbells, smart door locks, heating systems, office equipment – all of these small parts of your business network are potential access points.

A compromised printer, for instance, can allow malicious actors to view all documents that are being printed or scanned.

Here are a few corporate network protection best practices for ensuring data security:

  • Conduct penetration testing to understand the real risks and plan your security strategy accordingly.
  • Provide encryption for both data at rest and in transit (end-to-end encryption).
  • Ensure proper authentication to allow only trusted connections to endpoints.
  • Don’t use default hard-coded credentials: commonly used passwords are easy to find on the internet.
  • Purchase a secure and up-to-date router and enable the firewall.
  • Develop a scalable security framework to support all IoT deployments.
  • Consider implementing endpoint security solutions.

6. Use multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a must-have solution for advanced security strategies.

Though it’s a basic implementation, MFA still belongs among the cybersecurity best practices. It’s so effective that the National Cyber Security Alliance has even added MFA to its safety awareness and education campaign.

MFA helps you protect sensitive data by adding an extra layer of security, leaving malicious actors with almost no chance to log in as if they were you.

Even if a malicious actor had your password, they would still need your second and maybe third “factor” of authentication, such as a security token, your mobile phone, your fingerprint, or your voice.

As an added benefit, MFA also allows you to clearly distinguish among users of shared accounts, improving your access control.

Read also: Two-Factor Authentication: Categories, Methods, and Tasks

7. Handle passwords securely

It always pays to mention the importance of thoughtful passwords and secure password handling.

Password management is a key part of corporate security, especially when it comes to privileged access management (PAM). Privileged accounts are gems for cyber criminals who attempt to gain access to your sensitive data and the most valuable business information.

The best way to ensure proper security is to use specialized tools, such as password vaults and PAM solutions. This way, you can prevent unauthorized users from accessing privileged accounts and simplify password management for employees at the same time.

Cyber threat actors still use password spray attacks to steal sensitive information, disrupt operations, and harm both an organization’s finances and reputation.

Here are the major tips you should consider when creating password requirements for your employees:

  • Use one password for one account.
  • Use memorable phrases instead of short strings of random characters.
  • Use mnemonics or other individual tactics to remember long passwords.
  • No sharing credentials with each other, no matter how convenient.
  • Require employees to change passwords after a set period of time.

The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center has created a set of cybersecurity recommendations for choosing and protecting strong passwords. Check them out if you want more details.

8. Use the principle of least privilege

Beware: Having too many privileged users accessing your data is extremely dangerous.

Granting new employees all privileges by default allows them to access sensitive data even if they don’t necessarily need to. Such an approach increases the risk of insider threats and allows hackers to get access to sensitive data as soon as any of your employee accounts is compromised.

A much better solution is to use the principle of least privilege.

In other words, assign each new account the fewest privileges possible and escalate privileges if necessary. And when access to sensitive data is no longer needed, all corresponding privileges should be immediately revoked.

Constant privilege management can be difficult and time-consuming, especially for large companies, but there are a lot of access management solutions on the market that can make it easier.

Particularly, specialized PAM solutions can prove a lifesaver when you need to deal with uncontrolled privileges.

The principle of least privilege seems similar to the zero trust security model, which is also designed to reduce the risk of insider threats by significantly reducing unwarranted trust.

The zero trust practice says to grant access only to those users and devices that have already been authenticated and verified in the system.

9. Keep an eye on privileged users

Are users with privileged accounts one of the greatest assets to the company or one of the greatest threats to data security?

Privileged users have all the means necessary to steal your sensitive data and go unnoticed. No matter how much you trust your employees with privileged accounts, anything can happen.

How can you minimize the risks? Here are a few simple but efficient steps:

  • Limit the number of privileged users by implementing the principle of least privilege.
  • Make sure that privileged accounts are deleted immediately whenever people using them are terminated.
  • Employ user activity monitoring solutions to record any actions taken inside your network.

You can check out this excellent report by the Ponemon Institute to find out more about the role of privileged users in the insider threat landscape.

10. Monitor third-party access to your data

Controlling third-party access is a vital part of your security strategy.

Remote employees, subcontractors, business partners, suppliers, and vendors – this is only a short list of the people and companies that may access your data remotely.

Third-party access not only entails a higher risk of insider attacks but also opens the way for malware and hackers to enter your system.

A great way to protect your sensitive data from breaches via third-party access is to monitor third-party actions. You can limit the scope of access that third-party users have and know who exactly connects to your network and why.

User activity monitoring should also be used in conjunction with one-time passwords in order to provide full logging of all user actions so you can detect malicious activity and conduct investigations when necessary.

11. Be wary of phishing

Are all of your employees aware of phishing?

It’s worth noting that insider threats don’t end with malicious employees. More often, well-meaning employees inadvertently help perpetrators by providing them with a way to get into your system.

Cyber attackers use phishing techniques such as spam emails and phone calls to find out information about employees, obtain their credentials, or infect systems with malware.

Your basic defense can be simple and consists of only two steps:

  1. Get a properly configured spam filter and ensure that the most obvious spam is always blocked.
  2. Educate your employees about popular phishing techniques and the best ways to deal with them.

Luckily, education and awareness do work, and people now are much more aware of cyber threats. Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigation Report highlights that 73% of people didn’t click on a single malicious email in 2017. Their 2019 Report shows only a 3% click rate for phishing attacks in 2018.

You can find more information on phishing, including a form to report it, on the US-CERT website.

12. Raise employee awareness

It may be hard to believe, but your employees are the key to protecting your data.

A sure way to deal with negligence and security mistakes by your employees is to educate them on why safety matters:

  • Raise awareness about cyber threats your company faces and how they affect the bottom line.
  • Explain to your employees the importance of each computer security measure.
  • Show examples of real-life security breaches, their consequences, and the difficulty of the recovery process.
  • Ask employees for feedback regarding the current corporate security system.
  • Ask employees for fresh ideas on how to combine robust security with an efficient workflow.

Recruit your employees as part of your defenses and you’ll see that instances of negligence and mistakes will become less frequent. It’s much better to get your employees the proper training than to deal with a data breach caused by accidental actions.

You can find information about free employee training and awareness in the US on the US Department of Homeland Security website. A similar program is available in Great Britain.

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