12 Ways an IT Provider Can Improve Cybersecurity at Your Company

Many small and medium businesses know that cybersecurity is important, but it seems out of reach. Doing it right seems like too large an investment. And most small businesses don’t have an IT staff with the necessary qualifications to develop and set up a robust cybersecurity strategy — much less maintain it.

One solution to the small-business cybersecurity conundrum is contracting with a qualified managed IT provider, one that has the depth and experience to support a robust cybersecurity response in addition to your general IT needs. Not convinced an IT provider like Southeastern Technical can improve cybersecurity at your company? Here are 12 specific ways we can.

1: Automatically Deploy Software Updates/Security Patches at Night

One of the most common ways that bad actors get access to corporate networks is through software vulnerabilities. Typically, once a vulnerability is discovered in a piece of software, the software developer will release a fix or a patch that plugs the hole.

This is a good thing, of course. But there is a risk here: once that vulnerability is well-known, any bad guy with the right technical know-how can try to exploit it. If your systems aren’t up to date, they will be vulnerable to any number of attack vectors. All it takes is the right person looking in the right place, and they will find a way into your system.

Why do software updates go uninstalled and security holes go unpatched? Because it takes work to stay on top of all this, and the updates take time. Your staff doesn’t want to stop working in the middle of the day, so they delay these updates as long as possible. And your in-house IT team can only be in so many places at once.

When you partner with a managed IT company, everything changes. Your services partner can automatically deploy any needed software updates or security patches for you. In most cases, they can do so at night when no one’s in the office, too. Your team saves time, and your network and machines stay secure.

2: Set Up an Isolated Guest Network to Protect Network Resources

Depending on your industry, providing Wi-Fi access to clients and guests ranges from a nice perk to an absolute necessity. But allowing guests (or, worse, anyone at all) onto your main wireless network is a risky move. A technically savvy bad actor posing as a client or guest could discover a way into sensitive network resources that are on the same network as your corporate Wi-Fi.  

The simplest solution here is to set up a separate isolated guest network that provides the necessary internet access, but that is completely separate from your sensitive network resources. Setting up this kind of network is neither complicated nor expensive, though doing it right does require professional expertise. Any IT provider of quality will be able to set this up for your business.

3: Manage Your Company’s Backups

For modern businesses that rely on data of any kind, an effective backup system is essential to business continuity in the event of equipment failure or even natural disaster. Chances are, you have some sort of backup system set up already. But do you know when your backup system was last checked? Are you absolutely sure that it is functioning right now, and that the backups being created are actually usable?

By its very nature, a backup system runs in the background. It’s easy to forget about them. But if your backup system isn’t running properly at the moment you discover you need it, the consequences are dire.

You need a dedicated resource that can continuously monitor your backup systems, dealing with any errors promptly. You don’t want any lapses in your backups, and you want to be certain that there’s always redundancy through a combination of local, remote and cloud backups.

You may not have the in-house resources to keep up with this, but your IT provider does.

4: Provide Cybersecurity and Phishing Training

One of the biggest security weaknesses at every company is the people working there. Not everyone on your staff is entirely tech-savvy, which is why cybercriminals often target people rather than systems.

Most attacks like this are called phishing attacks. Phishing attacks are when a bad actor poses as a well-known company or maybe even an internal resource at your company. Most such attacks take the form of an email, usually urgent-sounding, directing people to click the link to what looks like Microsoft or Google or their bank or whatever.
Of course, the link doesn’t take them where they think it will. They’re asked to log in, and when they do, they’ve just given their access credentials to some hacker somewhere.
Training is one of the best defenses against this kind of attack, and managed IT firms often provide this kind of training as part of their services.

5: Train Staff on Good Password Hygiene

Along the same lines, your staff is likely prone to using very poor password hygiene. It’s human nature to try to make things easier for ourselves, and so people reuse passwords, or they create passwords that are far too simple and easily guessed.
As a part of a managed IT service agreement, an IT provider can provide training on good password hygiene, so your staff knows what they need to do.

6: Implement a Business-Grade Password Manager

Knowing what to do is one thing. Actually getting your staff to do it is another. The entire password system is very frustrating and hard to use, but easy for hackers to beat.

Implementing a business-grade password manager, such as 1password, is an ideal solution that an IT provider can help you set up. It removes the barrier of remembering dozens of login credentials and increases security by requiring very complex passwords.

7: Configure and Maintain Access Control on Your Company’s Network

Larger businesses would never dream of allowing all employees to access any file anywhere on the corporate network. Many of those files are incredibly sensitive and could cause serious damage in the wrong hands.

Small businesses have (or should have) the same exact concerns, but often they don’t put the necessary barriers in place to prevent unauthorized access.

Access control is the solution to this problem. By setting up access control, an IT provider can help you limit who has access to what areas of the network. By limiting access only to those files that an employee should need, you reduce the risk of files being stolen, corrupted or even accidentally deleted.

8: Disable USB Drive Recognition

USB thumb drives can be incredibly convenient: you can carry massive amounts of data with you and copy it to whatever system you need. But there is a dark side to having something so powerful be so portable. It’s extremely easy to surreptitiously plug in a thumb drive, often in a place where it won’t be noticed. 

Most TV “hacking” is laughably fake, but not this one. Bad guys really do steal files using these drives like you see on TV.

Another concern with USB drives is that they can easily be contaminated with malware, which gets transferred to the host device when the drive gets plugged in. Your own people could unknowingly be spreading malicious code through your organization’s IT assets.

While this isn’t the right move for every business, it is possible to disable USB drive recognition completely. Doing so may create some minor inconvenience, but it will greatly increase safety protections for your business.

9: Recommend and Set Up Healthy Physical Security Practices

Great cybersecurity starts with the right physical security of your network assets. For example, your on-premises server should be kept behind locked doors, and only those with proper authorization should ever be allowed behind those doors. Similarly, all of your workstations should require a credential login for use. And you want to institute good physical security in any room that has computers on the network. 

There are devices that can be hidden between a computer or server and an ethernet cable that can essentially skim the data that is transmitted along the cable. And bad actors who initiated a successful phishing campaign may already possess some stolen credentials that would allow them to log on to a workstation.

For these reasons and more, physical security is the foundation of good cybersecurity. A security-minded IT provider can give guidance in this area as well.

10: Install and Configure a Security Appliance

An IT provider can recommend, install and configure a security appliance for your organization, something like a Fortinet or Sonicwall. These devices act as security firewalls between the protected network and the public world. They will greatly increase your security by limiting what traffic can get into your network.

Allowing some traffic into your network might sound alarming, but this is normal. You can’t wholly wall yourself off from the outside world because your devices need to access stuff that’s not on your local network. The trouble comes when you allow more access to your network than you should — and getting this right is what a properly configured security appliance can do for you.

11: Proactively Recommend and Implement Software and Hardware Upgrades

The older and more established your company is, the more likely it is that you’re dealing with aging equipment and software. It doesn’t make fiscal sense to replace everything every year, and you’ll never want to have to replace all your equipment at the same time, either.  

Older hardware and software can begin to become a security concern, though. Hardware that’s still functioning but is no longer supported by the manufacturer is ripe for exploitation through vulnerabilities like we discussed back in the first section.

There’s also the productivity factor. Do you have anyone on your team that’s regularly looking for the newest hardware and software that could help your business move forward? Even if you do, can you afford (in terms of both money and time/resources) to try out every promising solution, knowing that some of them won’t actually help?

An IT provider has already done this work. We can proactively recommend and implement software and hardware upgrades for you, filtering out the subpar solutions and focusing on the ones that will help you increase accuracy and efficiency.

12: Set Up Effective Antivirus, DNS Protection, Anti-Spam and Endpoint Protection

There are a whole host of other powerful cybersecurity tools that may be out of reach for your in-house IT team but are simple for a managed IT firm to implement. Antivirus solutions, DNS protection, anti-spam measures and endpoint protection are just a few of these.

Whatever your cybersecurity needs, you need an IT provider you can trust. Southeastern Technical has the experience and depth to create a robust cybersecurity plan for you, and we can manage that plan to make sure it stays current and up to date. Want to learn more? Reach out today.

About Southeastern Technical

We help leaders discover how they can have stable, reliable information technology (IT), so their organizations can experience fewer IT problems and security threats.

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