You are here

Network Security - Stand Your Ground

There’s a sort of ‘special forces’ mythos surrounding hackers. High functioning super prodigies performing surgical attacks against a system, sneaking around and avoiding detection, stealing the data and getting out before anyone knows different. In the majority of cases though it’s more like someone walking down a street and trying the locks or even just shoulder barging doors and seeing which one pops.

A rule of thumb would be if you’re attracting the attention of serious hackers then you can afford the protection they require. This doesn’t mean you can ignore the door bargers though, they can still devastate your system in minutes, but you can help stop them with some simple techniques.

1.         Change your passwords regularly

It’s so basic but if people did it we’d stop saying it. Changing your password is one of the most effective ways to keep it secure. Schedule it, appoint a password officer to check, publicly tar and feather anyone who doesn’t. Do whatever it takes but do this and your I.T guys will thank you.

2.         Don’t use the same password for everything

Human beings are creatures of habit so the longer you have the same password for your business network the more likely you are to use it, or something similar, for another login and that dilutes its security. A business network is a spouse, other websites are that attractive person in the bar after a few drinks. You don’t use the same name because that’s just going to come back to bite you on the arse...

3.         Check your firewall doesn’t have open ports

...and you stick a barrier in the way because otherwise you’ll be bringing back something very expensive down the road. Seriously, the most common need for opening ports is so games consoles can connect to the internet. There might be a need for some software to have an open port but so long as your IT department are professionals then they can police it.

4.         Use long, complex passwords

Barging into a network by repeatedly hitting it with passwords is an archaic but still very viable way to compromise a network. The more characters you use, and the greater variety you put in like ? and @, the longer it will take for a hacking system to guess it. Time is one of the biggest factors in these kinds of attacks and the longer it takes the more chance automated security will have to pick up that something fishy is happening and stop it.

5.         Invest in your IT and do it smartly

Shocking I know but IT security doesn’t have to be expensive if you do it right. Forgive me for the old analogy but the poor man buys a cheap pair of shoes for £20 every six months and spends £200 in 5 years. The rich man buys one pair of shoes for £100 and they last 5 years. Putting that bit extra in the IT budget now, and spending it wisely, will save you thousands later.

6.         Protect your wireless network

An unsecured wireless network is literally throwing data into the air and hoping it goes where it’s meant to. Making sure your data is encrypted before it goes anywhere is a simple fix but it goes a long way to protecting your network. Wireless is also a very nice way in for a hacker so don’t put your business name on it and keep it password protected, otherwise you will be a target.

7.         Listen to your IT people, they are the experts.

When a doctor says “Don’t eat that, it will make you ill” we listen, because they know what they’re talking about. When an IT guy says “We need to change everyone's password” we say “Hmm really? seems like a lot of faff”. Here’s a little secret, it’s going to be a lot more faff for the IT guy. An average IT department will keep things ticking over, a great IT department will come to you with these suggestions because they know what needs doing. You pay them, trust them to do what’s right.

8.         Never use default passwords on your devices

Default passwords are pretty much as useful as no password at all. If manufacturers were as diligent as we’d like them to be it would be part of the setup that a device cannot be used until a new password has been set. Until we reach this utopia take the time to go check your devices and change any default passwords.

9.         Have good quality, regularly updated antivirus

Free anti-virus is fine for the home. There’s not usually more than a few computers to monitor and they won’t face anything much more severe than phishing attacks and trojans through emails or links. Businesses have to have fully implemented and network wide anti-virus because the concentration of devices in one place make it a sieve for intruders to get in through the holes. Free anti-virus simply won’t make the cut.

10.       Make regular off-site, encrypted backups

When people go on holiday they photocopy important documents like insurance and passports because they are important and you need a copy. The same rule applies to your business. Did you know that a ‘virtual’ copy of your server can be setup offsite and kept constantly updated with backups of the data produced on site? This means your premises and all the computers could burn in a fire and you could be back up and running the next day because all that important data, the data that keeps you going, is still safe. For a small business even basic cloud storage could be the difference between open doors and closed forever.