With the holidays upon us and a variety of popular tech items topping 2016 wish lists, it’s easy to overlook how frustrating these devices can be. New smartphone models spontaneously self-destruct – or hit the market missing key components. Software updates inadvertently delete precious data. Redesigned laptops suffer from basic compatibility issues. Printers, sadly, continue to jam.
Fresh security challenges seem to rear their ugly heads every day, too. From holiday shopping scams to daily data breaches to evolving ransomware threats, the digital landscape is increasingly volatile. And experts expect it to stay that way in 2017. So what can businesses and employees do to safeguard data, beef up security, and maintain some semblance of online privacy?
1. Use strong passwords.
This should be a no-brainer, but every day we receive new reports of hacked passwords (often of the “password123” variety) leading to easy system infiltration and data loss. Make sure you have strong passwords — at least 8 characters including lower- and upper-case letters, numbers, and symbols — in place on your desktop, laptop, smartphone, and any other connected device.
2. Enable two-factor authentication and consider a robust password manager.
Two-factor authentication currently represents the best balancing act between security and accessibility when it comes to email, financial accounts, social media, and cloud services. Two-factor authentication requires a combination of credentials — usually a password and a six-digit code automatically sent to your phone — to prevent invalid logins. In addition, enterprise-level password management solutions can automatically manage the setting, rotating, resetting, and removal of user passwords. Hopefully they can eliminate the old sticky note method of password reminders forever, too.
3. Beware of public Wi-Fi.
Sure, we all have to use it at some point to get work done on the road. But since anyone else can access the same network you’re on (and hackers can exploit it with woefully basic tools), you should avoid financial transactions, password resets, file transfers, and other transmissions of personably identifiable information. If you only need a few minutes of connectivity, consider using your phone as an Internet hotspot; otherwise, plunk down a few bucks and buy a drink so you can gain access to a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop’s private Wi-Fi network. It’s still not as secure as can be, but it’s far better than joining that unprotected public network.
4. Give your data the backup it deserves.
No, an external hard drive sitting next to your computer doesn’t count. What if a fire or flood strikes, or a break-in occurs, or a virus infects every machine connected to your network? Say goodbye to all that carefully stored data. The only surefire way to survive a data catastrophe caused by natural disaster, human error, or bad Internet actors is via remote, regular, and redundant data backup. That means frequent backups performed automatically with encrypted transmission of data to different servers located in different parts of the country. Of course, good backups mean nothing unless you
5. Put a cyber incident and disaster recovery response plan in place.
So you’ve got good backups executed on a regular basis and stored somewhere outside your office. Do you know how to access them in case of catastrophic data loss? Can you virtualize your systems and dial up yesterday’s operating environment in the event of a devastating natural disaster? Having a reliable, tested, and actionable plan in place to deal with IT problems BEFORE they occur is absolutely necessary to succeed in the face of adversity.
Have questions about how you can keep your company, your employees, and your information safe this holiday season? Want to put the security and privacy tips outlined above into action but aren’t sure how? Contact CMIT Solutions today. We worry about IT so you don’t have to and we specialize in protecting our clients’ entire technology ecosystem.