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IT security is a set of strategies designed to prevent unauthorized access to organizational assets, networks, and data. It can encompass both information security (infosec) and cybersecurity, and its goal is to maintain the security, integrity and confidentiality of private information and keep out unauthorized users and hackers. IT security presents threats and breaches that can negatively impact your business. When you enter your organization’s internal network, you should have confidence that only authorized user can access and make changes to the information that is there.
As hackers and their weapons evolve, so does the need for adequate IT security. While IT security can be expensive, it pales in comparison to the costs associated with security breaches which, at best, disrupt business continuity and at worst, can damage an organization’s reputation and cost a company far more. Breaches can damage the health of a small business, but an adept IT security team can follow a well devised incident response plan and mitigate damages, gaining control of the situation. In fact, According to Cybercrime Magazine, "sixty percent of small companies go out of business within six months of falling victim to a data breach or a cyber-attack.”
Threats to IT Security can come in the form of both internal and external. Common threats to IT security is malware, or malicious software that may infect devices in the form of ransomware, spyware, and viruses. In this series regarding the importance of IT security, we will investigate many of the types of IT security, common threats to IT security, and the best practices to put into place to secure your organization’s information, networks, and assets.
With a rapidly evolving threat landscape, it is important to note that no single IT security measure can protect against every risk. It is paramount that your IT Security strategy be multi-layered and multi-faceted.
IT Security can be broken down into different types of security—network security, endpoint security, and internet security.
Network Security protects your hardware and software networks from unauthorized access. Typically, it is the first step in providing IT security as it is these networks that contain the data which any further IT security strategy is designed to protect. Simply put, network security is designed to keep the bad guys out. As more and more endpoint users are in a network, this becomes a more delicate process. Good network security, according to the SANS Institute, “takes preventative measures to protect the underlying networking infrastructure from unauthorized access, misuse, malfunction, destruction, or improper disclosure, thereby creating a secure platform for computers, users and programs to perform their permitted critical functions within a secure environment.”
Network security begins with configuration and incorporates preventative measures. It also includes threat detection. Lastly, thorough network security includes a response strategy for when a breach or security incident occurs. Common methods of network security include two-factor authentication, application whitelisting, and end-to-end encryption.
Endpoint security focuses specifically on the devices involved on a network from a device level viewpoint (for example, laptops, cell phones, tablets, etc.). Each connection on a network increases an entity’s access to threats. In many ways, these are the most difficult of security threats to mitigate by sheer volume. Every individual user can jeopardize the health of a network, whether that is by allowing viruses in or letting valuable information out.
End-point protection prevents devices from accessing malicious networks that may be a threat to your larger organization at every vulnerable point and end-user encounters such as computers, mobile phones, other IoT devices, email clients, or any user-dependent gateway. It secures all individual devices and user-controlled entry and exit points.
Examples of end-point security protocols include the use of a virtual private network (VPN), training individuals to be aware of cyber threats such as phishing scams, advanced malware protection and device management software.
Internet Security deals largely with the transit of information. Internet Security protects the information that is sent and received in browsers, as well as network security involving web-based application. These protections monitor incoming internet traffic for malware as well as unwanted traffic. Internet Security is often referred to as Cybersecurity. It really is a catch-all term that includes any IT strategy designed to mitigate online threats. With an increased use of online services and cloud computing, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS), private, or hybrid cloud computing platforms, these virtual gateways are popular entry ways for would be internet bad guys.
This protection may come in the form of firewalls, antimalware, password managers, and antispyware. There are also specific internet security protocols designed specifically for cloud computing services that include data encryption, cloud access security brokers (CASB), and cloud-based unified threat management.
With all of these types of IT Security threats and checkpoints, most business are best to employ the use of IT Security specialists to make sure that every organization utilizes a multi-layered and multi-faceted approach to their IT Security.
Your IT Security plan should include letting your employees know of your IT Security plan. It also includes making sure that your employees are aware of the latest threats to security so that they do not fall prey to phishing scams and the like. This training should also include password guidelines, external download procedures, and general security practices. If your organization has compliance standards such as HIPAA to adhere to, this is doubly important. Something as simple as reminding employees to not open email attachments from unknown senders can be vital to protecting your organization from threats. Your employees, often considered the weakest link in IT Security, can also be your greatest asset when properly trained.
Do you have copies of your vital information? Where is this critical information stored? Who has access to it and how would this information be affected in the event of a cyberattack? Storing sensitive information backups in a secure off-site location will help with business continuity in the event of a threat or attack and provide a layer of protection.
Make sure that all company computers are updated whenever new security patches become available and that computers are not running on outdated software that is no longer protected, such as Windows 7. This also includes making sure that passwords are updated regularly. Remember the saying that passwords are like underwear—they should be exotic, changed often, and shared with no one.
With the rise of work from home due to Covid-19, many organizations find themselves relying on remote workers. While remote work can reduce overhead costs for organizations, it is not without its trouble for IT Security. Having a written work from home policy can be a huge step in the right direction to keeping your organization’s IT secure. This work from home policy again should include employee education and how to handle the use of personal devices. It also includes providing a VPN for your remote workers to help mitigate Wi-Fi breaches, installing the ability to remotely wipe a computer should it fall into the wrong hands, and lastly, a good work from home policy takes advantage of cloud computing which can add an extra layer of protection.
The chief goal of all IT Security protocols is to increase peace of mind for organizations, their employees, and their clients through keeping all private information private.