How to Protect Your Network from Unauthorized Devices

With more and more small-medium businesses integrating working from home as a long-term strategy, it is vital to know who is trying to access their network. How to ensure only  authorized people and devices can access the company’s network is critical. This is especially true because research shows an eruption of cyber threats in 2020, and the trend is expected to continue next year. For instance, a ransomware attack gets launched every 14 seconds.

No cyberattack can ever happen if the attacker lacks network access and, consequently, information. The most direct link for these criminals is through employees. If the attacker’s device can mimic a staff member or steal details of a susceptible employee, they can easily get unauthorized access to your network. It’s upon this knowledge that we want to show you how to protect your network from unauthorized devices.

#1 Passwords Protection is not Enough: Embracing Multi-factor Authentication

The time where we used one password across different sites and devices has long passed. Passwords themselves have evolved to where many websites and apps offer a randomly generated password that is almost impossible to guess. Unfortunately, hacking has simultaneously become more sophisticated — hackers can still manage to access these passwords. So, how do you save the day? Businesses put another security layer such as 2FA (2-factor authentication) to protect unauthorized devices. Once enabled, the user will have to enter a code (OTP) sent either through SMS or smartphone app before access is granted. Other multi authentication may include user biometrics identification if supported by the user device.

#2 Staff Training

Every IT manager knows how vulnerable an untrained workforce can be. Security breaches that were caused by an employee clicking a link from a phishing email are worrying. As the need for virtual conferencing and remote working increases, so are employees’ devices. Phishing has evolved even into using SMS and social media — reports of users receiving SMS and DMs containing malicious links is not new.

Therefore, educating staff on cybersecurity threats and possible loopholes or ways hackers may use to lure them into clicking phishing links is crucial. Educate them to keep their device’s security up-to-date, not only on their PCs but also smartphones. It’s also necessary to conduct re-training whenever a new threat emerges.

#3 Implementing VPN

Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a cost-effective solution for protecting your network and data from intruders. A business using VPN ensures that its data is securely sent between the firm’s servers and user devices, leaving no traces on the channel. This is achieved through hiding the IP address, data encryption, and recipient’s location masking. If setting a VPN in place is difficult, consider choosing a flawless provider from the many in the market. Be sure that employees know how to effectively use VPN from their devices at home to avoid attackers intruding your network via their home network gaps. 

#4 Vulnerability in Home Networks is a Nightmare

Working to safeguard a company’s network is no longer enough to give confidence that you’re protected. An employee’s home network’s safety is also an essential segment towards masking your network from unauthorized access. IT managers are puzzled as exposures on home networks increase with more SMEs offering a work-from-home option.

Hackers and intruders know this fact, and most of them have stepped in now that working from home is commonplace. Adjusting corporate security policies to fit remote workers and implementing tried and tested bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies is necessary. Consider also switching to managed services with a provider who is fully liable for your network security.

#5 IP Whitelisting

This is a stricter form of security where only users on the allowed list can access the network while others get redirected to the “Not Authorized” page. Users accessing the system from other networks get their device IP addresses checked against the company’s permitted list and connection thwarted if found to be an unauthorized access attempt. If possible, at your firm, then this strategy can easily avoid foreign devices from ever stepping into your data channel.

#6 Software Updates

The last thing you want is to continue using outdated software as this poses significant cybersecurity threats. Software manufacturers regularly release patches to seal new potential gaps in the old software. Therefore, it is necessary to update the software on devices at the company and staff level with the latest stable releases.

If you have in-house software, be sure that your developers or your IT partner are on the lookout to implement new security standards and regulations depending on the tool used during development.

#7 Secure Collaboration Tools

Teleconferencing and collaboration tools have become popular. But does the solution chosen have your security at heart? Don’t look to meet business goals while overlooking a potential devastating breach that may occur on the tool—and subsequently affecting your business network. The hybrid workspace more than ever calls for improved security on corporate networks.

Before rushing to conclude how the tool is suitable for collaboration, virtual meetings, virtual training sessions, and seamless interaction, check on the provider’s data security policies. What promise do they offer in case of an attack or breach? What responsibilities and strategies are in place to evade such?

#8 Monitoring

It is vital to keep an eye on user accounts to detect any unusual behaviour such as multiple login attempts, failed password recoveries, or users attempting to access data where they don’t have access permissions. Monitoring entails log analysis and automated alerts to the security team when a suspicious activity pattern is detected. Organizations use User and Event Behavioural Analytics (UEBA) to establish a baseline of usual activity, and anything that falls outside these margins is flagged as potentially malicious activity.

For example, you can lock a user’s account after five failed login attempts. Email or SMS them to confirm if it is really them, but they forgot their password, or a hacker is trying to force their way into the system using stolen credentials.

Bottom Line

Security breaches cost more than money. Company reputation is blurred, and that means reduced customer trust. Recoveries from these situations can be frustrating. Therefore, taking a more preventative approach than curative is the way to go. Though anyone can fall victim to cybersecurity threats no matter the measures, it is always good to have done your part.

Contego Security helps businesses manage their IT governance, risk management, and compliance. Contact us today to get your free cybersecurity assessment from our qualified IT specialists.