Network Security for Small Businesses
March 19, 2020
The internet is a great leveler in this era of globalization. It has widened the opportunities available to small businesses. Small businesses can now target a global audience without setting up physical offices- something which wasn’t possible a few years ago.
Small businesses have been quick to jump on the internet bandwagon. SMEs realize the importance of having a digital presence. To leverage the internet, businesses use an internet network. A business network includes all the IT devices that the business uses.
Ensuring network security should top the priority list of every small business manager. Contrary to popular belief, small businesses are more vulnerable to cyberattacks. A 2018 study found that 58% of cyberattacks target small businesses. To prevent your worst nightmare coming true, you need to beef up your network security.
Network security: An introduction
Network security involves any activity designed to improve the security of a network. Network security engineers use different tools such as network monitoring software, network patches, and security automation tools to protect the usability and data of a business’s network. Effective network security involves network access management. Network security managers monitor access and network traffic flow and take various steps to neutralize threats promptly. Network security includes multiple security layers that implement policies and rules. While authorized users are provided access to network resources, malicious actors are debarred, to prevent them from carrying out threats.
Network security checklist
You need to come up with a well-rounded network security plan that offers 360-degree protection. You cannot afford to leave any loose ends. Remember, a window of opportunity is all that cybercriminals need to get into your system. Take your time to develop and implement a network security plan that covers all the bases. Do not rush decisions, and make an effort to develop a deep understanding of every factor at play.
Here is a network security checklist to help you get started:
Update software and hardware
Did you know that hackers were able to successfully carry out one of the most infamous cyberattacks in history- Wannacry- because the NHS failed to update its OS in a timely manner? When it comes to beefing up your network security, the importance of updating your software and hardware cannot be emphasized enough. To steer clear of security issues, download patches and updates (only from verified and trusted sources) as soon as they are available. To reduce cyberattack vulnerability, regularly update drivers and hardware.
Set-up policies and rules
Set-up policies related to acceptable use, remote access, privacy, internet access, email and communications, BYOD, encryption, and network security. Create a team that will ensure that these policies are followed.
Secure your servers
Your server is where your valuable data resides. You must do whatever it takes to secure your server. To steer clear of threats, create a server deployment checklist. Some activities to include in your checklist are:
- Maintain a server list that includes information related to your servers, such as rack location, date of service, and service tag.
- Identify people who can be entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that the server is maintained. The team to whom the server is assigned must investigate anomalies related to that server.
- Choose a naming convention.
- Make sure every server deployed on your network is patched.
- If you want to use SNMP, configure your community strings.
- Install appropriate agents.
- Run a vulnerability scan before a server goes into production.
- Ensure all your servers are connected to your UPS.
- Ensure every server runs antivirus software.
Perform regular audits
Periodic audits will help you identify and plug-in security loopholes before hackers exploit them. Clearly define the objectives of your audit. Some tasks that should be performed during a network security audit are:
- Review security patches for software.
- Review penetration testing methods.
- Thoroughly check software that processes or stores sensitive information.
- Check firewalls and intrusion prevention systems for loopholes.
- Analyze the processes and policies related to storing sensitive data.
- Look for unauthorized access points.
- Examine the process of monitoring log events.
Take network backups
Whenever you think that you have everything under your control, remind yourself that you are just one cyberattack away from losing precious data residing on your network. No matter how advanced your intrusion prevention system is, you can never rule out the chances of a cyberpunk getting inside your network. They say to expect the best and prepare for the worst. To ensure you are ready when a disaster comes knocking at your door, implement a data backup recovery plan. Here are some tips for a top data backup strategy:
- Have a tape rotation established.
- Destroy old tapes at the end of their service life, ensuring that data cannot be recovered from them.
- If you plan to store data offsite, use a reputable courier service.
- Before transporting tapes to an offsite, make sure they are encrypted.
- Restrict access to tapes and backup operator groups.
- Perform test restores every month.
Provide users secure internet access
To help your users steer clear of security issues when accessing the internet, implement an internet monitoring solution. Make malware scanning for all content mandatory. To protect business-critical applications, deploy bandwidth restrictions. Block any outbound traffic that could be used to circumnavigate your internet monitoring solution. Use a mail filtering solution that can filter both inbound and outbound messages.
It’s surprising how something as simple yet effective as securing workstations gets neglected at workplaces. An unsecured workstation is vulnerable to cyberattacks and can be exploited by a cybercriminal to view and steal important information stored on it. Follow these tips to secure your workstations:
- Create and keep a list of your workstations handy. The list must include important details related to every workstation, such as who was it assigned to and when it reaches the end of its depreciation schedule.
- Adopt a naming convention.
- Make sure all workstations are up to date and patched regularly. Update the master image regularly.
- Update anti-virus regularly.
- Use one remote access method.
- Ensure all workstations are domain-joined.
- Make encrypting devices mandatory.
- Perform regular vulnerability scans.
- Organize workstations in Organizational Units. Have Group Policy for their management in place.
- Deploy power-saving settings.