As security evolves, protecting your customers and employees from the risk of cyberattacks has become a major concern for CIOs today.

A successful security plan will outline costs, resources and goals to help make businesses understand the risks of allowing sensitive data to fall into the wrong hands.

According to the 2017 Spiceworks survey, just 53% of IT professionals are ensuring corporate information is secured with CIOs influencing change across the boardroom. Here we look at the best ways to strengthen your online security and assure the business is less prone to attacks. (See also: 8 steps for implementing a successful security plan.

Start with the basics

Organisations should enlist basic security tools such as firewalls, anti-virus and device management tools which can help protect the business from malicious activity. These basic tools are easily available on the market and can help protect the network security. (See also: Best security tools for your home office 2017.) 

Firewalls protect your computers from the risk of malware and hackers, acting as a defense between trusted and untrusted networks. A firewall controls access to resources, meaning only certain traffic is allowed onto the network.

A firewall can detect suspicious activity if data or information is being extracted from a network. If the activity has not been authorised the firewall can then prevent access.

Anti-virus software can prevent, detect and remove viruses such as worms, Trojans and adware. These tools are vital for businesses because they can allow employees to safely browse the web. Norton, TotalAv and AVG are great anti-virus tools which can protect users from malware and spyware.

Device management tools allow users to oversee connected mobile devices which are being used across the network.

Miradore, Jamf Now and Hexnode MDM are great device management tools which ensure security through email access and automated compliance actions. These tools have a restriction feature which allows businesses to control its company data and ensure user performance is well-managed.

Regularly update software

While basic security tools are needed, having updated software can ensure businesses respond to new cyberattacks.

In some organisations, hackers have accessed networks and turned off their security settings making them more prone to attacks. Teams should regularly check their security settings by running regular scans, checking security settings and viewing user log activity. This can help ensure the business is protected from losing company data and reduce the risk of ransomware.

Browsers such as Firefox and Chrome automatically update their security, fixing any bugs detected.

In order to keep your system’s security levels high up-to-date tools should be installed to ensure you avoid security breaches and the risk of losing your customer’s trust.

Get detailed reports

The use of detailed reports can help give a better understanding of security and which areas need appropriate action.

Analytics can help track viruses and spyware while also creating a measured approach to security. Anti-virus tools such as Bullguard, Kaspersky and McAfee provide users with detailed reports of files scanned, viruses detected and an analysis of devices connected. McAfee also sends full instructions on how businesses can recover from a cyberattack.

While reports can help monitor the user’s online activity and browser history, it can help organisations to identify any security concerns while also gaining an insight of the user’s online behaviour.

Use password management tools

The recent Dropbox and Yahoo scandal, which had seen customer’s passwords assessed and stolen, has shown protecting customer data remains a priority for businesses today.

The use of password management tools can help employees to store and create a strong password, making users change their passwords every 90 days.

Dashlane 4 and Sticky Password Premium are free password management tools which links users' accounts and passwords, storing them all in one place. This can help reduce the risk of weak passwords, protect employee data and ensure a secure work environment.

Encrypt your devices

Teams should encrypt their devices to ensure information is secure and protected from hackers.

While password management tools can store and secure user passwords all in one place, mobile encryption can help prevent sensitive data from being stolen.

Encryption allows information including passwords and data to be hidden from hackers. This can help reduce the risk of access, provide extra security and protect overall employee data.(See also: Security Challenges for CIOs in 2017.) 

Be aware

CIOs today are influencing change across the boardroom by raising awareness of security.

According to the Global State of Information Security Survey, 53% of organisations have employee training and awareness programmes in safeguarding against incoming threats. While an understanding of security will add credibility to the organisation it can help ensure a customer's personal details are secure.

Telefonica 02, University of Dundee and BSH Home Appliances are currently educating its employees by making sure security is a key issue within their organisations for 2017.

COO Duncan Gooding has been raising awareness of security throughout TalkTalk Business to prevent another cyberattack.

“TalkTalk Business is very much going through a cultural acceptance of what security means across the business,” he said. “Security is as much as a cultural thing as an IT solution so we have a whole cultural initiative.”

“We currently have an online training system with all our staff going through training programmes making sure employees are aware of all the types of security and risk and what we would expect in terms of a secure approach.”

CIOs should implement training programmes, open days and skills workshops to ensure their employees are engaged and educated on security.(Read next: How to improve cyber security awareness in your organisation.)