At the end of last year, we learned just how drastic of a toll cyber criminals can take on a business. We’re talking about Sony Pictures, of course. While the official government line is that North Korea was behind the hack, there are a number of Internet security professionals who believe the attack was the sophisticated work of cyber criminals.

Either way, this event underscores the importance of preventing cyber criminals from hijacking your business. Here are some things you can do:

  1. Always Be Updating: Out-of-date systems, operating systems and software are a hacker’s best friends. Be sure that you’re regularly keeping all of these things up to date with the latest versions.
  2. Password Protection: The security of your systems and vital business information is only as strong as your passwords. Make sure that there are clear and stringent policies about password complexity and password updating.
  3. Control Access: Cyber criminals do not always operate from outside your business; sometimes they are from within. Ensure that vital information and documents are only available to those who need access to them.
  4. Strengthen Your Firewall: This is your first line of defense against outside hackers, and the stronger your firewall is, the more it will be able to protect your business. Making an investment in a strong firewall is well worth it.
  5. Forbid Outside Software: Any software that’s not approved by your IT department presents a potential vulnerability to your network. Don’t allow your employees to install software onto their systems that is not approved.
  6. Keep Staff Up to Speed: Take the time to have your IT department or an outside consultant review best security practices with your employees. Also, make sure employees are aware of the consequences of compromising sensitive documents and intellectual property.
  7. Screen Employees: As mentioned, sometimes threats can originate from within, so make sure that you’re conducting thorough pre-employment screening.
  8. Back Up Your Data: No matter how many steps you may take to secure your IT infrastructure, you could still fall victim to an attack. Be sure that you’re backing up your data, as an attack could cause you to lose it all.
  9. Do Banking Through One Computer: Your banking and financial information is some of the most important information that your business has. Give it an added layer of protection by dedicating one computer to it, and one computer alone.
  10. Restrict Access: Unapproved websites can also expose your business’ network to nefarious hackers. Therefore, limit the number of websites that your employees can visit. At the very least, this will limit distractions, which will increase productivity.

RELATED: 4 KEYS TO USER-FRIENDLY CYBER SECURITY

Bring In Professionals

Ultimately, the job of protecting your business from cybercriminals can be incredibly complex. If you don’t have the IT staff on hand, or if that IT staff lacks knowledge in key security and privacy areas, then bring in outside professionals. It may seem like an expense, but compared to the cost of an attack, it’s eminently worth it.