Top 10 Cyber Security Fundamentals for Small to Medium Businesses
by David Evenden
1. Develop an Effective Asset Management Program
Asset Management is the process of taking inventory of all internal and external assets spread throughout the network, including hardware, software, and network assets. By developing an effective asset management program, you increase your efficiency, effectiveness, and security by making it easier to identify visibility gaps, stolen equipment, apply patches and software upgrades , as well as budget for future security solutions.
The image below outlines a layered approach to ensure that the proper elements & personnel are in place throughout the process of developing an effective asset management program.
2. Identify & Protect Critical Data and Critical Assets
If compromised critical data and critical assets have the potential to damage your reputation, business continuity, or profitability. Critical data and assets can include critical infrastructure, research data, business strategies, intellectual property, patient data, trade secrets — the possibilities are endless. By identifying resources of high value inside of your company, you can better prioritize and strengthen your security protections around them.
3. Ensure Proper Configuration & Installation of Host-Based AntiVirus
The majority of data breaches and ransomware attacks in the workplace arise from employee negligence. While it’s important to have network-based antivirus solutions in place, it’s equally as important to layer your defenses and ensure proper configuration and installation of host-based antivirus software. Set your antivirus software to blocking mode, not just monitoring mode. By doing this, you can isolate threats before they affect your entire network and go after critical data and assets.
4. Introduce Spam Filtering and Virus Prevention on Email Systems
Active spam filtering and virus detection are default in most email providers (i.e. Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft Outlook), but that may not always be the case if an employee turns them off by mistake. Improperly configured spam filtering and virus detection is an open door for phishing schemes or malware attacks, which could lead to financial loss, reputation damage, stolen data, DoS attacks, and more. Ensure spam filters and virus detection are enabled on every computer/device on your network.
5. Establish Realistic Update & Patch Management Processes
Establishing a realistic update and patch management process will help mitigate risks like data breaches and network intrusions. If you develop an effective asset management program and identify critical data and assets, you can better prioritize your update and patch management processes. Of course, it’s vital to test patches once they’re installed. Remember many updates and patches require a full reboot in order to take effect.
6. Configure Proper Backup & Data Loss Recovery Processes
Configuring a proper backup and data recovery process will help recovery in the event of a data breach. Domain names, nameserver databases, and even DNS servers are often completely erased when compromised. Ensure you maintain a regular backup schedule and frequently refine your data recovery processes.
7. Identify & Close Enterprise-Wide Network Visibility Gaps
The larger your network, the greater your visibility gaps can be. While a proper asset management program can help mitigate risks and minimize gaps, it’s still important to set up processes to monitor stored data, devices, applications, source/destination URLs, and logins onto your network. This way, it’s easier to spot abnormal behavior and identify potential threats.
8. Implement Strict User Access Control Policies
Strict user access control policies protect critical data and assets as well as narrow your visibility gaps. Limiting what users have access to is an example of a user access control. Implementing MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) or 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) is another example of a User Access Control.
9. Establish Professional Vulnerability Management Program
Do you have a continuous process in place for identifying and managing the risks, weaknesses, exposures, and software across your network? Most IT departments have systems in place for assessing vulnerabilities, but few have an effective management program in place. A professional vulnerability management program is a combination of offensive and defensive cybersecurity strategies expertly designed to continuously protect your most vital data and assets from attack.
10. Establish Annual Penetration Testing Program
Penetration tests (also called “pentests”) are simulated cyber based attacks performed by ethical hackers to expose risks and vulnerabilities across your company’s network. Pentests are performed in phases often consisting of RECON, TARGETING, BREACH, PERSISTENCE, MIGRATION, and DATA EXFILTRATION. While these tests are often performed by in-house pen testers, it’s recommended to hire a professional cybersecurity team to run these exercises for you. Exercised regularly, pentests can drastically mitigate the risks associated of malicious attacks.
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About the Author
While he currently works with an ISP and DHS to aid in the efforts to enhance the bidirectional sharing relationship between the US Government and Commercial entities, his passion is educating network administrators and security engineers on best practices when securing your network.
David currently holds Pentest+ and CySA certificates.
The article has been originally published at: https://medium.com/@StandardUserCyber/top-10-cyber-security-fundamentals-for-small-to-medium-businesses-c1954886088f
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash