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7 Ways to Secure Electronic Communications

Did you know that the cost of global cybercrime is expected to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021? Why is this figure so astronomical?

This figure includes the costs associated with the damage and destruction of data, stolen money, lost productivity, theft of personal and financial data or intellectual property, forensic investigations, restoration and deletion of hacked data and systems, and reputational harm.

Of course, we’re online 24/7 these days, which only increases the chances of falling victim to hackers and cybercriminals. Keep yourself and your business safe from cybercrime with these seven effective ways to secure electronic communications at your business.

secure electronic communications at your business

Ensure Buy-in from Key Stakeholders of the Business

The first step you need to take in achieving secure communications is getting all relevant stakeholders on board and on the same page. Keeping your communications secure will be much easier when everyone realizes why security is necessary and how to maintain it.

These stakeholders may include:

  • Board of Directors
  • Employees and support staff
  • Cyber security team
  • Outside incident response team
  • Chief Information Officer, Chief Security Officer
  • Business executive management (CEO, CFO, COO)
  • General counsel

Develop Clear Security Policies

The next step to ensure the security of your communications is to have your cyber security team conduct a risk assessment. Use the results of the assessment and all the relevant information to develop your communications and security policies. These policies should cover who has access to what communications and who will oversee enforcement of policy violations.

Key security issues to cover include:

  • Security risk management
  • Critical asset management
  • Physical security
  • System and network management
  • Authentication and authorization
  • Access control
  • Vulnerability management
  • Incident management
  • Awareness and training
  • Privacy

cyber security policies

Use Complex Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication Systems

Passwords and authentication tools are your first line of defense when it comes to security. Start by ensuring that all your computers and mobile devices are encrypted with complex passwords.

According to CNET, “each of your passwords should be at least 16 characters, and contain a combination of numbers, symbols, uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and spaces. The password should be free of repetition, dictionary words, usernames, pronouns, IDs, and any other predefined number or letter sequences.”

If there’s one problem with passwords, it’s that we have a lot of them. In fact, the average person has 27 passwords! The good news is that companies like Avatier have solved this problem with single sign-on software (SSO). With SSO, you can use one set of login credentials to access multiple applications. It’s convenient and secure because it prevents you or your employees from using several easy-to-crack passwords. For an extra layer of safety, the software uses multi-factor authentication.

Speaking of multi-factor authentication, you can use that in other areas as well. For example, you could ask a security question after the password login. Another example is biometrics, such as voice recognition or fingerprint scans. If you have an iPhone, then you’re already familiar with biometrics thanks to the TouchID feature.

Lastly, when transmitting data through email or text, make sure that it is encrypted. This has become especially important in the wake of the Equifax breach.

Encryption may seem extremely technical, but it’s kind of like a decoder ring. It just scrambles sensitive data, such as a credit card number, so that hackers can’t steal it. If you want to learn more, this article from TechTarget offers an in-depth explanation of encryption.

If you’re not interested in doing the encryption yourself, there are tools like Symantec Endpoint Encryption that will do it for you.

Train Your Staff

Hackers may grab the headlines, but the biggest security threat is actually within your business. According to the 2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index, IBM found that 60% of all attacks were carried out by insiders.

The best course of action to prevent this is to properly train and prepare your team. Start by teaching them about phone scams and phishing attacks. These are emails or other communications that trick users into revealing security information, such as passwords. Phishing emails can be identified through factors like fake URLs in links and fake sender addresses. The most obvious give-away, however, is that a reputable business would never ask for sensitive security information via email.

In addition to phishing tactics, hackers also use malware, such as Trojans, to gain access to your mobile devices and computers. You need to make sure that all your business devices have the latest version of anti-malware software. This way, if someone within your organization accidentally clicks on a questionable link, you should still be protected. However, as a general rule of thumb, you should remind everyone in your organization to never click on links from unknown senders.

Monitor Communications

No, this doesn’t mean spying on the emails or texts that your staff send and receive. Monitoring communications means regularly checking login times to make sure they align with staff usage. Most cloud platforms already come equipped with login and activity monitoring tools as part of their security. If these tools are available, don’t hesitate to use them.

Avoid Public Wi-Fi

It’s not uncommon for employees to either bring their own devices to work or use tools like Ooma Office for Mobile to convert any location into an office. While this can make you and your team more productive, you also have to be wary of using public Wi-Fi.

Using public Wi-Fi presents serious security concerns because most public Wi-Fi networks are unencrypted and unsecured. Hackers have also been known to frequently trick users with tactics like rogue hotspots.

As Norton explains, “This is an open hotspot, usually with a name similar to that of a legitimate hotspot, which cybercriminals set up to lure people into connecting to their network. Once a victim connects to the rogue Wi-Fi hotspot, the host hacker can then intercept data and even use tools to inject malware into the connected devices.”

Strongly stress to your employees that they should not connect business devices to public Wi-Fi. If they have no other choice, like when waiting for a flight, they should use a virtual private network (VPN), keep all software patched and up-to-date, and limit logging into password-protected websites that contain sensitive information.

Practice Smartphone Discipline

Finally, considering that businesses are moving away from landlines to VoIP services and smartphones, you should practice smartphone discipline. Because cell phones are basically radio transmitters, they could be monitored by a hacker. While that may be far-fetched, there’s still a good chance that hackers could find their way into your smartphone via text message or email.

smartphone discipline

This means that you should practice smartphone discipline, such as not speaking or texting any sensitive business information. You should also avoid opening any suspicious links and only use a reliable communication provider. For text messages, services like WhatsApp and Signal are safe and secure to use. As for email, ProtonMail and Tutanta are known for their security.

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Ken Narita

Ken Narita’s marketing career spans two decades helping businesses large and small grow. Whether it’s been advising emerging startups, guiding clients from the agency side, or currently, leading SMB marketing at Ooma, Ken has always taken an empathetic approach to addressing goals, gaps, and opportunities. Previously at TriNet, from 2011 to 2017, he grew and led the revenue marketing team through a period of rapid change and growth where net service revenue consistently grew in a range of 15-20% per year and reached $650 million at the end of his tenure. Ken has led demand generation, field marketing, customer marketing, and marketing operations teams and enjoys the ability to integrate campaigns across all functions to drive results.

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