Passwords are the primary way by which data is kept safe from hackers and restricts access without the authorized credentials. However, this layer of protection can easily be circumvented if passwords are not created with security in mind. Password policies and password management practices can be put in place at home and in organizations to ensure systems are protected from weak or improperly shared passwords.

Using weak passwords is much like leaving the door open to your car or house—it's just not safe.

Microsoft Security

Two-factor authentication provides another layer of security. While we recommend using two-factor authentication whenever possible, this article focuses primarily on password management. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for our article on two- or multi-factor authentication.

How do passwords get cracked?

Knowing the why behind the rules will aid in both preventing cracked passwords and creating strong passwords. There are many methods that threat actors use to break into your accounts and access your sensitive information.

Note that most sites will not store your password directly. Instead, they store a password hash—an encoded version of your password. The encoding is designed to work only one way: it cannot be run in reverse to get your password back from the hash. In these cases, threat actors can use the following methods:

The shorter the password, the easier it is to crack via brute force, and the more likely it will appear in a rainbow table.

What's a good password?

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (Cyber Centre) recommends the use of passphrases as they are longer, but easier to remember than a random, mixed-character password. A passphrase is a phrase consisting of a sequence of words with or without spaces. The Cyber Centre's recommended length is four words and 15 characters. One way to generate a passphrase is with the “diceware” method where a set of five dice are used to generate a passphrase — although note a diceware passphrase should be at least six words long.

Where passphrases cannot be used (usually due to length restrictions) the Cyber Centre recommends a password with a minimum of 12 characters that is as complex as possible. A password made up of lowercase and uppercase letters, as well as numbers and special characters, is more complex than a password of only lowercase letters.

Avoid weak passwords: those that are too short, simple, reused, common or personal to you (e.g. birthdate, a loved one's or pet's name)

Should I share my password?

NO. Every individual needing to access a system should have their own account and password. This ensures system access remains auditable and reduces the risk of inadvertently sharing passwords with a threat actor. Most systems allow delegation of privileges to other users (e.g. to monitor or manage your email) without needing to share your password — ask your IT department or service provider for assistance setting this up.

Should I reuse a password?

NO. Once an attacker obtains your password (through whatever means), they may attempt to use that same password to access your other accounts.

How often should I change my passwords?

Only change passwords when you might have been compromised. Gone are the days of changing your password on a schedule: the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) doesn't recommended that users change passwords frequently as this actually leads to behavior that may result in weaker passwords over time!

What about password managers?

Keeping track of unique, complex passwords for every account can be quite challenging. Memorizing all these different passwords is virtually impossible. Insecure password storage such as Excel sheets, Word or text files, sticky notes on your monitor and a notebook on your desk are must be avoided. Password managers, on the other hand, if selected and used appropriately, can help you securely create, store, and remember your passwords.

A password manager is an encrypted vault that stores usernames, passwords and other sensitive details for different accounts. There are two main types of password managers: browser-based and stand-alone. Each password management solution has different features, design, and vulnerabilities. A good fit for one organization may not be for another.

Although convenient, password managers do have risks to be considered — the greatest being the compromise of all your accounts at once. Evaluate the value of the accounts you store in the password manager. If you choose to use a password manager for sensitive accounts, be aware that your level of risk is increased dramatically. Your master password—ideally a master passphrase—should be among your strongest passwords: it effectively unlocks everything. Remembering this phrase and keeping it safe is vital to the security of your data. If you need to write the passphrase down, be sure to keep it in a safe place that is separate from where the data is stored. Avoid sharing your master password.

If your master password or password manager is compromised or hacked: immediately change all your passwords, starting with the master password.

Implement password management best practices with Highway 99

Contact us to discover how to best manage your organization's data. We provide appropriate solutions that keep your systems safe.

Phishing is when an attacker deceives you into sharing sensitive information or providing access to important accounts or computer systems. Phishing can be through any communication channel, be it email, phone, text or even social media. The target is tricked into performing an action such as clicking a malicious link, downloading malicious files, sharing sensitive information or sending money.

Phishing types

While the list below is not exhaustive, the more common phishing attacks include:

Components of a phishing attack

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security identifies three key steps in a phishing attack: the bait, the hook and the attack.

Whether an email, call or text, each message has been manipulated to appear legitimate in the hope targets will take the bait and fall for the scam.

Once the link is clicked, the target is redirected to the scammer's specially-crafted site. Once the attachment is opened, malware begins to execute. Once the number is pressed during the phone call, the target is connected directly to the scammer. In each case, the target is hooked.

