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Cybersecurity checklist for businesses

Cyber Security Checklist for Businesses in 2024

It’s easy to think cyberattacks only happen to big corporations, but businesses of all sizes are targets. From stolen customer information to disrupted operations, the risks are very real. Think of all the hours you’ve invested, the sacrifices you’ve made, and the trust you’ve built with your customers. 

This cyber security checklist gives security admins and business owners tips to protect the business they’ve worked so hard to build.

Business Cyber Protection Plan for 2024

A cybersecurity strategy consists of policies and actions and it is often quite easy to confuse between them. To keep things simple, we will segregate the necessary policies from the essential action items so that the cybersecurity checklist is easier to navigate.

13 Simple Steps for Powerful Business Cyber Defense

Every enterprise needs to have a set of clearly stated, easily accessible, and comprehensive cybersecurity policies to make it easier for employees to partake in the cybersecurity plan, avoid scams and social engineering, and maintain a strong personal security posture. Security policies are also important for endowing security admins with better control and vigilance.

1. Acceptable use policy

Acceptable use policy or AUP is an umbrella term that covers policies regarding the authorized usage of software, hardware, and information resources owned by a business. The AUP governs the use of company data and network resources; it plays a crucial role in keeping the network secure. 

The acceptable use policy

  • Authorizes and prohibits specific uses of network resources
  • Sets the protocols for application usage and data usage by employees
  • Offers guidelines regarding the appropriate usage of mediums of communication like emails.

Businesses need to have a carefully documented and well-circulated acceptable use policy. Not only does it help reduce security risks but also provides a legal edge in the event of a breach.

2. Principle of least privilege

The principle of least privilege dictates that individuals receive only the privileges they need for as long as they need it. Adopting this principle as a security policy can help businesses strengthen their cybersecurity posture. It involves setting up a culture where access to data and network resources is granted only if necessary and revoked as soon as the need is met. This can go a long way in terms of protecting customer information, and business data from erroneous exposure.

3. Password policy

Passwords are the building blocks of a company’s security wall against cyber attacks. Hence, it is important to have a well-knit password policy that takes into account the existing password habits of the employees, the overall IT strategy, and the balance between company-owned resources and employee-owned resources used within the organization. 

The password policy defines

  • What kind of passwords should be created and how often they should be updated
  • How the passwords are stored, shared, and inserted during the authentication process
  • How the passwords for shared accounts are handled
  • How the company enforces two-factor authentication (2FA)

The password policy should have clear instructions for employees regarding password handling and sharing; it should also have definitive guidelines to follow if there is a breach or a password is compromised. The goal is to have no place for confusion or panicked action when it comes to passwords.

4. Incident response plan

Even the most well-prepared enterprise can fall prey to a cyberattack. It is important to have a clear plan of action for a situation like that.

A company needs designated people to deal with a data breach or any different kind of cyber security incident like a ransomware attack, a DDoS attack, or a data exposure. A data breach response plan can help a business minimize downtime, avoid penalties, and control losses. 

5. Anti-phishing policy

It is common for employees to face phishing emails, baits, watering hole attacks, and all kinds of social engineering attacks. Employees must know how to avoid social engineering attacks, especially, phishing, but they also need definitive guidelines for situations where they do fall victim to such an attack or even if they encounter one.

They should know

  • Where to report the attack
  • Who to discuss it with
  • How to minimise the impact of the attack 

They should also know that reporting the attack will not cause them any professional harm. Well-articulated policies around handling phishing help both the employees and the company. 

Security Activity Checklist for SMBs

So far, we have been discussing policies. Now, we will talk about specific action items that are crucial for a strong security posture. Some of the activities complement the policies and some stand on their own.   

6. Use an enterprise-grade password management solution

Stolen passwords and passwords exposed in phishing attacks directly contribute to at least a third of all successful data breaches. Password management is a crucial area for a business to invest in. Browser-based password managers do not cut it when it comes to enterprise password management. 

Note: A strong password is not enough. It’s the quality of encryption and the strength of the decryption key that really stumps cybercriminals.  

Teams need a password management solution that comes with a strongly encrypted vault, a way of sharing encrypted passwords and monitoring password health.

Advanced password management tools such as Uniqkey offer robust access management features on top of the regular password management functionalities. For instance, it allows the access manager to monitor access trails, share and revoke access centrally and makes vigilance simple.

7. Use an encrypted email server

Email communications generally happen in plaintext. Such communications can be intercepted in man-in-the-middle attacks. It is recommended that companies use an encrypted email server so that the communications are end-to-end encrypted and even if the data packets are sniffed or intercepted, the hackers cannot get access to the data being shared in plaintext.

8. Take control of Shadow IT 

Small businesses are prone to encourage employees to use their personal desktop and mobile devices, subscribe to a hybrid or remote work culture, and allow employees to use cloud-based tools of their choice to get stuff done. This often creates an environment where the IT department isn’t in full control of the infrastructure used within the organisation or its security for that matter.

One of the best security practices that businesses can adopt is to have a shadow IT monitoring and management system that simplifies vigilance for the security admins and the IT departments.

9. Deploy firewall, malware scanner, and antivirus

These three are very basic to any cyber security strategy. You need frequent malware scans and cleanups to ensure a healthy system, a firewall allows you to block traffic from untrusted sources, and an antivirus helps you prevent malicious software from entering and staying in your system.  

  • Make sure your firewall and antivirus are updated and active
  • Oftentimes developers turn off firewalls during operations. Ensure they are turned back on.
  • Use an automated malware scanner

10. Keep applications, plugins, and browser extensions up to date

More often than not software updates come with security patches. So, if you are using a software application that has launched a new update with a security patch and you do not update your instance of the application, you risk falling prey to whatever security threat was patched.

Keeping every software application, plugin, and browser extension up to date is among the best practices when it comes to cybersecurity.

11. Run regular vulnerability assessments

Having a continuous vulnerability assessment protocol in place is crucial for businesses especially fast-moving startups that embrace the DevOps culture. You can use a cloud-based vulnerability scanning tool that integrates with your company’s development pipeline. It helps you detect security risks in the applications. 

Even if you are not building applications or developing software, it’s ideal to have a third-party security team test your company’s security strength at least twice a year.

12. Keep backups 

Businesses need to keep backups of important network resources, sensitive data, and all information that is central to running the enterprise. Backups ensure that even if a company gets affected by ransomware, they have a chance of getting out of it unscathed. 

13. Conduct security awareness training

Cybersecurity is no longer an exclusive IT affair. It involves every department of a business and affects every individual. Hence it is necessary that cybersecurity training be organized for all employees at least once a quarter. Anybody can be targeted with a phishing campaign, so it’s only fair that everybody prepares to thwart one.

The cybersecurity awareness training and ensuing drills also help build a security-aware culture at the workspace where people learn to think security first while taking any action.

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The importance of following a cybersecurity checklist

As the cyber threat landscape evolves security measures must follow suit. Cybersecurity in 2024 will differ from that in 2023, even if slightly. A lot of money is being poured into data protection across industries and yet billions of dollars are lost to cyberattacks every month. The point is, that security is hard, and small businesses need a plan. A cybersecurity checklist for businesses offers that very plan.

  • Following a checklist means it’s harder for you to miss anything important
  • It becomes easier to point your finger at the location of failure when one takes place
  • You are likely to save a lot of time and money by removing confusion and indecision from the cybersecurity strategy 

Come 2024, be ready with a cybersecurity plan that complements your business model and helps you prepare for incidents while trying your best to avoid them. This checklist will be your foundation.