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Cybersecurity 101: Basics Every Employee Should Know

When it comes to keeping your business's data safe, one of the make-or-break points is the so-called "human factor." In other words, your employees. Many successful hacking attempts were made possible thanks to human error, meaning that a cybersecurity strategy that focuses solely on software, firewalls, etc. while failing to take the human element into account is likely to fail.

So what can you do to make sure your employees are protecting their own information as well as your company's data? Educate and train. Here are some of the most important tenets of cybersecurity that each one of your team members should know about to avoid the cost of a data breach or other attack.

Understand the Importance of Cybersecurity Practices

For starters, your company will benefit from your employees having a firm understanding of why the basics of cybersecurity are so important in the first place. Inform your staffers of the stats related to hackers and other bad actors online. Experts approximate that a ransomware attack happens somewhere in the world every two seconds, with 43% of all cyber threats being directed at small businesses in particular.

There are two ways a business can fight back against cyberattacks: reactively (such as through an incident response) and proactively (such as through employee education). This article will focus on the latter.

Following the cybersecurity practices described below can protect both your business and any of your employees' information, all of which could be at risk in the event of a successful phishing scam or malware attack. Building a culture of cybersecurity awareness is hard work but is definitely worth the effort.

Know and Follow Company Policies

Maybe this tip seems obvious, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth thinking about. Setting up the most secure digital policy in the world won't make much of a difference if a significant number of your employees aren't following along with it.

Communicate with employees to make sure they understand your business's cybersecurity protocols and are taking advantage of any particular data security services, such as a VPN service. If your business uses two-factor authentication (more on that below!), make sure your team members know how to set it up on any devices they will be using for work tasks, including devices they take home with them for remote work.

In addition, have a designated team member who can act as a liaison between you and your on-the-ground employees and make sure that your cybersecurity policies are being followed.

Watch Out for Phishing Schemes

One of the most common ways that hackers target employees at a business is through a phishing scam. This kind of scheme works by fooling employees into clicking on a link or attachment within an email or other message that appears to be from a legitimate source but will actually infect the device with malware or take the user to a page where private information can be stolen.

There are a few ways employees can steer clear of phishing scams, including checking the email domain name for authenticity, avoiding opening any unusual links within a message, and refusing to divulge any personal information (including Social Security numbers, home addresses, credit card details, and passwords) via email. By staying on the ball, your team can avoid getting "hooked" by this common scam.

Create Strong Passwords

It seems like many hackers make a full-time job out of cracking passwords, which makes establishing strong passwords among your employees all the more essential. However, the idea of a "strong" password isn't an abstract concept; a strong password has specific, well-defined parameters that clearly separate it from a weak password that's easy to crack.

A strong password uses at least a dozen characters, including an unpredictable combination of various letters (both upper- and lowercase), numbers, and symbols (aka special characters, such as @, #, and %). In addition, a strong password won't be made up of identifiable words (e.g. "ilovegrilledcheese"). Strong passwords also should not include your personal information, such as your birthdate, anniversary, home address, or other vital data.

Finally, make sure employees take the extra precaution of not reusing even the strongest of passwords for multiple devices or accounts. Using a different strong password for each log-in portal reduces the chances of a hacker cracking one password and gaining access to everything. If needed, use a trusted password management service to keep track of your various passwords.

Maintain Software Updates

Antivirus software designers are trying to keep up with the latest tricks that hackers have developed, which is why constant software patches and updates are so important. Make sure employees have their smart devices' "automatic update" feature enabled so that the newest, most resilient version of the software can be installed and continue operating at the highest level of performance.

As an employee, you should also make sure your company's network is constantly monitored and updated to prevent any unwanted digital intrusions or hacks. Criminals will take any opportunity to launch their malicious attacks; don't give them an opening through negligence!

Take Advantage of Multi-factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA), such as two-factor authentication (2FA), is a vital way to prevent illicit log-ins to any professional or personal device, especially if you have any remote access users using public Wi-Fi. MFA helps prevent bad actors from authenticating into your business's private network and stealing personal or professional data.

This further protects your company in the event that a password is cracked, disclosed by an employee in a phishing attempt, or otherwise compromised.

Secure Your Physical Environment

While cybersecurity takes place in the digital realm, we still live in a very real, physical world. And that means that checking the physical security of your business facility is still important.

Every employee should activate the screen lock on their computer when they leave their workplace, even if it's just to use the restroom or grab another cup of coffee. Similarly, any sensitive files or other documents should be physically secured in a locked drawer or filing cabinet, and a record should be kept of every employee who has access to a given key for a given set of files.

Depending on the size of your organization, you may also have a badge access system in place. If so, consistently audit the whereabouts of each badge that has been distributed. When employees enter the facility for the day's work, make sure each person scans his or her own badge rather than allowing "tailgating" (i.e. one person scanning a badge and everyone immediately after them entering without scanning).

Limit What You Share on Social Media

Hopefully, your employees will become aware at this point of how often hackers use personal information to figure out passwords or otherwise gain access to personal and professional information. On that note, instruct employees to be mindful of the information they share on any social media sites.

Specifically, remote workers and other employees should be cognizant of sharing information that could potentially give a hacker the answer to a log-in security question ("What was your first pet?", "Where did you go to school in fourth grade?", "What was the first car you drove?", etc.). They should also delete any old social media accounts that they no longer use and that could be taken advantage of by a bad actor.

Contact a Leading Managed Service Provider to Schedule a Consultation

The digital world can be a scary place, which is why enlisting the help of a trusted cybersecurity provider is so necessary. TechBldrs is all about providing quality cybersecurity training and resources for small businesses, network security assessments, and so much more.

Contact us today to find out how we can help secure your small business from hackers and other online attackers!

If you enjoyed this article, check out these other articles about Cybersecurity:
Understanding the Risks: The Rising Threat of Cyber Attacks
Tips for Catching a Phishing Scam Before It Catches You

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