Companies Beware: Cyber security escalates in importance

How important is cyber security? October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month for the ninth consecutive year and each year, the designation seems to become more important.

So important that a top U.S. cyber warrior is recommending that his cyber command division be elevated into a top-level military unit under the Department of Defense. The Cyber Command, created two years ago, is currently under the U.S. Strategic  Command, which is responsible for U.S. nuclear and space operations.

Rear Admiral Samuel Cox, the cyber command’s top intelligence officer, believes his unit needs more power to combat the growing number of cyber threats facing the nation, according to Reuters. Many of those threats come from foreign hackers who are trying to pierce the Pentagon’s computer networks to obtain highly-classified information.

But cyber attacks aren’t just a threat to the military. Look at the numerous banks that experienced online outages due to cyber attacks in the past few weeks. And what about the flurry of data breaches reported this year by healthcare organizations?

The fact is that no organization – large or small – is immune from cyber attacks, hackers or simply the loss of a portable device containing the personal identifying information of consumers. Every organization and – every individual for that matter – needs to take cyber security seriously. And what better time to check on your security measures than during National Cyber Security Awareness Month. So here’s a checklist to help you keep your data safe.

  •  Install the most up-to-date firewall, anti-spam and anti-virus software.
  • Establish policies for handling sensitive data, mobile devices and computers. Educate everyone from C-suite executives to employees to contractors and vendors.
  • Upload patches to fix any problems with your software programs.
  • Use passwords on laptops, computers and mobile devices. Educate employees and contractors on the importance of using long, strong passwords.
  • Encrypt laptops and mobile devices. Also encrypt sensitive files.
  • Back up sensitive files and properly dispose of files you no longer need. Store backup data in a separate location – ideally off-site – from your main servers. To dispose of sensitive data, you should physically destroy the hard drive that contains the data. Otherwise, someone may be able to retrieve that data if the computer is sold or donated.