The 5 most crucial Cybersecurity updates for businesses in 2021

April 26, 2021  |  Devin Partida

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

For as long as businesses have used computers, cybersecurity has been crucial. Now, as modern business and data are becoming inseparable, it’s an absolute necessity. As companies start to recover from 2020 losses, they should consider investing in security updates.

Cybercrime reached new heights in the past year, with internet crime reports rising 69.4% and costing more than $4.2 billion. Now that more companies are embracing digital services after the pandemic, this trend will likely continue. All businesses, regardless of size or industry, must revisit their cybersecurity.

Here are the five most important cybersecurity updates for this year.

1. Implementing a Zero-Trust framework

The single most crucial cybersecurity upgrade for businesses this year is adopting a zero-trust security framework. These systems, which rely on network segmentation and thorough user verification, aren’t new but are increasingly crucial. In light of rising cyberthreats, companies can’t afford to trust anything inside or outside their networks without proof.

A 2020 survey found that 82% of company leaders plan to let their employees work remotely at least part time after the pandemic. That many people accessing data remotely raises security concerns. Hackers could pose as remote workers to gain access or install spyware, and IT teams wouldn’t know it.

Zero-trust models mitigate these threats. Verifying user identity at every step helps guarantee only employees can access mission-critical data. Segmentation ensures that only those who need access can get it, and if a breach occurs, it won’t impact the entire network.

2. Securing machine learning training data

Machine learning algorithms are becoming increasingly common among companies in various industries. These models take considerable amounts of data to train, which presents an enticing opportunity for cybercriminals. As more companies rely on machine learning, more threat actors will likely try to poison the training data.

By injecting incorrect or corrupt data into the training pool, cybercriminals could manipulate a machine learning system. If companies don’t catch the problem before it’s too late, the algorithms they rely on could influence poor or even harmful business decisions. Given this threat, securing machine learning training data is a must.

Businesses should carefully inspect the information they use to train machine learning models. They should also enact stricter access controls over training pools, including activity monitoring.

3. Verifying third-party and partner security

Businesses should also look outward when improving their cybersecurity. The growing public awareness of cyberthreats is changing expectations about visibility, and that’s a good thing. It’s no longer sufficient to trust that a business partner or third party has robust data security. Companies must verify it.

Third-party data breaches in 2020 exposed millions of records, and major events like the SolarWinds hack have revealed how fragile some systems are. In light of these risks, businesses must ask all potential partners to prove they’re safe. Limiting network access so third parties can only get what they absolutely need will also help mitigate these threats.

4. Monitoring user activity

Insider threats have always been a leading cause of concern, but they’re becoming more prominent. The number jumped 47% to 4,716 between 2018 and 2020, and their cost rose by 31%. If they don’t already, businesses should monitor user activity on their networks to protect against this growing trend.

Not all insider-caused breaches are insidious. Carelessness and complacency are often to blame for employees opening entryways for cybercriminals. Activity monitoring can help spot when a worker is engaging in potentially risky behavior, helping businesses stop it before it creates a vulnerability.

Monitoring software is particularly crucial for remote employees. While companies can’t secure their home networks, they can ensure they behave safely while working. Many monitoring solutions today are also automated, helping even small IT departments keep tabs on user activity.

5. Creating a business continuity plan

Every company should design and implement a business continuity plan. As cybercrime continues to climb, it’s unrealistic to think that a network will never suffer a breach. Companies need to plan for worst-case scenarios, ensuring that mission-critical systems can stay operational in an emergency.

The first step in developing a business continuity plan is to identify mission-critical functions, processes and resources. Once a company knows these, it can formulate a plan to keep them running amid a crisis. Typically, this involves backups, emergency communication systems and manual workarounds.

All employees should know their role in the business continuity plan. Periodically reviewing it and running simulated emergencies can help ensure everyone knows what to do should a crisis arise. This planning will help businesses minimize the impact of a data breach or related emergency.

Stay safe amid emerging threats

Cybersecurity should be a top priority for any business in 2021. Cyberthreats are growing and changing, and every company should prepare to defend against them.

These five updates are the most crucial considerations for businesses upgrading their cybersecurity in 2021. While they don’t cover every threat, they will help protect companies from the year’s most troubling and relevant risks. With sufficient preparation, businesses can stay safe, even as cyberthreats increase.

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