5 ways to beef up your cyber defenses for 2019

Just because it looks like you might survive 2018 without a major cybersecurity breach, doesn't mean your company's all set for an air-tight 2019. Here's how to make sure you're prepared.

Cyber defenses have short lifespans. The malware catalog in your cybersecurity system requires constant updating, the passwords used by your employees may be exposed over time, and without frequent fortification of your digital walls and constant vigilance, your existing security measures may not protect you against newer threats.

Many of the measures you used to defend your system in 2018 may be obsolete by 2019, as new threats such as crypto-mining and filesless attacks are on the rise – so make sure your company upholds fresh standards for cybersecurity before the year starts. The sooner you strengthen your cyber defenses, the better.

Here are five tips that can help you build better defenses and keep your organization safe in 2019:

1. Maintain (and enforce) a solid security policy

No matter the size of your organization, it is important that each employee, on every level, is aware of your defense architecture, protocols and security standards. Put everything in writing, and make sure that each new employee understands the measures they need to take.

In addition, periodically refresh your protocols and perform routine checks to test your employees’ knowledge of your security standards.

A central part of your policy should be a “doomsday scenario,” or disaster recovery plan, which instructs everyone in the organization on how to react and handle a breach or system failure. Before creating such a plan, make sure to get feedback and possible scenarios from all departments, to be as prepared as possible both for the event itself and the necessary conduct during the recovery period.

2. Monitor your network to recognize threats

The flow of data into, out of and within an organization should be monitored, as patterns and procedures of healthy activity form over time. Implement a SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) system to recognize potential threats and create a SOC (Security Operations Centre) function that encompases your systems and personnel that are in charge of identifying and neutralizing threats.

Any organization or individual is a potential target for hackers and other malicious entities, so vigilance is key. Therefore, it is important to recognize your sensitive assets and protect them by making sure they are only accessible to a few key people within your organization.

Privilege management is vital: prevent more people from accessing sensitive assets by creating segmentation based on each employee’s function, rather than on their place in the organizational hierarchy.

3. Get your people involved

At the end of the day, an organization is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that all employees maintain their own cyber hygiene, by checking URLs, security certificates and email addresses in any situation that requires them to input their credentials or other sensitive information.

HoxHunt, for example, helps your employees practice cybersecurity measures as they work, using a gamified training experience. The platform’s AI engine impersonates phishing attackers, and if your coworkers flag the potential threats correctly, they earn rewards. If your employees are comfortable recognizing and reporting threats, they’re more likely to do it when real ones rear their heads.

And if your company makes use of external devices or employs a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, make sure each device has a firewall and antivirus software installed on it. Also, refrain from connecting unknown external hardware, such as portable USB flash drives, to any company device.

4. Protect your code

Today, open source code is a necessity as developers simply can’t build software fast enough without it. Along with all the benefits, there are also a lot of concerns as using open source brings new security and compliance challenges. Often, companies using it don’t have the manpower or tools necessary to constantly review open source code for bugs, security issues or licensing problems which could inadvertently make their way into the software.

In order to understand where the vulnerabilities in their code lie, many companies are forced to scan their code constantly and check it against multiple data resources, not all of which are accurate or updated in real time.

WhiteSource, an open source security solution, can automate the entire process of open source component selection and approval, alerting developers to new information discovered by the online community and sending real-time notifications on security and compliance concerns so that developers can use open source code without worrying or constantly checking it. It’s essential to use security tools for your open source code so that no vulnerabilities make their way into you company’s software or systems.

5. Keep your software and hardware up-to-date

Malicious entities are constantly looking for weaknesses they can exploit, and even the largest software companies sometimes release updates that contain unnoticed bugs, despite their best efforts.

Therefore, it is crucial to constantly update all of your software and hardware, and download the latest patches. Some companies opt to automate endpoint management by using tools that constantly monitor for vulnerabilities and fix them. Solutions such as Cloud Management Suite can automate this process to save time and optimize performance.

However, while automated endpoint management is both convenient and cost-effective, it is also important to stay vigilant and actively monitor your hardware and software to make sure they are updated.

Refresh your defenses

In summary, there are as many ways to protect your organization as there ways to harm it. Therefore, keeping your cyber defenses as tight as possible and ensuring that both the human and technological factors are tended to are paramount to keep your operation acting smoothly and minimize potential threats.

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Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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