The attacker has now stolen credentials and can now access the victim's account. Depending on the victim's role within the target organization, this may include access to sensitive data or critical systems. With malware installed, the attacker can gain control of the victim's device to steal data or initiate a ransomware attack. Or the victim may have sent money to the attacker. Even though the attack may be complete for now, the victim may remain vulnerable to future attacks.

How to protect yourself

Here are various steps you can take to protect yourself and your business from phishing attacks:

Organizations should establish policies and procedures pertaining to phishing and to cyber security generally. Staff should report suspected phishing messages to their IT department or IT services provider. Schedule periodic phishing awareness training to ensure your team knows what to look for. Read more about proven cybersecurity best practices.

Beat phishing with Highway 99 Technology Solutions

Be aware. Never click the link from an email or text. Verify information through a separate, trusted method. Ultimately, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Highway 99 can help. As part of our managed IT services we ensure your junk mail filtering is working to protect your firm from spam and phishing attacks. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help protect your organization against phishing and other types of digital threats.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to find and retain IT services personnel due to the ongoing labour crisis.

According to the Global Talent Crunch report, the global workforce will be 85.2 million workers short by 2030, a labour deficit that could cost $8.452 trillion in unrealized revenue. By the same calculations, the IT industry will face a shortage of 4.3 million workers. In a recent Gartner survey, IT executives said labour shortage was the biggest obstacle in adopting emerging technologies, mainly cloud computing, IT automation, networking, digital security, data management, and virtual workspaces. The top 10 most in-demand tech jobs revolve around those technologies.

So, what's causing this labour crisis, and when will it end? The talent shortage is quite complex, but it largely stems from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, drastic shifts in workplace culture, a mismatch between IT labour supply and demand, widening IT skill gaps, and high employee expectations. As for when it will end, nobody really knows. But in the meantime, here are some valuable tips for surviving the IT labour shortage:

Put your company in a better hiring position

First things first — make your company as attractive as possible to IT job seekers. To do that, you must know exactly what an IT worker looks for in an employer. Generally, most employees are after generous compensation and perks. But nowadays, a high salary is not enough to lure job candidates. Employees in tech-based roles also demand workplace flexibility and opportunities to learn and grow.

In addition to competitive pay, ensure your workplace supports hybrid collaborations and encourages creativity, learning, and professional development. Such employment perks appeal to a large audience of IT experts.

Invest in employee retention

You certainly can't afford to lose employees amid the labour crisis. A high employee turnover rate not only robs you of much-needed and scarce IT talent; it is also a painfully expensive problem. On average, employee turnover costs Canadian companies about $22,000 in lost output and recruitment costs every year, with some companies losing over $50,000 annually. On top of that, whenever one employee quits, the remaining workers have to fill in for them, increasing the risk of burnout and even more turnover.

Minimizing turnover revolves around enhancing employee experience and satisfaction. Turn the workplace into a conducive, comfortable, and meaningful environment for your staff. Be sure to keep an open line of communication, recognize and reward hard work, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Upskill your IT staff

The tech industry never stands still; it evolves rapidly, leaving a wake of obsolete skills and technologies. Upskilling is a great way to keep your IT team relevant in advancing fields without hiring more workers. According to the 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey, a majority of CEOs are keen on retraining and upskilling their staff, and many are confident in achieving the expected results.

Develop an effective upskilling program to bridge any technical skill gaps in your team. Upskilling is much cheaper and less of a hassle than trying to hire new workers. But it usually takes time, and there's always the risk that upskilled employees could still leave your company at any time.

Consider outsourcing your IT services

Outsourcing IT is by far the most practical and economical alternative to hiring. Rather than taking your chances with shrinking IT labour pools, why not contract a professional managed IT services provider? A managed IT provider costs much less than an in-house team, comes equipped with all the necessary tech expertise and tools, and you never have to worry about turnover. A single contract can essentially solve all your IT labour problems.

But you have to partner with the right service provider. Highway 99 is that partner. We offer managed and break-fix IT support, data backup and disaster recovery services, and support for special tech-based projects. Let's discuss your IT labour needs — call us at 604-262-2999 or book a no-obligation consultation.

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IT downtime or IT outage refers to when an organization's IT system shuts down or becomes inoperable. Downtime can be either planned or unplanned. Planned downtime means deliberately shutting systems, usually to allow for routine maintenance. This is normally scheduled at the most convenient time to avoid disrupting business activities.

Unplanned downtime occurs randomly and unexpectedly. It catches the business by surprise, causing interruptions and untold losses in delays, unrealized revenue, and recovery costs. Some estimates put the average cost of IT downtime at $5,600 per minute, while others quote much higher figures. But the true cost of downtime depends on the incident and business in question. For instance, analysts speculate that a recent 14-hour Facebook outage might have cost the company a whopping $90 million in lost revenue.

