Cyber attacks can happen to any business at any time. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new small business or a large corporation, you can be targeted by hackers who are either looking to steal valuable data or simply want to see if they can break into your system and cause havoc. Even if you don’t think you have something worth stealing, hackers may disagree. They can often make use of any information, no matter how insignificant you may think it is. That’s why you’ve got to have top-notch defenses in place, especially if you collect and store any customer data. Here are seven different things you should consider in order to protect your system from cyber attacks.

1. Protect Your Passwords

It may seem obvious, but many people do not protect their passwords as well as they should. This is especially true of some executives who don’t realize just how much access they have to the network. They may leave a note under their keyboard or in their desk drawer with their password on it. Anyone could easily find that note, giving them full access to sensitive data and emails.

In addition to protecting their passwords, you also need to require employees at all levels to change their passwords regularly. Many businesses require employees to do this every 90 days, but if you’ve had a security breach or store particularly sensitive information such as credit card numbers or bank accounts, you may want to require password changes more frequently.

2. Train Your Employees on Security Measures

It won’t matter what kind of network security you have if your employees don’t understand how important it is to follow protocol. It’s more than just keeping their passwords hidden and changing them regularly, too. Your employees need to follow rules such as using strong passwords, how to correctly deal with phishing emails, and more. Simply emailing out a few network security tips every month isn’t going to be enough. You need to make sure every new employee goes through security training when they’re hired. Then you need to reinforce that training regularly. Seminars, lectures by network security experts, and regular training on new security measures is essential to keep your employees up-to-date on what they need to do.

It’s also helpful to explain why this is required. Knowing why they’re being told to use long passwords with letters, numbers, and symbols will help employees understand that it’s not simply to inconvenience them.

3. Backup Your Data

If you’re not backing up your data, you’re leaving yourself incredibly vulnerable to loses. Some hackers aren’t out to steal anything, but they do want to cause as much destruction as they can. They will hack into networks just to delete information or lock down your network until you agree to give them money. If you have your data backed up, you won’t be held hostage by any type of malware or virus. Backing up regularly is a necessity for any startup, and it only becomes more important as your business grows.

Another reason to back up your data is to protect against natural disasters. If your office is flooded or damaged by an earthquake, having an off-site backup can have you up and running again in a matter of hours rather than days.

4. Install IDS Software

Intrusion detection software (IDS) will monitor your network even when you’re not there, catching hackers and even identifying when a valid account seems to be doing something odd. This software is becoming more and more a necessity, not an additional security option, because hackers often find ways around your other defenses. By monitoring your network for suspicious activity, you can often stop hackers before they get away with anything. It’s a proactive measure, not a reactive one, and that makes a lot of difference.

One great IDS program is called Snort. It’s quick and easy to install, and you can have it up and running in very little time. To download IDS software such as Snort, all you have to do is visit its secure website.

5. Use Anti-Virus Software

While anti-virus software may seem like the most basic protection out there, it’s a protection you don’t want to leave out. Viruses are still a major concern for businesses of all sizes. That’s why it’s vital that you use a trusted anti-virus program that regularly updates its virus profiles. Software that doesn’t update regularly won’t have the latest information about new viruses, which means those viruses won’t have any trouble infecting your system. It’s important, then, to not only install a good anti-virus program but to also make certain it’s updated. Most of these programs have the option to update automatically, and it’s a good idea to let them do so. That way, there’s nothing you have to do to remain protected.

6. Make Sure Your Internet Connection Is Secure

Public Wi-Fi networks are abundant these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe and secure. Many hackers infiltrate networks by slipping in through devices using these unsecured networks. If one of your employees uses public Wi-Fi on a device that contains sensitive information or passwords, they’re leaving you vulnerable to many different types of threats.

This is why your employee training needs to stress that these networks should never be used with business equipment. If someone does need to use a public network, they should be instructed on how to create a virtual private network (VPN) in order to keep your system secure.

7. Lock the Physical System

Finally, all the security software in the world may be ineffective if you don’t have your physical server and computers protected. If anyone can simply walk in and use a computer that’s logged in with an administrative account, they don’t have to do anything to gain total access to your network. Employees need to be trained to always lock their computers when they step away from them. Your IT staff, too, needs to be trained to keep the servers under lock and key. Physical security is often overlooked, but it can’t be. It’s just as vital as virtual security.

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