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Data Authentication Rules for Business Networks

The advent of the internet and information technology has brought forth numerous opportunities for businesses, especially small and medium enterprises. These technologies have enabled businesses to streamline their workflows and generate more savings.

Yet, the challenge of network security always persists in running small and medium enterprises. Indeed, the fact that small businesses have lesser resources for network security makes them soft targets for hackers and cybercriminals. According to a recent study, 22% of all small businesses have been at the receiving end of cyberattacks.

To avoid getting the onslaught of such cyber threats, it is imperative that small businesses take steps for tackling this menace by improving their network security infrastructure and sticking to data authentication rules.

Below are some rules, or should we say guidelines, to help small business enterprises maintain a secure and reliable network, and prevent them from falling victim to cyber-attacks.

1. Educated and aware employees

Human error accounts for the largest share of threats to network security for small and medium enterprises, one of the biggest network security threats to small businesses. As per a report, about 90% of data breach reports received by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) were due to human error.

A 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon attributed 21% of data breaches to expensive human errors. This data only goes to show the importance of educating employees regarding network security so that data breaches are avoided. It is very common for employees to commit mistakes such as parting with vital information through phishing scams, not logging out of accounts on shared computers, downloading malware, using weak passwords, etc. These mistakes can cost small businesses hugely.

Employees must acquaint themselves with how to steer clear of phishing attacks, and the course of action to follow if they are at the receiving end of such an attack. Also, employees need to be regularly counseled to keep the software systems they use in the discharge of their duties regularly updated.

This applies to both personal as well as company devices. It is the duty of the particular business to ensure strict compliance with network security policies covering devices, network security application policies, and password strength.

2. Shield your network with a Firewall

A firewall is critical to the network security of your business. It guards your network infrastructure against cybercriminals. A firewall offers the best solutions to beat the problem of data leaks over the network. If you are desirous of more protection, you can install an internal firewall apart from the standard external firewall.

Not only does a firewall filter network traffic based on IP address, but it can also detect and block harmful network requests. Since newer cyber threats to your network arise every passing moment, it is important to regularly update the firewall package.

3. Secure your website

A secure website is of paramount importance for successful business activity. When your business has a secure website, you are likely to gain more conversions. Customers today are increasingly aware of network security issues, and a secure website will give your business an edge over your peers.

Businesses can add security to their websites by installing what is known as a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) to shield their website. Having SSL Certificates makes all financial transactions taking place through the browser secure. These include data transfers, logins, credit card transactions, and more.

The appearance of a green padlock on the left of the website indicates that the website is SSL-enabled. Secure Socket Layer helps in encrypting the connection between the server and browser. This safeguards website visitor’s data from being hacked or attacked by cybercriminals. Installing an SSL certificate will not only help the business website earn employee trust but also help improve your site’s ranking.

4. Multi-factor Authentication

Employees commit mistakes while handling the IT elements of the businesses. But an extra layer of security to your business’ IT resources can help avoid big data security let-ups. Multi-factor authentication is simply a data/network security architecture that requires a 2 (or more)-step authentication instead of just one. Two-factor authentication is common nowadays with most social networking sites adopting it.

5. Need for a VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is very important to the network security of your business since it allows access to you and the internet through an encrypted tunnel that masks your activity and data. You should invest in a high-quality VPN for your business.

6. WiFi Security

WiFi is one of the lowest hanging fruits for cybercriminals to break into your IT infrastructure. So, it’s important to regulate access to your company’s WiFi. For a start, use a strong and well-encrypted password for your WiFi network. You may even try and hide your network so that the router is not able to show your WiFi network on nearby devices.

You can also recommend your employees to download network security apps on their smartphones. These apps notify whenever there is a breach in your network.

7. Update all your Software Tools

All your software packages come with an expiry/renewal date. Software tools that have become outdated pose a greater risk to your business network security. One out of three data breaches results from unpatched bugs in software. So, to avoid these pitfalls, it is advisable to use only updated software

8. Implement Mobile Device Security

While personal mobile devices are a great asset in your hand, they pose cyber risks to the business. Bringing a personal phone to work has many benefits for your business, but it comes with it great network security risks. Businesses must come up with suitable policies and techniques to keep employees’ phones from becoming the proverbial weakest link for the network security of your business.

9. Limit the information your employee has access to

There should be a limit on what amount of classified company information can be shared with employees. This is to prevent or minimize data loss in cases when employees’ account get hacked.

10. Secure Payment Gateways

Customers are attracted to your business if they know and trust your digital payment infrastructure. To secure your digital payment infrastructure, your payment gateways need to be secured as these are most vulnerable to cyber-attacks. To do this, you may choose a third-party payment processor such as PayPal.

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