By Bill Carey, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at Siber Systems Inc.

Companies of all sizes are susceptible to cyber-attack. The sheer number of high-profile hacking incidents over the last few years has meant that security breaches are viewed as an almost commonplace occurrence. However, while the severity of individual data breaches can vary significantly in terms of data loss, hacking incidents almost always cause major damage to the reputation of the business that is attacked.

Apart from the wasted time and financial cost that comes from having to delay normal business operations until the issue is resolved, the potential threat to an organisation’s credibility is particularly severe. Given that keeping customer data secure is such a prominent issue these days, if a company gains a reputation for being unable to keep this information safe, it will be an uphill struggle to win back consumer trust.

A clear, well-defined IT security policy – one that accounts for trends such as “bring your own device” (BYOD) and cloud computing as well as traditional precautions such as passwords – is the key to the enduring success of any business on the security front.

Passwords – the first line of defence

In spite of the many advances in computing security over the last few decades, the password remains the first line of defence against cyber criminals. However, recent research from Siber Systems found that poor password practices used by employees leave businesses exposed to increasing risk of attack. The research shows that almost half (42 per cent) of respondents said that they write their passwords down to keep track of them, and almost three quarters (73 per cent) allow their browser to remember passwords for them at least some of the time.

To ensure that staff are not undermining an organisation’s IT security protocols, it is important to make sure that they use a unique password for each respective application or website and change it frequently. If employees are concerned about having to remember too many passwords, a password management solution may be the answer. This way, employees are able to automatically create and change secure passwords, with just one master password to remember.

Securing BYOD

BYOD is a growing trend, particularly in small business, where the flexibility it provides can be especially beneficial. Indeed, many organisations are keen to take advantage of the productivity gains BYOD can bring, but they must also be wary of the vulnerabilities it can create.

Given that it is the responsibility of employees to keep software up-to-date on their personal devices, as well as put in place their own security practices, it is almost impossible for businesses to maintain a significant level of oversight. If employees do use their own smartphones and tablets to access company IT systems, it is imperative that they do so in a safe and secure manner.

Protecting the cloud

The advent of cloud computing is another consideration for businesses that are looking for ways to ensure high levels of cyber security. The potential benefits of the cloud are enormous, as it can help companies to scale up quickly without the need to invest heavily in infrastructure.

While the cloud isn’t inherently dangerous, the shift to the cloud creates new vulnerabilities, and as cloud services continue to grow in popularity, they are increasingly a target for hackers. Businesses should always ensure that their cloud provider is both reliable and secure, as well as making sure that applications are as secure as they can be.

The bottom line on cyber security

Companies that are seeking ways to achieve and maintain high levels of business IT security in a time of significant technological change must keep multiple factors in mind. The cyber security landscape isn’t static, so IT professionals must ensure they are protected against the latest threats.

Ultimately, by developing a clear and concise cyber security policy that encompasses traditional precautions such as passwords alongside newer factors like BYOD and cloud computing, businesses will be able to ensure financial and operational stability in the short-term and maintain their reputation in the long-term.