Companies are always at risk from both hackers and intellectual property thieves. While there’s some overlap between the two, hackers are sometimes “just” looking to disrupt an organization for the challenge of it while others could be state sponsored, trying to steal U.S. intellectual property from behind the firewall.

In this article, we cover some of the different types of actions that businesses can take using smarter procedures and technology with the aim of protecting themselves. 

Network Security 101

Whether you’re using a wired or wireless network in the office, network security is of paramount importance. 

While essential to running any business, networks are at risk from people outside the building trying to hack into the Wi-Fi network, possible network manipulation from temporary employees who wish to meddle while covering a maternity leave, and online threats from people trying to get into the corporate network. 

Companies must use software that provides a multi-layered firewall, often both a hardware firewall and software ones, to protect the network from intrusion. Software capable of tracking intrusions and attempts at the same time is needed to deal with live threats. 

It’s also necessary to consider unintentional risks like an employee being careless with the websites they visit or software they install on a laptop. When bringing the laptop into the company and connecting it to the company’s network, a potential virus or malware they’ve picked up could then make its way onto the office network.

Hacking Your Company to Test Its Defenses

One of the best ways to know if your company’s network is sufficiently protected it to attempt to breach the security that’s been setup. 

This is not a new strategy – banks have done this to test their procedures against attempted robberies and see if what they think will protect them actually does!

Obviously, this must be carried out either by trusted employees or a third-party security experts who are being monitored every step of the way. Inviting someone to test defenses is one thing, but care must be taken to not invite a threat in through the front door. 

However, when defenses aren’t tested, how can the IT security team know what they’ve setup is adequate to the task? Or, indeed, that the staff are adequate too?

Digital Forensics

Digital forensics is there to deal with potential network and data problems should they arise. It is a sub-set of cyber security, which mostly deals with the aftermath, the subsequent investigation and sometimes makes recommendations. It’s useful for companies to roleplay different scenarios in order for staff to become more experienced and keep up with the latest techniques. 

Technically, it’s a process by which companies can locate, save, review, and analyze digital information. Within a company, it’s very useful to determine what has happened with the network and data records. If the network was breached, what was examined, which files were opened, what was altered (perhaps in a malicious way), and how far does the damage extend?

People who are knowledgeable in the field of digital forensics can often make recommendations about how the company can proceed based on what’s occurred and how damaged the file systems (and other parts of the computer network) are. 

Digital Records Recovery

Following digital forensics, the ability to recover data from damaged drives is important and a skill that the IT team should have. 

Procedures should be created based on the right approach to deal with files that have been damaged or temporarily deleted. Furthermore, companies will occasionally experience a faulty hard drive causing data to be lost. This is a similar situation and a good opportunity for staff to work on a real-world problem. 

By learning to use different specialized recovery software tools, staff can appreciate which software is most appropriate under various data recovery scenarios. Choosing wisely could potentially save a company from losing even more data. 

Hiring and Developing an IT Security Team

Whether opting to hire security specialists as part of your in-house IT or starting with general technology personnel, someone needs to be well-versed in security. However, it’s a vast field that moves very quickly, so it’s not beneficial to employ computer engineers whose main focus is elsewhere but who also doubles (or dabbles) in security matters. 

Companies that can afford to should have a small dedicated team just for cyber security to stay on top of everything that matters in this area. They will work within the computer department and liaise regularly with other IT staff, but security should be their main concentration. 

To develop the team, some staff would benefit from studying for a masters in cyber security. This type of course would give them a broad exposure to many aspects of this fascinating topic along with learning the right procedures to follow. When a staff member takes a masters in cyber security online, they can do so without needing to regularly attend the college campus, which is far more convenient. They’ll get to learn about the latest online threats and relevant defenses, all while staying at your company.

Is It Better to Outsource Security to Specialist Firms?

For smaller companies that lack the budget, IT department size, or the will to manage security aspects in-house, an alternative approach is outsourcing to a specialist security firm. These companies can review, offer recommendations, and make changes to your existing network setups in order to lock security tighter and improve defenses. 

If you have someone performing double duty as a network manager and the security advisor, it’s helpful to have their work reviewed by an outside team for errors. Doing so is an excellent extra step towards providing greater protection against a cyber-attack that would have to be made public if customer records were accessed. To protect any customer records and the business brand, going the extra mile is worth doing. 

There is much that can and must be done to protect a company against security concerns. Using third-party verified procedures ensures established best practices are followed correctly and entirely adequate. Company owners should view these necessary measures as a form of business insurance.