Top 10 security best practices for the South African SMB space

Cybercrime in South Africa is increasing at epidemic proportions and small to medium businesses have turned into key targets for cybercriminals.

September 30, 2013

Cybercrime in South Africa is increasing at epidemic proportions and small to medium businesses have turned into key targets for cybercriminals. Small businesses rarely recover from cyber-attacks, but there are some very simple steps you can take to protect your business.

Doros Hadjizenonos, sales manager at Check Point South Africa highlights his top ten security best practices for the South African SMB space.

1. Common Passwords are Bad Passwords

Passwords are your first line of defense when it comes to security. Cybercriminals trying to break into your network will start their attack by trying the most common passwords. Ensure your employees and users are using long (over 8 characters), complex (include lower case, upper case, numbers and non-alpha characters) passwords.

2. Secure Every Entrance

All it takes is one open door to allow a cybercriminal to enter your network. Just like you secure your home by locking the front door, the back door and all the windows, think about protecting your network in the same way.

Consider all the ways someone could enter your network, then ensure that only authorised users can do so.
• Ensure strong passwords on laptops, smartphones, tablets, and WIFI access points.
• Use a Firewall with Threat Prevention to protect access to your network (like the Check Point 600 Appliance).
• Secure your endpoints (laptops, desktops) with security software such as Anti-virus, Anti-SPAM and Anti-Phishing.

3. Segment Your Network

A way to protect your network is to separate your network into zones and protect the zones appropriately. One zone may be for critical work only, where another may be a guest zone where customers can surf the internet, but not access your work network.

4. Define, Educate and Enforce Policy

Actually HAVE a security policy (many small businesses don’t) and use your Threat Prevention device to its full capacity. Spend some time thinking about what applications you want to allow in your network and what apps you do NOT want to run in your network. Educate your employees on acceptable use of the company network. Make it official. Then enforce it where you can. Monitor for policy violations and excessive bandwidth use.

5. Be Socially Aware

Social Media sites are a gold mine for cybercriminals looking to gain information on people, improving their success rate for attacks. Attacks such as phishing, and spearphishor social engineering all start with collecting personal data on individuals.
• Educate employees to be cautious with sharing on social media sites, even in their personal accounts.
• Let users know that cybercriminals build profiles of company employees to make phishing and social engineering attacks more successful.
• Train employees on privacy settings on social media sites to protect their personal information.

6. Encrypt Everything

One data breach could be devastating to your company or your reputation. Protect your data by encrypting sensitive data. And make it easy for your employees to do so.

7. Maintain your Network Like Your Car

Your network, and all its connected components, should run like a well-oiled machine. Regular maintenance will ensure it continues to roll along at peak performance and hit few speed bumps.
• Turn on automatic updates where available: Windows, Chrome, Firefox, Adobe.
• Use an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) device like the Check Point 600 Appliance to prevent attacks on non-updated laptops.

8. Cloud Caution

Cloud storage and applications are all the rage. But be cautious. Any content that is moved to the cloud is no longer in your control. And cybercriminals are taking advantage of weaker security of some Cloud providers.
• When using the Cloud, assume content sent is no longer private.
• Encrypt content before sending (including system backups) and check the security of your Cloud provider.
• Don’t use the same password everywhere, especially Cloud passwords.

9. Don’t Let Everyone Administrate

Laptops can be accessed via user accounts or administrative accounts. Administrative access allows users much more freedom and power on their laptops, but that power moves to the cybercriminal if the administrator account is hacked.
• Don’t allow employees to use a Windows account with Administrator privileges for day-to-day activities.
• Make it a habit to change default passwords on all devices, including laptops, servers, routers, gateways and network printers.

10. Address the BYOD Elephant in the Room

Start with creating a Bring-Your-Own-Device policy. Many companies have avoided the topic, but it’s a trend that continues to push forward. Don’t avoid the elephant in the room! It comes back to educating the user.
• Consider allowing only guest access (internet only) for employee owned devices.
• Enforce password locks on user owned devices.
• Access sensitive information only through encrypted VPN.
• Don’t allow storage of sensitive information on personal devices (such as customer contacts or credit card information).
• Have a plan if an employee loses their device.