infoTECH Feature

July 13, 2018

Four Ways to Improve IT Security on a Limited Budget

By Special Guest
Robert LaMagna-Reiter, Senior Director of Information Security at First National Technology Solutions

As overall IT budgets grow tighter, it becomes more challenging to improve IT security. In a recent IBM security study polling more than 2,800 IT and security professionals, 69 percent reported that funding for cyber resiliency is insufficient.

But even as IT security threats continue to evolve, it’s the more fundamental IT security improvements that can provide the most foundational protections for data security. Based on that understanding, here are four ways to improve IT security on a limited budget.

Use Layered Security Processes & Technologies
Every business needs to have a layered security approach to thwart cyber attackers and hackers. The importance of patch management cannot be overstated—confirmation of updated operating systems and applications is paramount. It’s important to install antivirus, spam detection, and filtering software on each computer, while also protecting the network via proper firewall configuration.

Encryption algorithms and keys play a critical role in preventing hackers from getting sensitive business information. This can be useful for data both at rest and in transit, as well as for portable media and device access.

Every business is operating in the age of mobility where their workforce is often operating remotely. Consequently, mobile device management (MDM) and security are a vital part of IT security. Some of the ways to implement MDM are through the use of sign-on passwords, data encryption, and wireless connection encryption when using public networks.

Next-generation firewalls are a foundational element of preventing outside attacks to the network. Today, integrated firewall/VPN client solutions can automatically enforce fine-tuned security across a business’s network, as well as remote offices and on an individual user level. The many features of VPNs and next-generation firewalls enable administrators to centrally manage security policies, implement rule-based access controls and define policies for different user groups.

Having an identity and access management strategy is vital to cloud application access and should include single sign-on, multi-factor authentication, role-based access control and least privilege, behavior monitoring and privilege identify management tools.

These can all help rapidly and systematically restrict access to users if required and can define security policies by individual, group, or organization. The goal is to ensure that anyone accessing the network or the internet has authorization and that all data in transit are protected, while also protecting the network from infiltration.

Educate Employees, Create and Enforce Security Policies
Humans pose the biggest security threat, whether through error or malevolent actions. Since most threats are error-based, education becomes crucial. By creating clear policies for employee behavior and educating the workforce on those policies, businesses can significantly lower the risk of a data breach, malware, or other forms of cyberattacks.

It’s imperative to keep these policies updated and made part of the employee handbook. The best way to improve your IT security is to train your employees on best security practices.

Conduct Network Vulnerability Assessments
Having a security expert assess your IT network for weaknesses and vulnerabilities is a must for every business. This should be a periodic process, because vulnerabilities can occur with any changes to the network. This process should go hand in hand with patch management and software updates. Of course, having IT support to act on the assessment is vital to closing the vulnerabilities.

Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery
Every day seems to bring new reports of high-profile ransomware attacks. The best defense against these and other attacks that can cripple businesses is to have a solid cloud backup and disaster recovery plan. Restoring from a data backup is the best—and sometimes the only way—of recovering from a ransomware attack.

Backup and recovery services are a crucial part of end-to-end IT security. Today, many businesses are taking advantage of incremental backup in the cloud, which can be both automated and cost-effective if done correctly.

For businesses that utilize colocation services, cloud backup can provide server consolidation in which a single server stands in for multiple virtual and physical servers. In this case, hosted disaster recovery services can provide high availability to the production server environments as part of their backup infrastructure.

Whether a business has onsite IT support or not, having access to a skilled managed IT services provider with security expertise can play a major role in supporting IT security. Regardless of budget, every business can take advantage of all of these IT security methods. As with all security approaches, a solid foundation comes from being thorough, vigilant, and educated in order to keep your data and network infrastructure safe.

About the Author: Robert LaMagna-Reiter is the Senior Director of Information Security at First National Technology Solutions (News - Alert) (FNTS), which is a provider of flexible, secure, customized hosted and remote managed services. Robert supports FNTS and its customers by managing information security risks & engineering, overseeing regulatory compliance & IT governance and enforcing adherence to policies. Robert has 13+ years of information security & risk mitigation expertise and has held positions in the transportation, government communications and retail/e-commerce industries.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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