It's fitting that October--the month when ghouls and goblins hide behind masks and play their tricks on unwitting victims--is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It's time to step back and assess the risks you face at the hands of villains in cyberspace.
Turns out, the risks are immense. This year alone, giants in the tech, banking, and defense sectors have been hacked and lost confidential customer data and top-secret information at the hands of cybercriminals.
What You Need to Know
According to research by the National Cyber Security Alliance, two in three small businesses say their operations are dependent on the Internet daily; meanwhile, more than three-quarters do not have a formal written security policy for employees, nearly half of owners surveyed don't provide Internet safety training, and only half completely wipe their machines of data before disposal. And now, the convenience of doing business on mobile phones only adds to the risk.
From where I'm sitting in the heart of Silicon Valley, the idea of a central office is a relic of the past. Employees work from home, planes, and remote locations all over the world. Yet there are plenty of CEOs out there with remote and mobile teams who aren't aware of the growing threats they face. Because I own a security company, I'd encourage executives to educate their work force about the many risks that go along with working remotely.
I recently attended CTIA MobileCon in San Diego, where executives from multibillion-dollar companies such as Symantec and IBM presented on the importance for employees to secure their mobile devices and communications. The challenge is that employees now have both personal and corporate apps on their devices, making it critically important for IT departments to be able to lock down or erase corporate information should a smartphone be lost or infected by malware. Mobile is the future, and thus protecting smartphones and tablets is extremely important for corporations and individuals.
If you don't know where to start, here are a few ideas:
Make sure you have the latest technology on your computers and smartphones to proactively protect your apps, browsing, and identity online. Ensure that both your personal and corporate data are protected by using strong and up-to-date security tools, making yourself anonymous when you browse, and locking down Wi-Fi networks with a personal VPN. Whenever possible, protect your Web communications by conducting your business over HTTP(S) and using the latest malware protection technologies.
Educate your employees about the importance of ensuring all data is under lock and key. Most people have antivirus protection on their devices, but what about the valuable information exchanged online that isn't protected by antivirus? From creating strong passwords and changing them often to using encryption tools that secure every webpage your employees visit, education and awareness are key.
This month, devote a few extra minutes to helping others--your families, friends, and teams--understand how to stay private and secure online. See one of your team members surfing the Web without using a firewall or antivirus? Recommend your favorite one. Got a friend who's logging on to a free, unsecured hot spot to check his account balance? Remind him that can probably wait until later. We as a whole online community can spread awareness of cybersecurity. Do your part to take a stand against the bad guys.