How To Protect Against Network Breaches

For many New Zealand SMEs, the computer network infrastructure is the cornerstone of their business. The devices, software, and applications that store sensitive data and information are all contained within the network.

There have been many high-profile cases that show the damage a network breach can cause.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand experienced a network attack in 2021 when hackers exploited systemic weaknesses in their network. The cybercriminals stole sensitive customer information such as dates of birth, credit details, and personal email addresses.

The breach ended up costing $3.5 million dollars.

While this is one of the biggest organisations in New Zealand, all businesses, regardless of size, are susceptible to network security breaches. These breaches can be anything from data leakage, unauthorised access, or misuse of network resources. 

As a small business owner, what would you do if your network were breached?

To ensure that your company runs smoothly and that doesn’t happen, here are steps you can take to prevent cybercriminals accessing your network.

1. Ensure you have good password practices

Networks usually require private passwords to access. If a hacker can get this information, they will likely have access to your network. From brute force attacks to using techniques such as phishing to get passwords, hackers will try nearly anything to get your login details.

This is why it is important to have a complex and unpredictable password.  You should try to never reuse password and change them frequently when an expiry warning is displayed. A strong password is one of the best security measures against a network breach.

2. Update your devices and software when prompted

While you may still have the same screensaver from 2009, the network behind your computer is constantly updating. Hackers will be on the lookout to exploit weaknesses in the network. Your network providers will try to patch up these holes through updates before your network gets exploited. These updates can do many things to improve your security. Update your operating system and any application software to protect yourself from potential breaches as the new versions are most likely well-designed to block current threats.

3. Installing central firewalls

Firewalls are the first line defence for your network security as it’s designed to monitor the traffic of your network. A firewall that is properly configured acts as a barrier between networks of different trust levels. You may want to ensure that your local firewall is always active to protect your network from malicious attacks.

4. Install antivirus software

Ensuring you have the latest antivirus, antispyware, and anti-malware software is an important safeguard against network attacks. This software stops malicious programs from stealing and destroying data assets so that your network server is protected and monitored.

5. Educate your workplace

It is crucial to educate your employees about security breaches and the devastating consequences it could have to your business. It is much less likely that you will suffer a data breach if security culture is instilled at all levels of your organisation, from yourself to your junior staff.

While there are many available, Swerve is a fantastic New Zealand-based resource for businesses that is designed to train staff against cyber-attacks.

6. Set up a network breach response plan

Considering the recent spate of high-profile data theft attacks, it is important to have a plan for breach response plan in place to know what to do if a breach occurs. This will allow you to quickly respond in the event of an emergency. These plans help to identify and analyse attacks that otherwise might go unnoticed.

From knowing how to identify and contain the risk to knowing who to notify, there is plenty to think about when it comes to how you can respond to a network breach. The New Zealand government has released a plan to help businesses develop this step.

7. Consider getting data protection insurance

While there is plenty you can do to prevent a data breach, cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to slip past your defences. This is where data protection insurance can be important, as it could protect your business from the consequences of an attack.

Cyber Liability insurance is a type of data protection insurance that could safeguard your business against the legal costs and expenses related to network breaches and cybercrime incidents. Your coverage may generally include cover for expenses and restoration costs relating to the following:

  • Data breaches including theft or loss of client information
  • Network Security Breaches
  • Business interruption costs
  • Forensic investigation into the cause or scope of a breach
  • Data recovery costs
  • Cyber Extortion
  • Crisis management costs (to protect or mitigate damage to your businesses reputation resulting from a cyber event)
  • Loss and Legal costs, including fines and penalties resulting from a third-party claim for data or network security breach against your company

The bottom line

Cybercrime incidents like network breaches are becoming more prevalent across New Zealand and indeed the world. This guide hopefully raises some tips to prevent and safeguard your small business against these attacks.

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