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The Smarter Approach to IT Security is a Layered Approach to IT Security

As someone who has been working closely with businesses to meet their technology needs for many years, one of the biggest misunderstandings that I see a lot of people have ultimately has to do with what may be the most important factor of all: security.

Far too many people seem to believe that IT security is a “one and done” affair. They feel like all they really have to do is install the right software, configure everything properly and they can sit back and “let the technology do its job.”

They see cybersecurity as something like flipping a light switch, for example. So long as the switch is in the “on” position, everything is fine and it’s one less thing they have to worry about.

Unfortunately, the situation isn’t quite as simple as that.

In reality, there are multiple layers to security that need to be in place to make sure that your enterprise is 100% protected. None of these layers is enough to get the job done on its own, but when taken together, they build something far more powerful than any one piece of tech could ever be.

The Art of a Layered Approach to IT Security

By far, one of the most important layers involving this better and more robust approach to IT security comes down not to the technology itself, but to the culture of your business that supports it.

Really, I’m talking about those larger organizational policies that act as the framework for your defenses in the first place. Things like:

  • An investment in security awareness training for your employees. You can’t expect people to be able to spot every phishing attack that targets your business if they don’t know what a phishing email looks like to begin with.
  • Requiring the use of multi-factor authentication so that one weak password can’t potentially compromise your entire system. This is especially important for your Microsoft 365 portal, or similar services that store sensitive information.
  • Password policy enforcement so that your employees aren’t only using strong passwords, but so that they’re also making an effort to change them on a regular basis, or that after a number of failed login attempts the account becomes locked.
  • Proper user policies set at the server level.
  • Up-to-date patching on operating system and third party programs.
  • Advanced ‘detect and respond’ security programs that can detect new and under-the-radar viruses by looking for not only the profile of the a downloaded file, but what the file DOES.
  • Employing end-to-end encryption, both in-transit and at-rest, for all data on your servers. This is especially important during a period where more people are working remotely than ever before.

This first layer is certainly going to protect you from a lot of the threats that are lurking on the web today – but again, you have to understand that things are going to slip through. The second layer is much more tech-driven and will hopefully be fortified enough to fill in any of the gaps that may exist with those larger business decisions you’re making.

This tech-driven layer can include core elements like:

  • Dark web monitoring to see if any sensitive data from your business has already made it onto the Internet without your knowledge.
  • Mobile device management, so that you can immediately cut off a user’s access if their smartphone or tablet is lost or stolen.
  • Log management, so that you can make a proactive effort to stay on the lookout for any suspicious activity taking place on your network. This is a great way to address a small problem today before it has a chance to become a much bigger (and more expensive) one tomorrow.
  • A good, managed antivirus with an active subscription.
  • Managed firewall with active security subscription that is properly configured.

So if the first layer is proactive, the second one is reactive – but then again, it needs to be. Each layer fits precisely into the one before and after it, almost like a key going into a lock.

Of course, critical layer at the heart of all of this ultimately comes down to your cybersecurity plan. You need to understand how these security measures fit into your business’ larger IT strategy, what you need to accomplish and, most importantly, how. Without that, everything else you’re doing will ultimately ring hollow.

As a last resort, consider an asset like cyber insurance. Keep in mind that there is actually very, very little you can do to stop your business from becoming the target of a hacker. At this point, it’s probably a forgone conclusion. You need to acknowledge this and take proactive steps to mitigate the damage IF such an attack occurs, and cyber insurance is certainly a part of it.

This isn’t a technology factor – this is a business factor, no different than something like malpractice insurance or liability insurance. But again – this is an absolute last resort. As an MSP, it’s part of our job to help you work with vendors to find the policy that is right for you.

Staying Protected Means Staying Ahead of the Curve

If you’re still on the lookout for that “one great product” that is going to swoop in and solve all of your IT security needs, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but… that product doesn’t actually exist.

However, I’d argue that this is a good thing.

In an era when more than 350,000 new strains of malware alone hit the Internet every single day, there is no “one technique” that can keep you protected in the way that you need to remain productive. It’s also why cybersecurity is not something you “do once and forget about.”

There are people out there, right now, who are working hard to try to do harm to a business like yours. Therefore, the best solution is also the most straightforward:

You’re just going to have to work a little harder.

A genuine, layered approach to IT security is how you do it and all of this is why it’s not just the “smart” approach, but it’s also the best approach at the same time.

Unfortunately, hacking is big business these days and until we can change that, this is the way we all need to be thinking about IT security. If your defense is just a single firewall or an antivirus solution, rest assured that people WILL get through.

But if you take a true, multi-layered approach to what you’re doing, at the very least you’ll be able to stay one step ahead of the people who want to do you harm.

And most days, that’ll be enough.

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