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6 Strategies for Boosting Your Network Security and Keeping Your Business Safe

6 Strategies for Boosting Your Network Security and Keeping Your Business Safe

Security is on everyone’s mind these days, especially with so many high-profile hacks happening to companies such as Sony, Microsoft, JPMorgan, Target and more. In 2014, more than 145 million email addresses, physical addresses and login credentials were absconded during an attack on eBay.

The prospect that your business could one day become a target is incredibly scary, even if some of the mainstream companies attacked weren’t using proper network security protocols to protect sensitive information. No matter how secure you are, it can still happen.

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In 2014, more than 145 million email addresses, physical addresses and login credentials were absconded during an attack on eBay.

It begs the question: What can you do to better protect your network? Big companies can dole out hundreds of thousands of dollars for advanced security software and in-house security teams. Smaller businesses, however, don’t have that luxury.

Even for an IT professional with years of experience, maintaining a secure network at home or for a small business isn’t necessarily easy. That said, there are some measures you can take to ensure your network is more secure.

How to Boost Your Network Security

As with anything in life, there are no guarantees these security tips will keep everyone out, but they will certainly protect your network better than if you hadn’t done anything at all. If you want to keep your network secure, follow the advice you see here.

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Enable Encryption for Wireless Access Points

Leaving your wireless access point(s) unsecured is just asking for trouble. The network is wide open, which means anyone can access the wireless stream going to or from the location. Resourceful individuals can use unique software and tools to scan for sensitive information being transferred back and forth. Once that happens, you’ll be in a world of hurt — or your customers will be.

The best, and most secure, form of encryption to use for wireless access points (read: routers) is WPA2. Enable it and make sure you leave it active for as long as the wireless access point is online. If you want an extra layer of protection, you can enable MAC address filtering. This can get tedious as you’ll have to look up the MAC address for every device you want to connect to the access point and submit them, but it will definitely keep out intruders.

Hide Your SSID

After you enable encryption, make sure you hide the SSID — or broadcast name — of your wireless access point. Don’t worry, if the SSID, which stands for Service Set Identifier, is hidden you can still connect to it with new devices. It just means anyone who doesn’t know it exists will have a harder time sniffing it out.

At the least, always ensure your SSID, which is publicly visible, is something relatively common. Never include your personal information, business info, passwords or anything like that in the name.

Never Disable Your Firewall or Security Software

Leaving your firewall, virus software or even a security program like NetGuard — which blocks questionable IPs — running at all times is crucial to maintaining security. If you need to allow a program through your firewall add it to your exceptions list. Always keep your virus software up-to-date and scan your computers — however many there may be — regularly. Finally, pay attention to the IPs that are blocked by your firewall and programs such as NetGuard.

If you’re using Windows, research and install antispyware software for added protection.

If you set up port-forwarding options for your wireless access point, which allows certain programs and devices to bypass your network, ensure you monitor them closely. Furthermore, don’t do this with a lot of applications. You are essentially opening up vulnerabilities in your network that can be easily exploited.

Use a VPN Where Applicable

 A VPN, or virtual private network, application will allow you to mask your true IP address from outsiders. There are some VPNs that are more secure than others, but using one is always better than not.

When someone outside your network does a reverse IP lookup they can see lots of personal information, such as your name, address, business name, contact info and more. They can also see where you are located, which essentially makes you a much more vulnerable target.

When you have a VPN active, it masks your true IP by assigning a remote IP for a server you connect to. Extremely skilled hackers can always get your true IP, but again it’s still an additional layer of security that will help boost your safety.

Some ISPs allow you to use a VPN to connect back to your local area network (LAN) or web server. You can also check out services such as OpenVPN, SonicWall and Fortinet.

Use Disk Encryption

Similar to wireless encryption, disk encryption ensures anyone who accesses your local data cannot see the information stored within without the proper authorization key. This would serve as the last line of defense in the event your network is compromised and someone gains access to your machines or equipment.

You can even encrypt the data stored on your mobile phone or USB thumb drives, provided you set up the appropriate software. There are many tools to do this, but we recommend something such as PGP Hard Drive Encryption by Symantec.

Be Cautious and Safe

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list of security measures you can take. There’s plenty more you can do to protect yourself and your business network from being compromised. Some other ideas include assigning your local web server as a DMZ, installing a third-party security firm to monitor your network, or even changing administrative passwords regularly.

The important thing is you remain cautious and safe at all times. Digital security is not a joke, especially when it comes to protecting your customers and your business. There’s no telling when your network may be compromised, so spend time before that happens securing it as much as possible.

[author image=”/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/kayla.jpg” ]Kayla Matthews is a writer and blogger with a passion for technology and daily productivity. Follow her on facebook and Twitter  to read all of her latest posts![/author]

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