With the ever-growing threat of online security breaches, businesses must maintain a robust security posture. Whether you’re a small business just starting or an established enterprise, this comprehensive cybersecurity checklist provides essential steps to help protect your business from the latest cyber threats in 2024.
The first step to mitigating cybersecurity risk is to complete a cybersecurity risk assessment. Risk assessments seek to answer various information about your technologies, operations, assets and people. This will help you identify vulnerabilities, gaps, and loopholes in your current security architecture and help you understand the measures you need to take to protect your business-critical assets.
The Zero Trust approach is the most effective security control. This security framework entrenches the principle of “never trust, always verify.” Every activity within the organizational network undergoes thorough, ongoing security checks, with strict permission settings ensuring verified access only to sensitive data. Zero Trust leverages robust authentication methods, network segmentation, “least privileges” policies, and layered threat prevention techniques to prevent threat actors from moving laterally across a network at ease and speed.
No employee outside your IT department should be able to change details about the network or install applications outside your company’s approved list. Limiting the number of network administrators will significantly reduce security risks and give your company more visibility over its devices.
Whether it’s an email account, marketing and sales tool or software developer program, work accounts may be disabled for various reasons. Unfortunately, disabled accounts provide security risks since malicious actors can access them along with all permissions and privileges. Your system administrator should audit and delete accounts from employees who have switched roles or responsibilities or are no longer employed by the organization.
Identifying endpoints that require updates and patches made to the OS, applications, and security software they have installed or need to have installed is critical. The most up-to-date security software will aid in blocking and removing malware from your endpoints. In addition, vulnerability patches from OS and app vendors are only effective if your endpoints are kept up to date regularly.
Another very important element of your cybersecurity checklist is patch management. Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their methods and searching for new ways to infiltrate your systems. Therefore, a formal and proactive patch management strategy is critical. Patch management ensures you upgrade, optimize, or secure existing software, computers, servers, and technology systems before hackers can exploit them to mitigate cybersecurity risk, maintain compliance and ensure business continuity.
Penetration testing, also known as a pen test or ethical hacking, is an authorized simulated cyberattack to access or exploit your computer systems, networks, websites, and applications. The primary purpose of penetration testing is to identify exploitable issues and implement adequate security controls. However, you can also use penetration testing techniques to test the robustness of your security policies, regulatory compliance, employees’ security awareness, and ability to identify and respond to security issues and incidents such as unauthorized access.
Routers and switches, virtual servers, wireless devices, and applications of all kinds need 24/7 network monitoring. Continuous network tracking and traffic monitoring can reveal early indications of cyberattacks, such as unexpected traffic, unknown devices and uncharacteristic application usage. These tools enable the organization to proactively contain threats and limit damage during the early stages of an attack.
Whether working remotely or at the office, your employees should turn off their work devices manually or set up an automatic screen lock that activates within a few minutes of inactivity. Locking your display screens will help prevent unauthorized users from accessing the device and your network in extension.
Creating and implementing a comprehensive password security policy will help secure your organization’s assets. Here are critical elements of a good password security framework that you can implement in your organization:
Multi-factor authentication offers considerably more security than the traditional single password. This cybersecurity measure requires users to provide multiple factors verifying their identity before gaining access to a network, account, or online operating system. For example, MFA users must provide a password and verify access by inputting a code (often sent to another device) or confirming access with biometric data, such as a fingerprint or facial recognition.
A network firewall is essential for your business because it can stop hackers from accessing sensitive information and either disrupting operations or holding your company ransom for data. In addition, it can also help you monitor employee activities and ensure compliance with corporate policies.
It is also essential to protect your devices from viruses and malware. Antivirus software is a low-cost way to secure your technical assets and avoid expensive problems in the future.
A data breach or ransomware attack is still possible despite all security efforts. If this happens, your company needs the ability to restore data quickly. To ensure business continuity, you should perform regular verified, air-gapped backups and enable encryption for sensitive data and critical applications, whether on-prem or in the cloud.
Some cyber events can lead to massive network or data breaches that can impact your organization for days or even months. Therefore, you need a well-documented, detailed course of action to quickly stop, contain, and control the incident. An incident response plan ensures the right personnel and procedures are in place to deal with a threat effectively.
Security awareness training should not be overlooked on your cybersecurity checklist. Employees will always be the weakest link in every cybersecurity program. Regular Security Awareness Training helps educate and empower your team to prevent and detect common cyber threats. It also cultivates a robust security-aware mindset and culture that prioritizes protecting sensitive information so you can feel confident that your team can quickly adapt to the ever-changing, complex world of cyber threats.
Staying up to date on cybersecurity news is not just about knowing where the latest data breach happened. It also requires following the rapid changes in the industry and knowing which companies are at the forefront of information security. Staying on top of cybersecurity news also helps security teams ensure their teams are well-informed and aware of emerging threats. For example, AI cyber threats pose a growing concern as they develop more complex and adaptive attack strategies. These threats encompass AI-powered malware, deepfake-based social engineering, and automated vulnerability exploitation, requiring constant vigilance and innovative defenses to mitigate their risks effectively. Knowing what’s happening in the cyber industry today helps your team prepare for tomorrow.
Managed security services are an excellent way for organizations that need more expertise or in-house resources to better plan, monitor and secure their digital estate. From 24/7 systems monitoring and proactive threat detection to compliance management and disaster recovery, MSSPs provide a complete security solution to defend your organization and help minimize cybersecurity-related costs.
No business is invulnerable to breaches, but we can all take action to protect our data, applications and systems. Use this cybersecurity checklist to improve your security posture in 2024 and counter cyberspace’s most nefarious bad actors and criminal minds.