THE BLOG
01/10/2017 01:05 pm ET Updated Jan 11, 2018

5 Ways to Improve Security of Your Business before a Breach

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Cyber security has been an issue for so long. And it's getting difficult to remember a time when companies didn't have to worry about it.

The number of cyber-attacks each year has risen to the extent that cases of compromising celebrity pics leaked are becoming old news.

The Security experts at Blue Coat report that 75.6 percent of organizations experienced a breach in 2015, up from 71 percent in 2014 and 62 percent in 2013.

Unfortunately, organizations aren't necessarily recognizing this rise in cyber-attacks. Blue Coat also reports that only 62 percent of organizations expect a breach over the course of a year.

As cybercrime rises, it's important to make sure that your company is protected. In the event that a breach does occur, you need to have procedures and training in place to mitigate damage and get things back to normal quickly.

Here are 5 ways to consider so as to improve the security of your business before a breach:

1. Enforce Secure Password Practices

Cyber-criminals don't necessarily need to sneak in the back door of your company's network. If they can get a hold of employees' passwords, then they can gain access by just logging as any employee would.

Teach your employees to keep their passwords secure. Change passwords regularly--every six months or so.

More often than that can lead to employees using weaker passwords, but regularly changing them can help to mitigate risks.

Strong passwords that are difficult for hackers to brute-force their way through are even more effective than regularly changing weak passwords.

2. Look for Your Weakest Areas--Then Shore Them Up

In order to reinforce gaps in security, you have to know where those gaps exist.

All too often, companies base their security decisions on assumptions and anecdotal "evidence." This can lead to serious oversights that can turn into major breaches in the company's infrastructure.

So make sure that your company regular runs security audits to quickly find and patch vulnerabilities.

Several options are available when you are deciding on which program to use. However, it's important that your option presents the data in a way that's easy to understand and act upon.

3. Create Protocols Beforehand to Handle Crises

Breaches occur even at companies who have incredibly robust security systems in place. You must make sure that your organization is prepared and ready to act in the case of a security breach.

Remember that speed is crucial when you are handling an active breach.

A report from Verizon shows that in over 60 percent of data breaches attackers were able to infiltrate in a matter of just a few minutes. All too often, a data breach isn't discovered until after it has already occurred.

In the words of John Long, the CEO of LDA Interactive, "It is important to ensure that all employees know their role in the case of a breach so that there is no confusion.

It is also crucial to plan out the steps each employee and department should follow in order to identify and isolate the breach. Doing this will keep attackers from accessing the most sensitive and valuable data."

This kind of sensitive data includes intellectual property, as well as private information about your customers and employees.

With so many tasks to accomplish in a short time, a system to keep track of what has been done and what remains to be completed is an important addition to your security protocols.

It's impossible to know exactly what will happen during any given breach, so a case management system can help to guide your teams through a crisis.

4. Cover the Basics

The first step to keeping your company secure is to put the basic defences in place. This includes things like anti-virus software, anti-spyware, and basic firewalls.

These programs are part of the first line of defense your company has against cyber-criminals, so make sure they are always in place.

When you're setting up defenses for your company's digital devices, don't forget to include mobile devices.

Mobile threats continue to rise each year, so make sure your employees have safeguards in place on any device they use to connect to the company's network.

5. Keep Things Patched

Installing security software is just the first step. Malware and other digital threats are constantly evolving, so your defenses need to evolve along with them.

Make sure that all of your software is up to date and install patches released by the publisher as soon as possible. This applies to applications whose main purposes aren't necessarily focused on security as well as dedicated security software.

As companies recognize vulnerabilities in their software, they will release updates that patch gaps, so make sure your software is updated to keep your network secure.

Keeping your company protected from digital threats can be frustrating and time-consuming, but it's nothing compared to the headache that an actual breach would cause.

By preparing and creating contingency plans, you can avoid that headache. Not only that, your company can focus on actually doing business, producing great products and optimal services.