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11 simple ways to improve your organization’s access control & security

Improve your organization's access control and security and protect against threats with MFA, encryption, VPN’s and more.

Published April 14, 2023
11 simple ways to improve your organization’s access control & security

As an IT professional responsible for managing an organization’s cybersecurity, you understand the importance of cybersecurity for business. Today’s IT professional faces many security threats — from unauthorized access and user error to data breaches. To mitigate these threats, it’s essential to use the right access controls and security solutions.

But implementing effective security measures can be challenging. It isn’t easy to balance security with productivity, or to decide which types of access controls and security solutions best fit your needs. There’s also the never-ending question of where your budget is best spent.

This article lays out 11 practical and easy-to-implement steps to improving your organization’s access control and security. From using a multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution to refining access control policies, these tips will help strengthen your cyber security posture.

Use strong, unique passwords

As we’ve all known for a long time, creating strong and unique passwords for all accounts is an effective way to improve your organization’s cybersecurity.

Cybercriminals can exploit weak or reused passwords to gain unauthorized access to your systems. This leaves your end-users — and your organization’s network and critical assets — at risk of attack methods like phishing and social engineering.

Remember, it’s crucial to use different passwords for each account. Allowing users to have the same password on multiple accounts puts all of them at risk should one be compromised.

A strong password contains a combination of the following:

  • At least eight characters

  • A mix of upper and lower-case letters

  • Numbers

  • Special characters

Password management policies that enforce solid and unique credentials should be a fundamental security control. But no matter how strong a password is, there is always the chance of human error and password theft. That’s where additional protections help.

Enable two-factor authentication

Cybercriminals use compromised credentials in almost half of all successful cyberattacks. Requiring two-factor authentication, in addition to a password, adds an extra level of security against unauthorized access. Should a bad actor obtain a legitimate user’s credentials, they still face a second layer of access controls.

Implementing MFA is not a one-size-fits-all approach — the key to a successful MFA deployment is to balance security with productivity. It’s easy to request MFA too often, frustrating users and blocking them from doing their jobs.

A robust MFA solution, such as UserLock, allows security teams to set granular security policies and permissions. This offers vital system protection while avoiding user authentication fatigue. UserLock allows organizations to use three MFA methods to verify their users:

  • Push notifications

  • Security keys or hardware tokens

  • Authenticator apps

Humans make mistakes, and cyber attackers can obtain even the strongest passwords. By enabling MFA, you can reduce the likelihood of a successful cyberattack and protect your organization’s digital assets from harm.

Use a firewall to protect your network

A firewall is a vital tool in any organization’s cybersecurity defense system. It is a security system resource that monitors and controls network traffic based on predefined rules. While monitoring incoming and outgoing data and connections, a firewall can prevent unauthorized access and protect against several common cyber threats.

An organization can implement hardware or software-based firewalls, depending on their system setup. Regular maintenance and updates are essential to ensure your firewall remains effective against ever-evolving cyber threats.

Install antivirus and anti-malware software

Antivirus and anti-malware software plays a critical role in safeguarding your organization. They scan for — and fight against — malicious software, viruses, and other cyber threats.

Without robust antivirus and anti-malware protection, your organization’s devices and network are at risk of malware infections. Successful malware attacks can result in data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage. Working in real-time, anti-malware software stores definitions of known threats, and blocks or removes them when detected.

In today’s rapidly changing cyber landscape, it’s crucial to keep your antivirus and anti-malware software up to date. By doing so, you can significantly reduce the risk of a successful cyberattack, protecting your organization’s sensitive data and assets.

Educate your employees about cybersecurity best practices

It’s vital to educate your employees on the importance of cybersecurity in business. You could provide training on your organization’s security requirements or specific areas of concern, including:

  • How to spot and avoid phishing or social engineering attacks

  • Eliminating poor password hygiene

  • How to grant access with MFA

  • How to identify and report suspicious activity

Even with ongoing training, your end-users can still make mistakes. By combining practical cybersecurity training with robust security software and access controls, you can reduce the likelihood of a security breach.

