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8 Tips on how to secure a business network

Hybrid working has created new challenges for organisations when it comes to network security. In today’s digital world, network security has never been more important for businesses.

This is doubly true in the era of the hybrid office. While hybrid working comes with significant benefits for organisations and their colleagues, there are also new cybersecurity threats and risks to be aware of.

Network security is vital to protect your business and reputation, but it can be particularly challenging for small and medium businesses with smaller budgets and fewer resources. Before we look at our recommendations for making your network more secure, let’s start with the basics.

What is network security? The term network security essentially describes the processes and software you have in place to protect your computer network and all of your information. This can take many forms and is often categorised into three areas – physical, technical, and administrative – although it’s ultimately all about protecting your systems and data. Now you know what it is, how can you ensure your business network is secure?

1. Use SSL certificates

Protecting your company’s networks and servers with an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate – and using HTTPS if you’re involved in ecommerce – is an absolute necessity. SSL certificates provide a secure, encrypted connection between an organisation’s servers and clients like mail apps or web browsers. With an SSL certificate, you can have full confidence that no data being shared between the two can be taken by a third party. The certificate affirms the identity of the server before authenticating it, then establishes an encrypted communication channel using a public and private key pairing. You can see this in action whenever a secure padlock symbol appears beside a website URL when using a browser.

2. Update router firmware

Router firmware is software that comes pre-installed on your device. It should be updated at least once every year to keep up with the latest cyber threats and hacking attacks. While small businesses may overlook this due to budgetary concerns, it’s a false economy as outdated router firmware can leave organisations vulnerable to hacking. Ensuring your router firmware is regularly updated to remove any bugs or vulnerabilities is highly recommended.

3. Use WPA2

WPA2 stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access2. It is a security protocol that uses the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) algorithm – one of the strongest and most complex available – to safeguard your Wi-Fi network. Anything less than WPA2 could leave you vulnerable. That’s because every device that connects to your network could undermine its security if the device itself isn’t adequately protected. Each device presents a potential entry point to your systems and data, so you’ll want to ensure your Wi-Fi network puts up as many preventative firewalls as possible.

4. Implement a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) offers a safe, encrypted internet connection that masks your users’ IP addresses and protects their activity and data. This is ideal for remote workers because it reduces the risk of information being intercepted as it travels between networks. VPN services also come with a range of security features for detecting unsafe connections and can disconnect devices if they notice a data leak. Your teams can also use a VPN anywhere, which should help protect home workers from accidentally using a vulnerable public network.

5. Set up a firewall

Firewalls act as an essential barrier between your network and potential criminals, filtering and screening visitors by IP address and detecting malicious requests. It is also possible, and recommended, to install an internal firewall as well as an external one. You can combine hardware and software-based firewalls for added protection. Like your router firmware, it’s crucial that you regularly update your firewall to ensure it is equipped to handle the latest threats.

6. Train colleagues on cybersecurity

Education is vital. A large percentage of data breaches and security problems arise through human error. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated your network security technology is if staff don’t know how to use it correctly or make basic errors, which leave them and the organisation vulnerable. Hybrid offices and working from home may also lead to a more casual attitude to security, such as using personal devices for work or public Wi-Fi, and that could be costly.

It’s important for workers to take personal responsibility for staying safe online and also for organisations to ensure thorough and ongoing cybersecurity training with sufficient resources available to support staff. Examples of good practice to instill through training could include how to create strong passwords and using two-factor authentication for an extra layer of security.

7. Use IPS or IDS

IPS and IDS are systems designed to protect your network. IPS stands for Intrusion Prevention System, while IDS is Intrusion Detection System. While similar, the key difference between the two is that IDS is designed to alert you to an attack, while IPS acts to prevent it. Some organisations have both systems in place for maximum protection. Also, where possible, look for devices that include Automatic Intrusion Detection features to ensure that no backdoors are left open to your network.

8. Disable file sharing

Collaboration is vital to the successful running of a distributed workforce, however taking steps such as disabling file sharing can actually boost security, where leaving it enabled could allow all users on that Wi-Fi connection with the ability to access your organisation’s files. There are also risks from hacking, malware infection, or sensitive information being lost or stolen. Implementing a cloud-based and/or password protected system allows for the best of both worlds.

Summary

Just as organisations have transitioned to hybrid working to keep up with the times, cyber criminals and hackers are becoming more sophisticated too. A hybrid workforce, distributed between offices and home, is a major target for criminals looking to exploit potential vulnerabilities in network security. As well as the tips outlined above, there are several blind spots that many organisations forget to consider, including device and document security. We have explored these in detail in our e-book on print security.

Brother’s expertly engineered printers, scanners, and all-in-one devices have been designed with business security in mind. We provide ongoing expert support for security-conscious organisations looking to move to a hybrid working model of operation. Additionally, our managed print services (MPS) offer IT teams the ability to take control of business security when it comes to their office technology. Alongside a range of benefits, from increased productivity and efficiency to reduced costs, MPS ensures no element of network, device and document security is overlooked.

Visit our Get Hybrid Smart hub for more of the insight and resources you need to make informed decisions on everything from the policies to the technologies that underpin secure hybrid working.

 

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