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5 best practices for IT security audits

A security audit is nothing less than a necessity for a company of any size. During this assessment, cybersecurity experts will scrutinize your digital infrastructure and business operations to find weak points.

Some audits are limited in scope, examining only a few aspects of a company’s cyber defenses. However, for the best results — especially if you haven’t had an audit in a while — go for a total inspection.

After all, potential vulnerabilities are everywhere. Perhaps your employees neglect web browsing safety practices; maybe your antivirus software is out of date, or perhaps any number of other things are going on with your network.

Here are some best practices for a successful and insightful audit.

1. Hire outside experts

You don’t want in-house IT pros handling this process. It’s like when people defend themselves in court; it almost never works out well.

Someone who works for you may be reluctant to be too critical, which could mean an incomplete report. Furthermore, when you inspect your own workplace, it’s easy to have blind spots and overlook problems.

Instead, seek excellent outside IT consultants to run the audit for you. Look for extensive experience with corporate security projects and enthusiastic references.

2. Get everyone on board

Call a company-wide meeting and let all of your employees know about your upcoming audit. You can explain why their full cooperation is essential, answer questions, ease concerns, and prevent rumors.

Also, you can find out if your staff members have any needs that you’ll have to work around. For instance, if one of your managers is showing a potential client around next Thursday morning, you could ask your auditors to show up after lunch that day.

3. Gather info beforehand

To expedite the process, ask your auditors ahead of time what information they’ll require. Then do your best to collect it all.

That info may include your network topology map as well as a list of your mobile devices, antivirus programs, app providers and so on. You might also need to provide them with an indemnification statement in case your network flags their activities as suspicious.

What’s more, ask your auditors for a copy of their official policies. That way, you can be sure that you’re comfortable with their tactics before you let them in.

4. Study the report

Once the audit is complete, the security pros will put together a customized plan for your company. Study that document carefully with your leadership team, and ask the IT experts for help with any parts you don’t understand. Afterward, organize another meeting with every employee to sum up the results and announce what will be changing.

Your IT consultants can then supply you with the hardware, software, monitoring services, staff training, and data storage on the cloud that you need. And they can formulate an ideal backup and disaster recovery (BDR) plan for your organization.

5. Don’t let up

Remember that one security audit isn’t sufficient. Rather, an annual audit is wise considering how rapidly technology-related dangers change.

For sure, cyberattacks are scary. They happen frequently, and they strike mom-and-pop stores and international conglomerates with equal fury. They expose customers to identity theft and other serious crimes. They often put companies out of business within months if not days.

The only way to stop cyberattacks is with a layered, coordinated and high-tech defense system. And the best way to organize such a defense is to receive full audits from outstanding IT specialists.

Your go-to guide for healthy IT security

We live in a world with increasing cyberattacks and growing numbers of vulnerabilities. Hackers are becoming smarter and bolder all the time. That’s why it’s important for you to prioritize the health of your IT security.

When your IT security is strong, you’ll be able to protect your business from devastating cyberattacks, keep productivity high, and boost the confidence your employees and customers have in your ability to use technology in a dangerous world.

There are specific things you can do to achieve that goal. We’ve compiled this guide to discusses the key areas you need to address to keep your IT security healthy.

This guide includes the following sections:

  1. Planning an IT security strategy
  2. Improving your IT security
  3. Prioritizing security issues
  4. Getting employees involved
  5. Monitoring and auditing your systems
  6. Looking at trends to anticipate your next challenges

1. Planning an IT security strategy

Preparing and maintaining an IT security strategy is more complicated than ever before. The technology is changing rapidly. Experts discover new security vulnerabilities almost every day. Mobile requirements are increasing, adding even more complexity to the issue of security.

Key strategy issues:

1. Ensure that the strategy meets your business goals.

Today’s security strategy is most effective when business unit stakeholders participate in identifying requirements. It’s critical that you develop the IT strategy to meet business goals, not just technology goals. Involve key stakeholders to ensure that you identify the assets they manage and the risks associated with protecting those assets.

Today’s security strategy is most effective when business unit stakeholders participate in identifying requirements. It’s critical that you develop the IT strategy to meet business goals, not just technology goals. Involve key stakeholders to ensure that you identify the assets they manage and the risks associated with protecting those assets.

2. Include the entire IT landscape in the plan.

Some IT security strategies simply define what will happen when a security breach occurs. In fact, your security strategy needs to take a holistic approach. It needs to provide a roadmap describing how you will keep your data safe. It should be the result of a comprehensive risk evaluation.

3. Strive to reduce IT costs

When your plan provides an overall roadmap, it’s possible to find ways to reduce IT costs. Working with business unit stakeholders, you’ll undoubtedly find ways to take advantage of economies of scale.

