Cybersecurity Best Practices

Internet and digital technologies engendered the emergence of new ways of working, learning and playing. We live in an age where the digitisation of data, including confidential and personal information is the norm meaning that both businesses and individuals are vulnerable to all forms of data violations and invasions. Consequently, the commodification of information has contributed to the growth in cybersecurity, also referred to as information technology security, and its evil twin cyber criminology. 

The importance of cyber security

“Your business data represents your intellectual capital, competitive differentiator and the lifeblood of your organization” (IBM). It is no secret that, besides its employees, data is invaluable in any enterprise’s continued survival in a knowledge economy. Against this background cybersecurity is as important as security measures taken to protect staff from physical harm in an increasingly violent society.

Governments, and military, corporate, financial, and medical organisations have vast amounts of data stored on computers, other devices, and the Cloud. The negative consequences of the unauthorised breaching or exposure of sensitive information, such as intellectual property, financial data and confidential information could mean the financial ruin of many a business. 

Cybersecurity involves practices and measures dedicated to protecting information and the systems used to process or store it. With the growth in volume and sophistication of cyberattacks, businesses and organisations who are the guardians of information relating to national security, health, or financial records, should take critical steps to protect their data and sensitive information. 

Cybersecurity responsibilities and challenges

The emerging and evolving nature of security risks and vulnerabilities pose the biggest challenge in the cybersecurity industry. Conventionally, organisations and governments focus most of their cybersecurity efforts on perimeter security to secure their most critical systems elements and processes against known treats. This approach is ineffective in the current cybersecurity landscape with threats developing and changing more quickly than organisations can manage. 

Consequently, advisors suggest proactive and adaptive approaches to cybersecurity, including continuous monitoring and real-time assessments, and a data-focused approach to security in contrast to the traditional perimeter-based model. Specifically, to manage cybersecurity effectively, all efforts should be coordinated to address the following elements of the security processes in organisations:

Protecting an organisation’s network from unwanted users, attacks, and intrusions.

Ensuring that applications are continuously upgraded and tested and thus safeguarding these apps from attacks.

Protecting the remote access or endpoint security of a company since it may be a weak link in intrusion attempts. 

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Protecting company and customer information in a separate layer of security.

Managing the identity of every individual staff member of an organisation by understanding the access needs of every individual in an organisation.

Protecting the devices and physical equipment which involves database and infrastructure security. 

Protecting data that is managed in the Cloud since folders and files are in digital environments and may be vulnerable to intrusion. 

Protecting mobile phones and tablets which may involve different security challenges in and of themselves.

Disaster recovery/business continuity planning.

Human error may account for the most severe cybersecurity challenges officials face and end-user education in terms of logging on to a company app or network is crucial. Employees need to be instructed to develop necessary habits with regards to password changes and 2-factor authentication.

Additionally, companies should investigate the use of different forms of authentications such as those based on biometrics such as common fingertip scanning or more innovative voice, iris, or face recognition. 

Managing cyber security

The National Cyber Security Alliance, a public private partnership, working with the Department of Homeland Security in the USA advises companies to be prepared to “respond to the inevitable cyber incident, restore normal operations, and ensure that company assets and the company’s reputation are protected.” 

NCSA also advises that security should be focussed on three key areas: identifying an organisation’s most valuable information requiring protection; identifying the threats and risks to that information; and determining the damage the organisation will suffer should that data be lost or unjustly exposed. Additionally, any regulations that may impact the way an organisation collects, stores, and secures data should also be considered in cyber risk assessments.

Once a cyber risk assessment has been completed, companies should develop and implement a plan to alleviate cyber risk and protect the aspects outlined in the assessment, and proactively detect and respond to security risks. It Is essential that the plan include both the processes and technologies required to develop an advanced cybersecurity program. 

Cybersecurity best practices must evolve with the changing nature and sophistication of security threats. Additionally, educated and security-minded employees combined with sound cybersecurity measures provide the best defence against malicious cyberattacks aiming to infiltrate and compromise a company’s sensitive data. 

The problems listed above are not the only cybersecurity problems that businesses may encounter in the near future. The chances of cybercriminals using artificial intelligence (AI) methods to improve their attacks are high. Steve Grobman, CTO, McAfee, explained in MIT Technology Review that; AI “gives attackers the tools to get a much greater return on their investment”.

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