Use secure connections for sensitive information

Whenever your employees connect to the corporate network or use internet resources, they present a chance for their data to be intercepted. That’s why it’s vital to secure sensitive data in transit. Should a bad actor obtain that data, it will remain encrypted and, essentially, useless.

It’s a good idea to train your users on spotting — and avoiding — unsecured connections. Ensure that users only visit websites that use the HTTPS protocol. By using secure connections and educating your employees on best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches.

Use encryption to protect sensitive data

While access management systems, network monitoring, and physical access controls are all vital protections for corporate systems, it’s also essential for security professionals to consider the worst-case scenario. Should your sensitive data fall into the wrong hands, what protections are in place?

That’s where stored data encryption comes in. Your system security should focus on preventing unauthorized access, but encryption provides a backup plan, preventing your sensitive data from being readable to cybercriminals.

Good candidates for encrypted storage include financial records, customer data, and employee information. Encrypting data may also be a compliance requirement in many locations or industries, as it is for healthcare providers to achieve HIPAA compliance.

Limit access to sensitive data

Organizations that store sensitive data should ensure that user access is limited based on workflow needs. Grant access rights only to those users who require specific data to do their jobs.

Employing the principle of least privilege in this way brings several benefits:

  • You limit the number of user accounts that could provide access points to your data for bad actors

  • Using granular user or role-based access controls helps you set the proper user login restrictions for accessing critical data

  • File auditing and privileged user monitoring become more straightforward when robust access control systems are in place.

Above all, limiting sections of your network to privileged access only keeps your sensitive data on a need-to-know basis.

Use a virtual private network (VPN)

Using a VPN is an effective way to protect users’ internet connections and data from being intercepted by cybercriminals. VPNs encrypt your data and route it through a secure server. This makes it extremely difficult for bad actors to access and intercept your information.

VPNs are particularly useful when employees work remotely or use public Wi-Fi networks, which are often unsecured and easily attacked. Enforcing VPN use reduces the risk of data breaches, compromised accounts, and unauthorized access.

To further enhance system security, protect your end-user VPN connections with MFA. By applying MFA for VPNs, you can reduce the likelihood of unauthorized access and keep your users’ work connections secured.

Monitor your network for suspicious activity

Regularly monitoring your network for suspicious activity is critical in maintaining your organization’s cybersecurity defenses. It lets you detect and respond to potential threats before they cause significant harm.

An access control solution like UserLock allows you to monitor, alert, and respond to incidents. Once suspicious activity is detected, you can take real-time action to prevent data breaches or unauthorized access.

Conduct regular security audits and tests

To maintain a robust cybersecurity posture, it’s essential to regularly conduct security audits and tests. These measures help identify and address vulnerabilities in your organization’s systems and processes.

Examples of audits and tests you might carry out include:

  • Penetration testing to identify network and security weaknesses

  • Audit and report on user login events or file and folder access to gain insights into network and user behaviors

  • Audits of policies and procedures to ensure they’re effective and up-to-date

  • Looking for opportunities to employ integrations or automation that improve network security

  • Reviewing user provisioning, levels of access, and system protections.

Consistent auditing and testing are crucial to maintaining a strong cybersecurity posture. By regularly conducting these audits and tests, you can proactively improve your organization’s sensitive data and assets.

Maintain a strong culture of cybersecurity

This article examined some practical ways to enhance access control and security for your organization. These tips include:

  1. Use strong, unique passwords for all users.

  2. Implement two-factor authentication using an MFA solution like UserLock to add a layer of protection for user accounts.

  3. Use a firewall to protect against malicious traffic.

  4. Install antivirus and anti-malware software to monitor and protect your systems.

  5. Educate employees about cybersecurity best practices and common threats.

  6. Secure sensitive data in transit with encrypted connections.

  7. Use encryption to protect sensitive data in storage.

  8. Limit access to sensitive data using the principle of least privilege.

  9. Use a virtual private network (VPN) to secure network access, with MFA providing additional protection.

  10. Monitor your network for suspicious activity.

  11. Conduct regular security audits and tests to learn about your network and make proactive improvements.

By following these tips, you can protect your organization and end-users while protecting against a security breach. These tips will help you defend your sensitive data and assets, manage user access, and maintain a strong culture of cybersecurity.

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