Data security graphic with a laptop

2. Improving your IT security

Your strategic plan will identify a variety of ways to improve your IT security. The plan will help you maximize network security. Perhaps even more important, revisiting the plan on a regular basis will help keep your network secure.

Some of the global issues that you need to address include:

  • Hardware and software updates. It’s essential to update your operating system as the need arises. Not only that, but you need to do the same for all infrastructure devices and applications.
  • Life-cycle management. Create a strategy to manage the life cycle of all components such as physical devices, operating systems, and applications. Hardware-as-a-service is one option to take the load off your IT team and ensure your technology stays updated and healthy.
  • Firewalls. Use stringent firewalls and review them regularly to make required updates.
  • Passwords. Develop and enforce rigid password rules.

3. Prioritizing security issues

You know that the number of security issues you must address is increasing. Therefore, it’s important to prioritize your list of issues to make sure some of the more important issues don’t end up at the bottom of the list.

Here are some issues to consider.

Improve application security

Applications are one of the top targets that cybercriminals try to breach. Such attacks include Denial-of-Service Attacks, Account Access Hijacking, and Injection Attacks. You can foil the criminals by improving your application security.

These four steps can improve your application security:

  1. Evaluate all of your applications to chart the data they need to access.
  2. Find ways to make your most critical applications less visible on the internet.
  3. Assign additional resources to the most critical and vulnerable applications.
  4. Use flexible and integrated tools to manage prevention, discovery, and recovery.

Protect Common Endpoints

Endpoint security focuses on closing off access through network-enabled devices. Those devices can include telephones, desktop computers, and tablets. In manufacturing, there are devices connected to the network from the manufacturing floor. In healthcare, there are testing and charting devices connected at remote points within a healthcare facility.

The trend toward Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) that is further complicating the process of protecting endpoints. Depending on your IT landscape, you may need to include machine learning and artificial intelligence in your security plan to examine traffic and locate threats.

Improve cable management

Security strategies often leave out the issue of cable management. But, it’s an important part of the security planning process. Structured cabling is becoming the standard for network infrastructures. Modular cabling solutions and upgrading to optimize the network infrastructure are recent trends.

In many situations, network virtualization will help you to get the most utilization out of your hardware. Rather than addressing issues such as cabling, connections, and configurations, you’ll have more virtual ports without needing to invest in hardware. You should address the issue of virtualization in your IT security strategy plan.

Employees working in a office environment

4. Getting employees involved

You can’t overemphasize the role of human error in the successful data breaches of today. For example, reports from IBM indicate that employees who unwittingly open the door to data breaches accounted for two-thirds of the records compromised last year. These actions include everything from opening an attachment on a phishing email to misconfiguring a database.

In today’s environment, educating your employees on the devastating results of a data breach is critical. They need to understand the potential outcome of one slipshod approach to configuring a server. They need to know how to spot suspicious activity in their email or online systems. They need to know how to browse the internet safely.

Including a robust training program associated with IT security should be included in any IT security strategy.

5. Monitoring and auditing your systems

Vigilance is required to spot potential threats and defend against them. Implementing a system to monitor the data flowing into and out of your systems and networks is critical.

You can also follow best practices for auditing your operations to make sure your IT security measures are effective and that employees are using them conscientiously.

6. Looking at trends to anticipate your next challenges

In terms of IT security, your job is never be done. Staying up with the trends in IT security will help you to plan ahead. You can anticipate where the trends will affect your systems, and get a head start on finding ways to address the problems before they arise. You can also use these trends to update your disaster recovery and business continuity plan.

Final Thoughts

Keeping your IT security healthy can be a huge challenge. If you have questions or would like more information, contact your managed IT services provider for help.

8 helpful tips for safe web browsing

You don’t have to look far to find plenty of real-world examples for what can go wrong when you don’t treat the internet with the care it deserves. A careless mistake can have dangerous consequences.

Falling victim to a phishing scheme could cost you a lot of money, or worse – it could cost you your identity. Downloading unauthorized software could mean downloading malware that destroys your computer or invites a ransomware attack. As scary as these possibilities are, a little caution and some safe browsing guidelines will help ensure that you stay safe online.

We’ve compiled our 8 best tips for staying safe while you browse the web.

1. Limit sharing personal information

Every piece of personal information that you put online can become available to the world forever. Not everyone needs to know your home address, birthday, or relationship status. If you would not share it with strangers on the street, don’t share it with strangers online.

2. Manage your privacy settings

Marketers and hackers will do anything to learn all about you. They can learn a lot from your browser and social media usage. Web browsers, mobile operating systems, and social media platforms all have privacy-enhancing settings available. These settings can be difficult to find, but they are worth the work to safeguard your information.

