Businesses are investing more heavily in cybersecurity, due to greater knowledge of cyber threats and the increased damage that can be caused by a single breach. But many of those businesses aren’t sure about the fundamental aspects that make a cybersecurity strategy “work.”
The Fundamentals of Cybersecurity
As you can imagine, cybersecurity is a complex field, so reducing it to a handful of considerations is a disservice to its true nature. However, these basics can help you get a grasp on the most important areas of any strategy.
- High-level strategy and consulting. First, it’s important to set a high-level vision for your cybersecurity strategy, and have a professional around to help you identify weaknesses, allocate resources, and optimize your chosen tactics. To these ends, many businesses hire a cybersecurity consultant, who can step in and help them build a cybersecurity strategy from the ground up. Other business owners prefer to hire an in-house team, member by member. Still others attempt to do this work themselves—but this is typically only successful if executed by people with cybersecurity experience.
- Protecting devices. Next, it’s important to set up policies, procedures, and protective barriers to protect the devices that are used in your business. These include things like laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other devices that connect to the internet. Simple steps, like making sure all devices are protected with a password and installing antivirus software, can help protect your business at the device level. The ability to lock and erase devices is also important, to protect the information those devices contain. You’ll also want to create a comprehensive bring your own device (BYOD) policy if employees are going to use their own devices in any capacity within your business.
- Protecting points of connection. In addition to protecting individual physical devices on your network, you’ll need to protect your various points of connection. How are you connecting to the internet? How are you connecting to other devices? If left unprotected, a cybercriminal can take advantage of these connection points and exploit their vulnerabilities. You can increase your protection here with things like secured Wi-Fi and virtual private networks (VPNs). Of course, more advanced operations will require more sophisticated forms of protection.
- Protecting points of communication. Companies exchange sensitive data via email and other digital communication channels on a regular basis. How can you be sure that no one is listening in on those conversations? Unfortunately, many business owners neglect this fundamental aspect of cybersecurity, ultimately rendering their communication threads vulnerable to attack. Some companies use a service that encrypts their emails and automatically strips them of identifying information like IP location and metadata. However, there are many viable solutions that can work in this area.
- Backing up data. Most of the fundamentals on this list are geared toward preventing an attack, or mitigating the damage of an attack should one occur. However, it’s also important to set up your organization so that it can meaningfully recover if it is the target of a cyberattack. For example, one of the most important things you can do is back up your data regularly. If a cybercriminal manages to successfully launch a ransomware attack against your business, they could hold all your devices and all your data hostage, leveraging it for a ransom of cryptocurrency. However, if you’ve been backing up your information diligently, you can simply revert your systems to a previous version and render the attack useless.
- Training employees. Even the best layers of cybersecurity protection will be useless if one of your employees makes a critical error. For example, one of your team members could voluntarily give their login credentials to someone sufficiently skilled in the art of social engineering; if this happens, it doesn’t matter what kinds of firewalls or encryption you’re using. That’s why cybersecurity fundamentals also include employee training; your team should know how important security is, and should understand the best practices to follow.
- Evolving. Cybersecurity threats are always evolving, so your protection and mitigation strategy should be evolving as well. Stay up-to-date with the latest threats, have a plan to update your devices and software regularly, and be prepared to change your cybersecurity approach as needed over the years to come.
Beyond the Fundamentals
Most cybersecurity strategies and best practices are connected to one or more of these key fundamental areas in some way. However, just because you’ve addressed every point on this list doesn’t mean your cybersecurity strategy is sufficiently robust or comprehensive. It’s important to constantly revise and fine-tune your approach with the help of a cybersecurity expert; that way, you can be sure that you’re protecting yourself against threats as thoroughly as possible, and in accordance with the latest best practices.