A computer network can mean anything from a simple local area network to a worldwide network like the internet. Computers on a network, especially a wireless network, are more susceptible to hacks and security breaches. As such, it’s imperative to take all necessary computers’ network security precautions to protect every computer on the network.
This is especially true for organizations and businesses who stand to lose millions from a single data breach. In fact, losses from cybercrime are expected to reach a whopping $6 trillion every year by 2021. With so much money at stake, companies and organizations are putting their best foot forward to build robust network security setups.
Fortunately, for SMEs, the existential threat for hacks and data breaches isn’t as immense as that for large businesses. So a few security precautions are all they need to safeguard their computer networks. In this piece, we’ll highlight steps to take to safeguard your computer network from external threats, especially data breaches.
Update Passwords Regularly
Starting with the simplest step, make sure you update your passwords at least once every four months. You can even do it more frequently, but don’t overdo it because it can lead to confusion.
While updating your passwords, use strong and lengthy passwords. Avoid using birth dates and common passwords like “1234567”. These passwords are easy to predict and don’t offer much protection.
Instead, your password should be a combination of letters, numbers, and one or two symbols. A strong password should have at least eight characters, and should not be very coherent. Coherent in the sense that it shouldn’t be a sensible word that you’d find in the dictionary.
Smart companies have ditched passwords for passphrases. Passphrases are just like passwords but are longer, more secure, and easy to remember. Instead of a single word or a clump of characters, a passphrase is a string of words in a particular order.
Train Your Employees on Computers’ Network Security
Do you train your employees on the best data security practices? If no, then you clearly are part of the problem. Employee training is a crucial part of network security because employees can be a major security loophole if you don’t keep them on toes.
Proper employee training involves sensitizing them on the importance of data security and the role they play in enforcing it. It also entails establishing a watchdog policy for your employees to keep an eye out for any suspicious individuals or activity.
Install a Firewall
No network can do without a firewall; a network without one is just a data security disaster waiting to happen. Firewalls are programs that monitor what comes in and what goes out of the network. It does so by using a set of “rules” that every computer in the network must abide by.
Any computer or device that doesn’t abide by this set of rules is flagged as suspicious and denied access to the network. It’s the first line of defense for the network against any unauthorized access. Since the firewall works both ways, sensitive company information doesn’t leave the network without proper authorization.
Nowadays, companies need sophisticated firewalls to prevent security breaches from hackers who are becoming wittier by the day. For maximum protection, you should invest in a state-of-the-art firewall that can counter everything hackers throw at it.
Install a Good Antivirus
Apart from investing in a firewall, you should invest in a proper antivirus for your network security. Installing the antivirus is just part of the equation; you also have to update it constantly for it to be effective. Remember, your antivirus has to keep up with all the malware that hackers churn out every day.
You should also train your employees on how to recognize hacking. Also, ensure they automate their antivirus scans, to always be on top of any threats to data security. Use one antivirus throughout all your computers to make it easier to update and manage.
Encrypt Your Data
If you’re moving very sensitive data through the network, then a data encryption software is mandatory. Encryption software isn’t only for data in transit; you can also use it to encrypt files and directories. You can think of encryption as jumbling up data, so anyone that gains access without authorization finds a jumbled form of the data.
You can think of data encryption as the second line of defense against breaches after firewalls. Even after a hacker bypasses the firewall, the hacker will get nothing of value if all the files are encrypted.
Keep an Eye on the Network
You should be keen enough to spot any suspicious activity on the network as soon as it occurs. Even though you have a firewall and encryption software, you still need to do comprehensive network monitoring and logging.
For the greatest effect, integrate your monitoring and logging strategies with other security practices. For instance, boost your monitoring whenever you change your passwords or expand your network.
With a proper logging and monitoring strategy, you’ll be able to point out any unauthorized access and suspicious activity. In most cases, you’ll be able to pinpoint the exact location where the data breach is coming from. This is a useful way to sniff out any internal moles that are selling out your company.
Establish a Virtual Private Network
Setting up a virtual private network or VPN is a very easy way to step up your network security. You can think of a VPN as a very close-knit network for only people allowed to access a network’s resources.
This network is invisible to anyone outside the network. So not only does it lock out unauthorized users, it makes the network non-existent. This makes it extremely difficult for anyone to gain access to the network.
Update All Software
We’ve already mentioned how important it is for you to keep your antivirus up-to-date. The same goes for every other software to strengthen your network’s security. Understandably, it’s hard to keep track of all the software updates, but you can set them to update automatically.
Most of these updates plug any loopholes that make the software vulnerable to security attacks. Making sure your software is up-to-date can go a long way in safeguarding your computer network.
Improve Access Control
The first step to improving access control is to enforce administrator privileges. The administrator oversees the entire network and makes sure it runs as it should. When you enforce administrator privileges, it means only the administrator can change crucial system settings that may compromise the network’s security.
Don’t Forget About Remote Connections
If you have employees accessing your network through remote connections, then make sure you also secure the connections. It’s easy to overlook remote connections because they seem so detached from the main network. However, hackers can have a field day with these remote connections to breach your computer network.
So make sure you install a firewall for the remote connections. Your remote workers are still a crucial part of your workforce. So whatever security measures you take for your internal networks, you should also do the same for the remote connections.
Make sure the software is the same across the board, then enforce strict administrator privileges to prevent anyone from installing their own software. When you have standard software, it becomes easier to protect the network against malware and external threats.
If computers on the network don’t use the same operating system, then you’re making it harder for you to implement any safety measures. So first, make sure all computers have the same OS before you can move on to the browser, apps, and plugins.
Nail Your Disaster management
When you can’t risk your information falling into the wrong hands, then you need a robust disaster recovery strategy. That’s because when some companies have a breach in their systems, they choose to wipe out their entire data storage. That prevents hackers from gaining access to information that may be detrimental to the company if it falls into the wrong hands.
If that’s the case, then you need proper disaster recovery if you have to take such dire measures. If you want to establish an appropriate disaster management formula, then follow these steps. Disaster recovery also comes in handy in case of a natural or accidental disaster.
Set up Intrusion Detection Systems
Intrusion Detection Systems or IDSs work in tandem with firewalls to prevent any unauthorized access. The IDS does so by detecting any unusual traffic and flagging it down. If you pair your IDS with an intrusion protection system, then the latter will block the suspicious traffic.
Your Network’s Security Is in Your Hands
Protecting your computer network takes a lot of work, but it’s not impossible. Once you have concrete computers’ network security, you can then use the network to advance your business agenda for greater profitability. You can always reach out for professional help if you’re having trouble with network security.
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Author | Emily Forbes
An Entrepreneur, Mother & A passionate tech writer in the technology industry!