3. Use a secure connection

Whenever possible, connect to the internet using a secure internet connection. Be cautious of unsecured public wi-fi. If you must use a public connection, avoid entering or accessing sensitive data while connected.

4. Be cautious of downloads

Downloads from unknown sources are often the vehicle used to deliver malware and viruses to unsuspecting users’ computers. Beware of downloading attachments from suspicious emails or unauthorized sources online. When installing software, look for software that has a valid SSL certificate.

5. Choose strong password

When it comes to choosing passwords, make sure to choose a unique password for each account. Choose something that is easy to remember, but difficult to guess. Read more tips on creating secure passwords for your accounts.

6. Shop securely

When shopping online, be certain that you only provide payment information to sites that provide secure, encrypted connections. These sites start with https:// or are marked with a padlock icon near the address bar.

7. Stick to compliance/BYOD policies

Many organizations have strict BYOD (bring your own device) and compliance policies. These policies are in place to help ensure that you do not accidentally cause a data breach or disclose information in a non-compliant manner. The ramifications for not following these policies can be severe, including steep financial fines, so be sure to take these policies seriously.

Related: Expand your workflow potential by safely implementing BYOD

8. Keep your security software updated

While security software cannot protect you from every threat, it can protect you from most known viruses and detect and remove malware infections. It is important to keep your software up-to-date. You can set it up to automatically update so you don’t have to remember to update it yourself.

You can also use a managed IT services provider who will keep everything updated for you.

What Can IT Consultants Do for Businesses?

IT consultants advise clients on the best ways to use information technology to meet their business objectives. Similarly, they help clients resolve IT-related issues to increase productivity and performance across multiple departments. This includes software applications and network data security, along with hardware implementation for enhancing IT structure and efficiency in various organizations.

Still, the role of IT consultants differs from managed services in many ways. Here are some of the key roles these well-versed and experienced professionals play in the world of digital computing.

How can an IT consultant help my business grow?

The job of an IT consultant is complex and intricate at best. In fact, they must stay abreast of all the latest industry developments and trends. This enables them to guide companies on the right path to growth, while ensuring maximum correlation between their technical teams and staff.

By understanding your business model and strategies, consultants are able to tweak and modify areas that need efficient IT-related improvement. Similarly, they are able to monitor your brands’ development and growth – while fostering safe and secure environments and platforms for everyday business and communications. IT consultants also offer the following for companies of all sizes and industries:

  • Advise clients on the best solutions for data security, networking, communications and daily business directive and goals.
  • Analyze and assess existing IT platforms, while recommending the right technologies to streamline and centralize cost-efficiency; apps, software, hardware, cloud servers and even BYOD plans.
  • Diagnose and refine your business challenges to increase productivity, performance, and lead – profit – revenue generation.
  • Serving as bridges between your technical teams and staff. Making sure everyone is on the same page towards achieving your short-term and long-term goals.

What if I already have an IT team in place?

Not a problem. IT consultants are not there to replace your in-house or remote IT teams. They are, however, there to work with your technical teams, while making sure your IT infrastructure is operating at peak performance levels. With that in mind, your consultant is also able to ensure the following:

  • Working with your IT teams to effectively communicate with the rest of the staff. This bridges the gap between those who know and those who don’t, but also increases high-quality performance across all levels and departments.
  • Analyze all possible threats and risks with timely, effective and lasting solutions. Increase your business growth by helping your brands tap into the latest innovative technologies. That includes app development, mobile device management, software- web application security, cloud, help desk support, and unified communications.
  • Guaranteeing business continuity with an IT infrastructure that is up and running 24/7. Helping your brands’ secure higher visibility with little to no downtime for upgrades and maintenance. Keeping your client and employee communications safe, secure and running – even during inclement weather.
  • Consultants also provide network support services for monitoring your business systems and platforms. This ensures optimal communications for daily communications for customer – client and staff fulfillment.

What skills does an IT consultant bring to the table?

IT consultants have years of extensive industry experience. They are also highly trained in making sure your company is making the most of its IT plan and network. From relevant advice and effective communications to technical and IT knowledge, consultants bring a plethora of vital skills to the table. They also have the tools and expertise to offer true business insight, while implementing techniques that improve IT management and performance at every turn.

If your business needs IT revamping and remodeling, consultants are able to breathe new life into your business platforms and protocols. Most consultants have a proven track record of success, and are able to meet and address your IT needs within time and budget.

5 things IT consulting does for your business

IT consulting is different than hiring an in-house IT team or using a third party IT firm to handle all the technical needs for your business. An IT consultant may only work with your business for a short time. They can also come in intermittently to make sure everything is running as it should and make adjustments or recommendations.