But even if an unplanned IT outage doesn't cost your business millions of dollars in losses, it can still be painful and wasteful. And given how IT ties so many business processes together, maintaining IT uptime should be a top priority.

How to prevent downtime

Common causes of downtime include:

By looking at the leading causes of downtime, we can deduce what it would take to minimize the risk of costly IT outages. Here are five practical measures you should consider to optimize IT uptime:

Check and update your systems regularly

Older and unhealthy systems are more susceptible to failure, lag, and even cyberattacks. Check your servers, computers, and network devices regularly for signs of damage, weakness, or aging that might lead to failure. The same goes for software tools as well. Ensure your systems run the latest operating systems, software applications, drivers, and firmware.

Invest in cybersecurity and employee training

Cybercrime is one of the most common and devastating causes of downtime. According to Acronis Cyber Protection Week Global Report, cyberattack is the third leading cause of IT outages, after system crashes and human error.

Invest heavily in defensive cybersecurity to protect your IT against destructive threats such as malware, DDoS traffic, ransomware, data theft, and cryptojacking. Also, train your employees to use the available digital resources correctly, efficiently, and safely.

Reduce your dependency on on-premise hardware

On-premise servers, computers, and network systems can easily go offline due to power loss and physical damage from sabotage, accidents, and disasters. Mitigate such risks by moving more of your critical workloads to the cloud and relying less on on-premise hardware. Most cloud providers guarantee 99.99% uptime, which is more than you'll get from any on-premise setup.

Have a disaster recovery plan

You can't prevent or even anticipate every IT outage. So, you need to have a disaster recovery plan to get your business up and running as quickly as possible after an unavoidable IT failure. The recovery plan should include swift response procedures for every possible IT downtime scenario, from data loss and cyberattack to natural disaster.

Part of the recovery plan should focus on preserving business continuity, perhaps by running mission-critical operations on backup systems.

Focus on proactive IT maintenance

You won't avoid downtime if you always wait until an IT component crashes in order to fix it. You can prevent catastrophic IT failures by anticipating technical issues and resolving them before they arise or grow into big problems. This is called proactive IT maintenance. For instance, if a server starts to slow down, fix or replace it before it grinds to a complete halt.

Proactive IT maintenance is the most holistic measure you can take to minimize the chances of unwanted downtime. And that's what we do here at Highway 99 Technology Solutions Inc. With our managed IT services, you can plan, manage, and maintain your IT infrastructure to optimize efficiency, safety, performance, and uptime. We will also help you develop a disaster recovery plan to handle any IT threats that slip through the net. Call us at 604-262-2999 or book a consultation to get started with expert IT management.

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According to the most recent stats, a ransomware attack happens every 11 seconds. That frequency could go up to one attack every 2 seconds by 2031, resulting in $265 billion worth of damages.

This article sheds light on ransomware attacks: how they work, and the various vectors and tactics used in these attacks. More importantly, you'll learn how to prevent ransomware attacks, counter imminent ransomware threats, and bounce back after an attack.

What is a ransomware attack?

Ransomware is malware that encrypts data or locks access to IT systems/resources until a ransom is paid to the attacker. The attacker will typically threaten to delete the data, sell it, or release it publicly if the ransom demands are not met.

According to a Sophos report, the average ransom paid by mid-sized companies in 2020 was $170,404. In addition to the ransom, victims also incur other financial damages in terms of downtime, lost business, and recovery costs. All in, it costs, on average, $1.85 million to resolve a ransomware attack.

But paying the ransom does not guarantee that you'll get your data back after a successful attack. In fact, some ransomware payloads are programmed to delete your data even after you make the payment.

One of the largest and most successful ransomware attacks in 2021 involved Colonial Pipeline, a major pipeline operator in the US. An infamous hacker group known as DarkSide hit Colonial Pipeline with a ransomware attack targeting the firm's billing system and internal business network. The company ended up paying close to $5 million in ransom.

The vectors and tactics used in ransomware attacks

Hackers use various means to deliver ransomware. The main ones are:

Security experts have identified countless ransomware strains, all of which fall into two main categories: crypto and locker ransomware. Crypto ransomware encrypts data, whereas lockers block users from accessing devices, servers, or data. Some well-known ransomware variants include WannaCry, CryptoLocker, Bad Rabbit, Jigsaw, Locky, Petya, and GoldenEye.

How to prevent and respond to ransomware attacks

Here are the various measures you can take to protect your business against ransomware attacks:

But what if you get hit with a ransomware attack? The first thing you should do is disconnect all your systems from the network to prevent the ransomware from spreading. Second, assess the damage and see what data has been encrypted. You can then decide whether to pay the ransom or try to recover your data from backups. Your cyber security insurance provider and law enforcement should be your first calls.

