It seems like every day new massive security breaches are occurring. In 2016 57 million Uber users had their accounts hacked, in 2017 Equifax revealed that a breach in their system leaked the names, social security numbers, addresses, birth dates, and driver’s driving license numbers of 147 million people. In 2014 Home Depot revealed that the 28 million customers credit card numbers were stolen.
All of these breaches and hacks were the result of poor cybersecurity practices. Unfortunately, incidents such as those listed above occur more frequently every day. Though most cybersecurity incidents are not as significant as the ones listed above that doesn’t mean they are any less severe. Any breach or hack, big or small, has the potential to harm customers and damage corporate reputations.
Hackers are constantly looking for new vulnerabilities to exploit, and cybersecurity experts are continually working to thwart them. One of the best ways to keep your company’s data secure is to make sure your network is secure. Networks are extensive and involve a lot of moving pieces. Hardware such as routers, laptops, and smartphones must be kept secure, and firewalls must be maintained and kept up to date.
Why network security is important
Network security is important for a number of reasons including safeguarding company assets, achieving and keeping a competitive edge, and being in compliance with government standards.
Safeguarding company assets
One of the primary reasons for network security is to ensure that company assets are secure. Assets include things like hardware and software, but also the information stored on company computers and other devices. Companies rely on their data to run, so it needs to be protected.
A competitive edge
Effective security measures help companies gain, and keep, an edge over the competition. If your competitors are able to access data such as customer profiles, proprietary information, and financial records for your company they could use that information to undermine your company. Adequate network security is also key to maintaining customer loyalty. If your customers don’t think you are doing enough to keep their information secure, they are more likely to choose your competitor in the future.
Complying with government standards
A hack or breach not only puts you and your customer’s at risk, but it could also open you up to liability. By making sure your network is secure, you can avoid things like costly fines and adverse government action.
The risks of under secured networks
Networks that are not secure are an easy target for hackers and criminals. If your company suffers a hack or a breach and loses critical data, it can have serious consequences.
From a financial standpoint data breaches and hacks could cripple a small or medium-sized company. A breach or hack could put you in a position of non-compliance with legislation such as GDPR. Fines for non-compliance are punishing and can push even well-funded companies into the red.
Depending on the nature of the breach or hack you may also have to invest in new infrastructure to patch vulnerabilities and increase your network security. Overhead costs such as these are part of the cost of doing business, but under normal circumstances, considerable costs such as these can be spread out over a reasonable period of time. If you suddenly find yourself facing a hefty bill to upgrade your infrastructure, you may not be able to absorb that cost-effectively.
When consumer data is compromised, it affects more than just the company that had the data. As a company, it is your ethical obligation to safeguard sensitive customer data. Your customers and your company rely on your employees to keep their data safe and secure. Employees that are careless or not adequately trained pose a huge security risk, so it is vital that your companies receive adequate cybersecurity training on an ongoing basis.
Customers are slow to trust, and if that trust is breached, it can be challenging to regain. If a security breach or hack does occur, it is imperative that your company be able to address it quickly, mitigate damages, and prevent future incidents. Customers may understand that sometimes breaches happen, but if you don’t handle them swiftly and effectively, they may not be willing to trust you again.
Security breaches and hacks can do more than damage your relationship with your loyal customers. They can also damage your reputation with potential customers. If your team is unable to prevent breaches or hacks, or unable to deal with them effectively after the fact, potential and current customers may feel that you lack competency.
How to secure your network
There is the number of measures that your company can take to ensure your network is secure.
From a software perspective, you should make sure that your firewall is secure, and that your antivirus software is up to date. You should also make sure that all of your computer programs are up to date since this is how developers fix any security problems they encounter in their programs.
It is also crucial that you back up your data and use the cloud when possible. If your data is lost, it could seriously affect your ability to do business. Any data that is not stored in the cloud should be fully backed up once per week.
One of the most important things you can do is make sure your employees receive proper training. Make sure they know how to keep their devices, and the company’s assets, secure and what to do if they encounter something suspicious like an email that might contain a malicious link. You should also make sure your company has robust password protocols in place, and that employees are changing their passwords regularly.
You should also conduct regular tabletop exercises and penetration (pen) tests with your employees. These tests allow you to look for breaches and other issues and decide how best to respond to them before they become a problem.
Network security is an integral part of any organization’s cybersecurity plan. Investing in training for your employees as well as keeping your software and hardware up to date is an investment that will pay dividends in customer trust and reputational security while mitigating the financial risks of incurring fines or losing customers.
Being prepared is the best way to prevent network security breaches, and to minimize damage should a breach or hack occur.