5 Simple Steps to Build Business IT Security Awareness

IT security has already become a major concern for businesses around the world and across all industries in recent years. Headlines detailing data breaches have become common, and it’s clear that no company can afford to ignore the potentially devastating consequences (financial and otherwise) of suffering a cyberattack.

The WannaCry ransomware incident last month reminded us all of the importance of staying on top of IT security. The malicious software caused tens of thousands of infections around the world, affecting more than 150 countries, according to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team.

Ransomware – one of the biggest cybersecurity threats businesses have faced in recent years – is a type of malware that cyber criminals use to encrypt a victim’s files. They will then demand payment in exchange for the decryption key. WannaCry reportedly requested a ransom of approximately $300 U.S., according to US-CERT.

Cybersecurity threats like ransomware can devastate businesses by cutting off access to crucial data, causing downtime and making it impossible for employees to do their jobs. In addition to the potentially high cost per hour of unplanned downtime, a data breach can damage a company’s reputation and lead to regulatory consequences if the organization handles sensitive data (e.g., financial information).

The role of human error in cyberattacks
Cyber criminals frequently try to trick end users into granting them access to sensitive data using tactics like phishing – sending emails that imitate legitimate business communications. A 2016 Malwarebytes report on ransomware found that 46% of ransomware attacks worldwide resulted from emails, typically through malicious attachments or links.

Whether they fail to use strong passwords, click on malicious links in emails, or visit shady websites that harbor malware, end users can inadvertently open the door for hackers and end up causing a costly data breach. That’s why any comprehensive and proactive IT security strategy should include employee awareness training.

What can you do to reduce your risk of a data breach?
Empowering your end users to make the right choices when leveraging different types of technology will lower your risk of data breaches, downtime, and potentially catastrophic business losses. Here are a few steps to get you started:

1. Identify current awareness practices for new staff members and recurring awareness programs performed by IT or HR. Because hackers keep developing new malware and finding novel ways of gaining access to sensitive data, it’s important to make awareness training an ongoing project to keep up with the constantly evolving IT security threat landscape.

2. Identify standard IT practices, policies and standards. If you haven’t already, it’s important to create and enforce IT security policies to protect your business. These can include the following:

  • Guidelines for setting up strong passwords (and routinely changing them)
  • Remote access policies to ensure employees who work from home or on the go access company data using secure methods (e.g., secure VPN).
  • Policies for onboarding/offboarding staff members to make sure they’re aware of company security standards and to ensure former employees can’t still access sensitive information.
  • Backup and disaster recovery procedures to minimize downtime and avoid data loss.

3. Randomly sample your employee pool. Test end users to see how effective your training programs are and to give them practice in avoiding cyberattacks. There are tools companies can leverage to manage these simulated attacks.

4. Work with your C-Level executives to ensure they understand the severity of a data breach and the importance of prioritizing proactive security efforts. IT security should have its own budget separate from the general IT bucket, for example. This will not only help your cause but will also drive home the point to all members of your organization that comprehensive IT security is critical.

5. Increase the frequency of awareness training. New types of malware pop up every day, and hackers keep getting more innovative. Make sure your HR department updates everyone in your company on a regular basis on the latest developments in the IT security threat world.

If you’d like to learn more about IT security awareness training and protecting your business from cyberattacks and data breaches, our expert team can help. We offer a wide range of managed security solutions and can answer your questions about anything ranging from email protection to secure data management to endpoint security (and more). Don’t hesitate to call us today at 877-599-3999 or email us at sales@stratospherenetworks.com.

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