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Tech Tips: 5 Ways to a Secure Computer Network

Sep 4, 2020 | Tech Tips

Being the victim of a cyberattack can be a messy business. Short-term financial costs include: lost revenue as a result of reduced productivity; temporary over-staffing during downtime; and remedial work on the compromised system. Long-term, a business can suffer damaged reputation and loss of customer loyalty.

For a secure computer network, every part of that network – servers, cloud-based software, computers, mobile devices, customer portals, printers, scanners, copiers, etc – must be protected. If just one of these is unprotected, the entire network is vulnerable to unauthorised access. Once a criminal has gained access, your system is open to data theft or malicious attack.

5 Ways to a Secure Computer Network

Let’s have a look at five major factors of cybersecurity: 1) firewall; 2) multi-factor authentication (MFA); 3) anti-virus software; 4) virtual private network (VPN); 5) staff training.

… But did you know that there’s one simple solution to cover all bases?

1.      Firewall

A firewall is a security system that monitors and controls access to your network, based on a set of rules and predetermined criteria.

Hardware firewalls, which work on an entire network, act as a protective barrier between your own IT network and the Internet. Although dedicated firewall hardware is available, a high-quality router, like the Ubiquiti ER-X EdgeRouter, will provide robust protection to your network.

A software firewall is a programme installed on a device for the purpose of protecting that device from unauthorised access. Windows Firewall by Microsoft and OS X by Apple are applications specifically for the Windows and Mac operating systems.

For multi-layer security, a combination of hardware and software firewall protection is advisable.

2.      Antivirus Software

Since the first known computer virus – The Creeper virus, which struck in 1971 – antivirus software has become more and more sophisticated, in parallel with the engineered evolution of the viruses themselves. (In the days before widespread Internet connectivity, computer viruses were passed on mainly via floppy disk.) In the early ’70s, the Creeper virus was eliminated by another virus, created specifically for the purpose, but the first true anti-virus products appeared in 1987.

Now that more than 4,500,000,000 people (approximately 59% of the world’s population) use the Internet, viruses spread online like covid-19 spread through the human population earlier this year.

There’s no algorithm that will detect all viruses and other malware. But the more layers of protection you use, the safer your network will be.

3.      Multi-Factor Authentication

Probably the most common form of ID is the password or PIN. It’s something we know. The idea is that the password or PIN is used for just one purpose (email account/online banking/social media account/HMRC portal etc) and only the user knows it.

However, a lot of sharing goes on! Not only do we share passwords with friends, family, and colleagues, but we also share access codes among multiple gateways.

Because, nowadays, we have so many virtual keys to so many virtual doors, most of us tend to double-up. In fact, we triple-up, or quadruple-up – or just go for an easy life and use one code for everything.

The thing about a master key is: it’s incredibly convenient for legitimate users; and it’s extremely convenient for thieves.

A requirement for multiple credentials, however, means that the hacker’s job is not a happy one.

These are some of the authentication methods that are commonly combined in multi-factor authentication:

  • Something that you know, such as a password or a PIN.
  • Something physical that you have, like a dongle or ID card.
  • Something that you are (a biometric), for example, a fingerprint or voice.
  • GPS tracking.
  • A one-time code sent to a separate device.

4.      Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network (VPN) provides a secure connection between authorised devices in your network. This security system prevents unauthorised users from accessing the VPN, and it will detect any tampering. As an additional layer of protection, data within your network is encrypted.

5.      Staff Training

Over 66% of UK businesses suffer data breaches due to human error.

If users understand why Mary1234 or password1 or 14051967 are weak passwords, and if every member of the team understands why they should log out of an online platform after a session, the security measures that are in place will be all the more effective.

And if every member of your team is aware of phishing scams and the potential danger of opening suspicious email attachments, your business will be better protected against malware attack.

Security awareness training is a vital – and often overlooked – aspect of cybersecurity.

Managed Services Provider

Okay, so we’ve taken a look at five factors of a secure computer network. But there’s a way to encompass all layers of security in one action. Use a managed services and security provider.

If you’d like to know more about PCSimple HouseCall (managed services), just give us a call on 01263 823 508 or email [email protected].

Article written for and on behalf of PCSimple by Hazel @ Folio Copywriting.