Monday, 22 July 2019

Digital information is the fuel that powers business today.

That's why protecting computer networks and data — often your company's most valuable non-human assets — from hackers and other cyber threats is so critical.

And the threats are real. We're long past the day when hackers were computer nerds in a basement somewhere. Today's cybercriminals are global, well-organized and constantly devising new, ingenious ways to penetrate computer networks. Companies must work non-stop to fend off potentially harmful digital attacks.

Most large companies invest heavily in cybersecurity. However, there are some affordable steps smaller businesses can take to protect their computer systems and the valuable data they contain.

Have a policy.

Just encouraging employees to be smart with devices and computers isn't enough. Having a policy clearly outlining how employees should handle hardware and information eliminates employee judgment calls about computer and data security. Managing data can also help reduce human error, which is perhaps the greatest threat to company networks. 

Educate employees.

Don't assume your employees know not to click on dubious email attachments or download from unsecured websites. Educating them about cyber dangers — which are often brilliantly designed to deceive — is essential to keep your systems safe.

Be smart about passwords.

Because passwords are so crucial to computer security, your company policy should include directions for creating powerful passwords as well as a mandate to change passwords regularly. 

 Keep software updated.

If you're annoyed by constant software updates, you're not alone. But many of these updates include patches and security upgrades designed to protect you. 

 Restrict usage.

Cyber threats aren't always external, and ill-intentioned employees can often do much more harm than anonymous hackers. With this in mind, give employees access to the information they need to do their job and nothing more, which will hopefully limit the scope of the damage a disgruntled staff member can inflict. 

 Install firewalls.

Firewalls monitor incoming and outgoing traffic on your network and block anything violating security rules. Firewalls are often built into software and hardware, but they might need to be activated. 

 Encrypt your data.

Encrypting data makes it unreadable if accessed by an unauthorized user. This can be done using readily available encryption software. 

Use anti-malware and anti-virus protection.

All computers and devices with internet connections should have anti-malware and anti-virus software installed. Many computers come with these protections, and there are numerous apps to protect mobile devices. 

Vet your cloud vendor. When it comes to choosing a cloud vendor, going cheap isn't always the best idea. Do some research and choose a vendor with strong security credentials. It's worth paying a little more. 

Avoid public Wi-Fi.

Public Wi-Fi networks are virtual playgrounds for hackers. If possible, prohibit employees from using public Wi-Fi for business. If your employees must use public Wi-Fi networks, consider installing VPN (Virtual Private Network) software to improve security. 

Address wireless devices.

Ideally employees would only use company devices — such as laptops and smartphones – for business. However, many smaller companies can't afford to provide devices for all employees. If your employees must do business on their personal devices, require them to install security software, make sure devices are password-protected, and only allow them to access encrypted company data.

These precautions can provide much-needed layers of protection for your network and data. However, if you're still concerned about security, hiring a security professional could give you the additional protection — and peace of mind – you need.

 

The content provided is for informational purposes only. Neither BBVA USA, nor any of its affiliates, is providing legal, tax, or investment advice. You should consult your legal, tax, or financial advisor about your personal situation. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BBVA USA or any of its affiliates.

Links to third party sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement. BBVA USA does not provide, is not responsible for, and does not guarantee the products, services or overall content available at third party sites. These sites may not have the same privacy, security or accessibility standards. Consult your legal counsel for advice concerning your specific business activities.