10 Cybersecurity Tips Every Employee Should Know

If you work as an employee, you are the first line of defence in terms of both physical and cyber security. You would not let a thief walk off with the inventory, and you should be just as vigilant when it comes to securing the personal information of your clients, customers and colleagues.

If you run a small business, the staff you hire constitute a vital layer in your security infrastructure. The actions those employees take or do not take could have a profound impact on your business, its profitability and even its viability.

No matter which side of the employer/employee divide you are on, cybersecurity is something everyone should take seriously.

Here are 10 essential cybersecurity tips every employer and business owner should take to heart.

1. Education is power. The more you know about cybersecurity and the threats facing businesses, the better equipped you will be to fight back. Training sessions can be helpful, but employees should also educate themselves about the threats and their solutions.

2. Filters and firewalls only go so far. Internet filters and hardware firewalls can give businesses, and their workers, a false sense of security. These techniques can be effective, but they are no substitute for common sense and worker vigilance.

3. Double-checking attachments could save the day. Infected attachments are common sources of malware, ransomware and other dangers, so it pays to double-check their sources. A quick follow-up phone call to verify the source of an attachment-laden email could prevent serious damage to the company and its reputation.

4. Read each email carefully. It is easy to skim, especially when you are feeling busy and overwhelmed, but review each message before responding or providing any kind of information. Misspellings, punctuation errors and grammatical mistakes are all red flags, and they could be indications of a phishing scam.

5. Keep outside devices off the company network unless they have been invited in. If your company has adopted a bring your own device (BYOD) policy, feel free to jump onboard with your smartphone or tablet. Otherwise, keep those devices off the corporate network, as they could be easy targets for cybercriminals.

6. Use phrases and acronyms in your passwords. Passwords that consist of common words and numbers are easier to crack, so look for alternatives that are harder to break. Long phrases and abbreviations only you know are much more challenging to hackers.

7. If you must write down your password, keep it in a safe place. Even the strongest password is useless if it is written on a sticky note and posted in your cubicle. If you must record your password, write it down, without any identifying information, and keep it with you.

8. Never do work on a public Wi-Fi network. You might think you are doing the boss a favour by finishing that presentation at the local coffee shop, but you could be handing the bad guys keys to the corporate network. Do your work in a secure location and save the public Wi-Fi for other, less critical, tasks.

9. Make sure your antivirus program is running and up to date. Some malware turns off antivirus programs, so check each morning to make sure it is up and running. Free antivirus isn’t good enough! It doesn’t offer the same protection as paid antivirus.

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10. Keep the lines of communication open. If you spot anything unusual or suspect a phishing attack, notify your direct supervisor and the IT staff right away.

It does not matter if the computer you use is a traditional desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone or an electronic cash register. Every device that connects to the internet is at risk of hackers, and even a single point of entry could have devastating consequences for the network and the data it contains. As an employee, you are the first line of defence against these bad actors, and you need to take that responsibility seriously.

Just think what would happen to your job, and your income, if your employer was victimised by a ransomware attack or had its customer data published online for all to see. If you want to protect yourself, and the company you work for, you need to get proactive about cyberdefence, starting with the 10 tips listed above.

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