Ransomware and other malware attacks are on the rise, costing businesses in the United States alone billions of dollars each year. In response, many companies are scrambling to invest in the best firewalls and defense systems possible to keep their devices and networks safe.
Only the most sophisticated ransomware attacks can get through a tough, well-planned cybersecurity strategy, meaning your investment can ward off the vast majority of attacks. However, most ransomware and malware issues aren’t the result of a hyper-sophisticated attack; instead, they’re a direct result of an individual employee mistake.
Even the most robust cybersecurity strategies can be foiled if an employee on your team makes a critical error. Accordingly, it’s your responsibility to educate employees on the best security practices they need to remain functional parts of your team.
Security Best Practices Every Employee Should Know
These are some of the most important best practices your employees should all know:
- Choose strong passwords. It’s ridiculously easy to “hack” someone if you guess that their password is “password,” or the barely-more-secure “password1234.” The fact is, weak passwords allow even the least-skilled cybercriminals to gain access to your accounts and data. Fight back by mandating your employees to choose strong passwords (and unique passwords for each app). Strong passwords tend to have a mix of different symbols, including lower-case letters, upper-case letters, numbers, and special symbols. They also don’t have recognizable patterns like common words or dates. But most importantly, they tend to be long. Extending a password by even a few characters can instantly make it much more secure.
- Enable and use multifactor authentication. Additionally, it’s a good idea to force your employees to use multifactor authentication. With multifactor authentication enabled, a password isn’t enough; employees will also have to use a mobile device, email account, or other secondary method to log in. This makes it much more difficult for cybercriminals to get access to your accounts.
- Never give your password to anyone. You’d be shocked to learn how many cyberattacks originated with a simple social engineering attempt; an attacker calls one of your employees, pretending to be a trusted authority, and asks them for their password. Your employee provides it. This can easily be prevented by drilling into your employees the fact that you should never give your password to anyone.
- Avoid clicking suspicious links (or attachments). Phishing attempts often try to fool people into clicking links, entering information, or downloading attachments that either contain malware or allow the attacker to gain access to an account. Teach your employees how to spot suspicious links (which often contain random strings of characters, or spelling errors), and that they should never download an attachment unless they’re expecting one.
- Never insert a foreign drive into your computer. It’s also important never to insert a foreign drive into your computer. If you find a thumb drive or a CD in the parking lot, for example, many people would be tempted to put it in their computer and see what it contains. This is an easy way to infect your computer with malware, and it can be similarly easily avoided. Only use physical drives that you trust.
- Always use secured networks. Similarly, your employee should understand the value of only operating on secured networks. Make sure your company’s network is encrypted and secure, and caution your employees when they use other networks. If they use company devices outside of the office, make sure they avoid public Wi-Fi whenever possible, and encrypt their home networks to a minimum standard of security.
- Keep devices and software updated. Software engineers, hardware engineers, and other professionals are constantly scouting for vulnerabilities that could render their systems exploitable. When they find an issue, they release a patch to address it. However, this patch only works if you download it. That’s why it’s important for all your employees to keep their devices and software up-to-date at all times, preferably with the help of automatic updates.
- Keep work and personal devices separate. It’s tempting to use a work computer for personal functions, and a personal computer for work functions. However, this often leads to further vulnerabilities on both sides; any hacker who manages to exploit one type of account can instantly get access to the others.
Regular Updates And Check-Ins
Many of these security best practices seem like common sense, but you can’t assume that your employees will know them (or remember them once you teach them). Make it a point to train your employees both individually and in groups, and check in regularly with updates; periodic “reminder” seminars can’t hurt, and if they manage to prevent even a single cyberattack, your investment in them will be worth it.
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