This article was written by Devin Partida, Editor in Chief at ReHack Magazine.

Cybercrime is on the rise, and many businesses are unprepared to defend against it. These crimes have increased by 400% since the start of the pandemic, yet only 14% of small businesses have proper security measures in place.

Much of this lack of cyber preparedness comes from insufficient knowledge about how to approach cybersecurity. With that in mind, here are seven ways businesses can protect themselves against rising cybercrime.

1. Train Employees

The most important step businesses can take to improve their cybersecurity is to train their employees. Phishing, which capitalizes on human error, accounts for more than 80% of all security incidents. If workers knew how to spot phishing attempts, they could prevent most attacks.

All employees should receive thorough and regular training on cybersecurity best practices. That includes using strong passwords, recognizing phishing attempts, and keeping all software up-to-date. If companies can minimize human error, they can eliminate many cyber threats.

2. Segment Networks

Many companies manage internet of things (IoT) fleets of 100 devices or more, creating vast attack surfaces. Each of these endpoints on a network is a potential gateway for hackers to access sensitive information. To prevent that from happening, businesses should segment their networks.

Hosting IoT devices on a separate network from critical data infrastructure stops them from becoming backdoors for hackers. Similarly, the more a company can afford to segment its data, the less damage a breach in one area can cause.

3. Limit Access Permissions

After segmenting networks, businesses should limit what employees can access. Every user should only be able to access the systems and files they need to perform their jobs. The more they can access, the more damage a breach or insider attack can do.

This step won’t stop cyberattacks, but it will mitigate their impact. If one user’s account can access all of a company’s data, then it will only take one leaked password to jeopardize the entire network. In contrast, if each user has highly limited access, then one breached account will only be able to do minimal damage.

4. Use Multi-Factor Authentication

Passwords by themselves are insufficient to secure user accounts. There are 15 billion passwords for sale on the Dark Web, making it highly likely that some employees’ passwords are vulnerable. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides another layer of security, ensuring breached passwords can’t compromise an account.

While hackers can get past passwords through credential stuffing fairly easily, it’s unlikely that they could also get past a second authentication method. Consequently, MFA is one of the easiest to implement yet most crucial cybersecurity upgrades.

5. Install and Update Anti-Malware Software

The built-in antivirus software on devices typically isn’t advanced enough to stop all malware threats. Businesses should also purchase additional third-party anti-malware solutions from dedicated cybersecurity vendors.

After installing these programs, IT teams must ensure they stay up to date. These software solutions regularly update as developers learn of new malware strains, so outdated versions can leave users vulnerable. Enabling automatic updates will ensure companies have the latest protections available.

6. Encrypt All Data

Businesses with sensitive data should encrypt it. Like network segmentation and limited permissions, this won’t stop breaches altogether, but it can stop them from being destructive. Encrypting data both at rest and in transit will render it virtually unreadable to hackers, keeping sensitive information private.

Since public Wi-Fi is often unencrypted, remote employees should avoid using it for work purposes if possible. Alternatively, they could use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt their web traffic.

7. Test Regularly

Finally, businesses must recognize that cybersecurity is an ongoing task. New cybercrime tactics emerge regularly, so companies’ defenses must continually adapt. testing (or “pen testing”) can guide businesses in this pursuit.

Pen testing involves a cybersecurity professional trying to hack into a company’s network to find where its weaknesses lie. Performing these tests regularly shows businesses where they can improve to stop new threats. Without this guidance, companies may develop a false sense of security despite pressing vulnerabilities.

Businesses Must Stay Vigilant

As companies collect more data and cybercrime is on the rise, businesses must pay more attention to cybersecurity. These seven steps are by no means exhaustive, but they can provide significant improvements.

By following these steps, businesses can protect themselves against many pressing cyber threats. They can then continue conducting business safely, keeping an eye on developing cybercrime trends to look for further improvements.

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