Cybersecurity best practices for 2020

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As technology evolves, so does the way we do business around the globe — but as the world continues to become more digital, computer hackers continue to come up with new ways to steal our data. However, even with that knowledge, companies remain not as aware as they need to be about the threats of cybercrime, and the time has come for change.

Cybersecurity has been a hot topic as of late with protocols being developed across a slew of industries, from automotive innovation to the medical field. As a new decade begins, it is more important than ever to be aware of new threats and how to fight them — as well as the repercussions of being left defenseless.

Remember the Basics

They say a cyberattack occurs every 39 seconds, with companies getting the brunt of these dangerous attacks. That means that no matter the size of your business, it is essential that cybersecurity basics are implemented to avoid a potential onslaught. Further, for some businesses, the protection of private records is not only ethical, it is the law. For instance, the health industry must comply with HIPAA guidelines that state that it is the responsibility of the company to protect the information of their patients.

This is important for every other business as well because protecting the information of your customers must be a top priority, and if you do fall victim, then your company could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Because of this, it’s imperative that you teach everyone in your company the basics of cybersecurity. Start by having them log in with complicated passwords that include numbers, letters, and symbols. For extra secure content, employ two-factor authentication where an employee must enter a code from an external device in addition to their password.

A common threat for businesses and individuals alike is still the phishing email. In this type of attack, a hacker gets a hold of your email address and then sends an email that seems to be from a trustworthy source like a doctor or a bank, and usually contains a malicious link or attachment that, when opened, provides a doorway for the hacker into your system. Once inside, the hacker can release ransomware, which takes your data hostage and demands payment in exchange for release. The best way to prevent phishing attacks from getting the best of your business is through proper training of your workforce.

Build a fortress

As technology continues to advance, so will the methods that hackers use to break into businesses. To protect against this, create a force field around your company with simple but efficient tech tools. Start with a secure firewall, from which there are many types to choose from. The more popular options are packet filtering firewalls, which compare small pieces of data to see if they are safe and then only keep the good stuff. There’s also a proxy firewall, which monitors all information that goes in and out to verify its legitimacy. Install a firewall and then update the software every time there is a new version to protect against new vulnerabilities.

Another layer of your cybersecurity fortress should be a virtual private network, or VPN. Essentially, a VPN allows you to connect to your company’s network — but when you do, you go through a server that might be located somewhere else around the world, so it appears that you are browsing from there rather than your true location. This is especially important for businesses with remote employees who want to connect to the central servers. A VPN creates more work for hackers, so they are less likely to intrude directly into your networks.

As we venture into 2020, more businesses will be utilizing remote employees, on top of the growing trend known as BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, which has employees using their tablets and smartphones in and out of the office to conduct business. However, these independent devices need to be protected, as well. To protect your business and customer data, devices should be updated regularly and secured with passwords. If employees work from public places, they need to be wary of public Wi-Fi, as hackers can employ a man-in-the-middle attack, which is a fake Wi-Fi network that, when connected, allows the hacker to steal info from the device.

Blockchain and cryptocurrency

Another trend gaining steam as the years go by is the use of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology for businesses and their customers. In a nutshell, cryptocurrency is an electronic currency that is made up of bits of data instead of dollars and coins. Cryptocurrency is held and used via electronic wallets that use a complicated key-system to keep the wallet secure.

Partnered with cryptocurrency is a blockchain, which is literally a series of connected blocks of user data or currency transactions that can only be modified by the owner because they are bound by cryptography, or mathematical, rule-based calculations. The long and the short of it is that many industries are starting to get into the blockchain game in order to further secure the records of their customers.

The healthcare industry is even jumping on the blockchain bandwagon to protect patient records. Depending on the patient’s ailments, their personal and medical information might be passed from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist, so when their data is transferred utilizing blockchain, the patient has total control over how their records are changed and adjustments cannot be made without the owner’s permission.

The banking industry is also utilizing blockchain technology to make global payments from country to country easier and more secure while saving money as the transfer is almost immediate, and there are fewer traditional banking fees. However, as with any new technology, there are still security concerns.

The only thing keeping blockchain and cryptocurrency wallets secure is a private key, which the owner of the blockchain possesses. While the key is usually very complex with a string of multiple words or letters, it still has to be remembered. Users who are less aware of cyber threats may store this key within the files of their computer, and if they are hacked, the hacker could potentially locate the key and would then have full access to the victim’s money. With that in mind, more time and research is necessary to fully believe in the security of blockchain technology.

As we head into 2020 and beyond, companies and individuals alike need to fully understand the merits of effective cybersecurity. By following some of these basic principles, you can secure your business and the trust of your customers.

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