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4 quick cyber security tips every employee should follow

29 August 2017

Whilst most would assume the majority of cyber security breaches are the result of external weaknesses, your weakest security link is actually inside your business, sitting at your desk right now.

All too often cyber criminals are able to gain access to companies’ systems due to employee negligence, error or ignorance. According to a survey by Experian, more than half of organisations attribute a breach or security incident to a malicious of a negligent employee.

quick cybersecurity tips for all employees

Protecting your company begins with employee education and training. If users are not aware of the risks out there and how their actions could potentially impact the business then the danger will continue to exist. Although businesses should already have security solutions in place, there are a few simple things employees can do which will help bolster that protection.

1. Always update apps and software

Although updates can be annoying they are necessary to maintain the maximum protection against potential threats. It is good practice to turn on automatic updates for all devices you work across (including any personal ones) if you haven’t done so already.

2. Avoid unsecure Wi-Fi networks

With office hours no longer strictly 9am-5pm, many employees now work remotely or on the go. Whether you’re working in a café, hotel or anywhere else outside the office you should always try to avoid connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots, where it’s relatively easy for others to capture sensitive information such as emails, passwords and unencrypted instant messages. In the instance where there is no other option but to connect to a less secure network, it is recommended that you use a good quality virtual private network (VPN) when connecting to your business. Even if a hacker were to position themselves in between you and the Wi-Fi hotspot that data would be strongly encrypted.

3. Don’t reuse personal passwords for work

Thanks to the advice which stated that passwords should contain a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letter, characters and numbers (and often be of a certain length), many of us of suffering from password fatigue. It can be difficult enough to remember one complex password, let alone a whole string of them for the various applications we use inside and outside of work, so many people have resulted to using the same password across multiple accounts or just changing one minor detail, e.g. Password123! to Password234! The problem with using the same password across all accounts means that even if one of those accounts is hacked or compromised, all the others are then open to attack.

This was demonstrated by the Dropbox breach back in 2012, which was the result of a stolen employee password. The employee used the same password for LinkedIn and to access Dropbox’s corporate network. After the LinkedIn data breach hackers were then able to use the password to access Dropbox’s corporate network and steal more than 60 million user credentials.

One stolen password has the potential to cause widespread damage, so it is really important to use a different one for each account. Luckily, the advice regarding passwords has now changed and it’s recommended that users instead use a string of three or four words to create a memorable passphrase, such as “footballapplegolf”. Not only is this more memorable but it is also much harder for computer cycling through password combinations to crack.  If remembering multiple passphrases is still an issue then it may be worth looking into a password manager.

4. Know how to spot a phishing scam

Emails are one of the most popular methods for hackers to try and infiltrate a business and all it can take it one click for a virus or piece of ransomware to be let loose on your systems. You should always be cautious when it comes to emails and never reply to, follow links or open attachments from any unexpected or suspicious emails, even if the sender name looks familiar.

When in doubt you should check the source first (one easy way is to check the full email address next to the sender’s name) and make sure the request is genuine. If you receive an email urgently request of a bank transfer or a large sum of money and the request has supposedly come from the Finance Manager, pick up the phone and verify the request is genuine. Phishing emails are becoming much more sophisticated, with hackers taking the time to craft a message which seems genuine, so it is always best to exercise caution.

Check out our full guide to identifying scam emails here.

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