Here are 5 ways hiring an IT consultant could help you:

1. Make projects happen

You’ve been considering a technological project, but you are not a technical expert. It can be hard to launch other projects when you are focused on your small business’ day-to-day operations.

Whether it is implementing a new CRM, setting up services in the cloud or making sure your technology infrastructure is truly secure, an IT consultant can come in and make it all happen, finally.

IT consulting can leaves you with space to focus on your area of expertise while giving you the comfort knowing your project is not simply getting done but getting done in a timely manner with professional oversight and accountability.

2. Help you get the most bang for your buck

IT consultants can help your business save money by implementing new and innovative solutions. For example, virtualization can help your business run multiple operating systems on the same server, letting you harness the power of different programs while saving you money on server space.

Moving to cloud services and storage with the help of IT consulting can also save money on expensive physical data storage costs.

3. Keep you secure

Digital security is of the utmost importance in this day and age. One way IT consultants can help to keep your business and data safe is by helping you to manage mobile devices and policies around employees using their own devices for work.

An IT consultant can make sure that your team connects via a secure VPN to encrypt any data transferred between mobile devices and your company’s valuable digital assets.

They can also help you come up with policies that protect data during the onboarding and offboarding process when personal devices are involved. IT consultants can also further minimize risk by training your team on digital safety risks like phishing schemes and malware viruses.

4. Be prepared for disaster

Hire an IT consultant to get your business ready for the unthinkable. Of course you hope you will never need to use these solutions, but it’s best to be prepared. Let an IT expert help you come up with a disaster recovery plan for your technology infrastructure, create trustworthy backups and educate your team on how to avoid errors that could lead to data loss.

5. Communicate better

Communication is the foundation of any small business. You have to communicate with your employees, your vendors and your clients.

Having the latest in VoIP technology, seamless integration of applications like Office 365 and other modern solutions, and proper training on using these tools can make your office function as efficiently as possible.

Contact an expert IT consultant to get more information on how consulting can help with your small business IT needs.

The Technology That’s Necessary for Business

Today’s businesses rely on technology to meet consumer needs and stay competitive. Unfortunately, some small businesses don’t know which technologies they should invest in. By choosing the following options, you can make your company more efficient and competitive.

Mobile Payment Options

If your business ever accepts payments outside of your office or storefront, then you need a mobile credit card reader that lets customers pay even when they don’t have cash.

Most mobile payments apps are free to download. Many will even give you free hardware for accepting credit card payments.

You will, however, have to pay your service provider a percentage of the payments you take from customers. The fees vary from company to company, so you should look into your options before you decide which one fits your business’s needs best.

Some of the most popular mobile payment apps include:

Cloud-Based Apps

Cloud-based tools have become increasingly popular over the last few years because they’re often more convenient, secure, and flexible than using applications stored on personal servers. Cloud apps can do just about anything that you need.

Slack makes it easy for your team members to collaborate with each other and track project goals. Salesforce helps you manage customer relationships and improve your online sales. Concur gives you tools for generating invoices and reimbursing employees for travel expenses.

If your business experiences a pain point frequently, there’s probably a cloud app that can solve the problem for you.

Websites Optimized for Mobile Users

About 52% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. People aren’t as attached to their desktop computers as they once were, so they rely on their smartphones to visit sites.

Unfortunately, the site that you have for desktop visitors won’t work very well on mobile devices. You can solve that problem by optimizing your site for mobile users.

Optimizing for mobile devices will also boost your site’s Google ranking.

The Perfect Hardware

Of course, you’ll need some combination of devices to run and manage your business. That includes desktop workstations, laptops, tablets, and more. Choosing the right devices depends heavily on your needs, and how you want your organization to run.

Mostly mobile employees? You need a robust mobile-capable device force, such as laptops.

Have graphic or video-intensive jobs? You need a powerful device capable of performing right.

Performing cloud-based access jobs for the large part? You need a good all-rounder.

Keep in mind that you’ll need specific tools and different skill sets to manage and maintain these varied devices. Partnering with a managed service provider can help you get valuable consultation on the right technology for your business, as well as the management of it.

Chatbot Customer Services

You can make live chat even more efficient by adding a chatbot. A chatbot can answer frequently asked questions that don’t require human interaction. If the conversation gets too complicated, then the chatbot can always pass the customer on to a live service representative.

With a chatbot, you can always offer immediate services to customers. You may find that using a chatbot also helps means that you don’t have to hire as many customer service reps.

Technology changes rapidly, so you always need to pay attention to the latest trends and developments. Currently, you can make your business more effective by using these five technologies. Pay attention to emerging trends, though, so you can keep up with your competitors.

Want more helpful content? Be sure to check out What to Look for in a Work Computer.