However, paying the ransom should be your last resort, as there's no guarantee that you'll get your data back. And even if you do get your data back, there's no way to know if the attackers have left a backdoor that they could use to re-access your system.

So, it's always best to try and recover the data from backups first. If you don't have backups, you can try using data recovery or decrypting tools. But again, this may not work.

Beat ransomware with Highway 99 Technology Solutions

Clearly, a reliable data backup is the best defence against potential damages from ransomware attacks. Maintaining a healthy IT infrastructure also helps keep ransomware and other cyber threats away. Highway 99 can help you do both.

Our managed IT and data backup services ensure data safety and smooth IT operations. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help to protect your organization against data loss, ransomware, and all kinds of digital threats.

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When looking to outsource IT support, you'll probably have to choose between break-fix support and managed IT at some point. These are generally the two main approaches to IT maintenance. Each method is distinct and suited to particular businesses, IT infrastructures, and technical needs.

Highway 99 offers both managed IT and break-fix support. Since we've seen both sides of the coin, we've prepared this guide to help you decide which IT support model fits your business.

What is break-fix IT?

As the name suggests, a break-fix service provider resolves issues when they arise. The client contacts the service provider when something goes wrong, and technicians either show up on-site or work remotely to solve the problem. However, most break-fix support providers offer much more than random fixes. They may also provide on-demand IT services for one-off tasks such as systems deployment, data backup, web/software development, cloud migration, and special projects.

Break-fix IT providers charge an hourly fee for the services rendered, plus the cost of any hardware or software used in the process. And once they're done, that's the end of the engagement.

What is managed IT?

Managed IT means outsourcing your IT processes to a contractor through a fully managed or co-managed arrangement. In a fully managed scenario, the managed IT service provider takes over every IT management duty. But with co-managed IT, the provider shares IT responsibilities with the in-house staff.

Managed IT providers work closely with their clients in a close relationship defined by the service agreement and charge a flat monthly or annual subscription fee based on the service scope. Most providers offer a wide range of services (usually in tiered or bundled packages), including:

Break-fix pros and cons

On the bright side, you don't make any upfront IT service investments or payments. And the "pay-as-necessary" costing model might be more affordable than monthly subscriptions. Also, there are no service agreements or licenses to worry about. Finally, break-fix IT leaves total IT control in your hands—letting you decide when to call for outside assistance and what actually needs fixing.

The biggest downside to break-fix IT is the lack of proactive maintenance that prevents systems from failing in the first place. The saying "don't fix unless broken" doesn't exactly hold true in IT. If you wait until something breaks, you'll likely suffer unwanted downtime. Consequently, the cost of frequent downtime and repairs can really add up in the long run.

Managed IT pros and cons

One of the main benefits of managed IT is proactive maintenance, which prevents costly downtime and preserves your IT's general health and performance. The managed IT subscription model is consistent, easy to budget, and costs much less than an in-house IT department. But the close partnership is by far managed IT's biggest selling point. Having an IT expert as a business partner comes in handy when making IT plans and investments.

The only problem with managed IT is finding the right managed IT service provider for your business. Service packages, customer services, and expertise vary widely between providers. Plus, you want an managed IT provider you can trust. One that brings tangible value to your company by fostering growth through digital innovation, performance, security, and efficiency. Conversely, partnering with the wrong provider can do more harm than good.

Break-fix vs. managed IT: Which is better?

The answer to this question depends on your IT infrastructure and its needs. For instance, break-fix IT might suffice for businesses with a small IT footprint or an adequately staffed internal IT team. Break-fix IT also works where IT outage is not a big issue.

But for businesses with mission-critical and complex IT systems, managed IT is the more practical option. In fact, many entrepreneurs understandably prefer the more holistic, consistent, and proactive managed IT to break-fix support. In short, managed IT does more for your business than break-fix support.

At Highway 99, we understand that there're many reasons a business would opt for break-fix or managed IT, which is why we offer both services. Whichever IT support model you'd prefer, we've got you covered. Let's talk about your IT needs and the best solutions we have for you.

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Business technology is highly dynamic, evolving rapidly with emerging innovations, pop cultures, business trends, and countless other influences. Not to mention the ever-growing complexity and fragility of digital systems. These are big problems for organizations relying on digital solutions for everyday business processes. In our line of work, we've seen many entrepreneurs make all sorts of mistakes regarding IT hardware, software, services, and operations.

IT setups are extremely sensitive. Even the slightest mistake can have devastating consequences. Let's look at the costliest mistakes IT professionals and business owners make and how you can avoid them:

Not having a solid IT plan

Some entrepreneurs invest heavily in business, logistical, and financial planning without giving much thought to their IT strategy. An IT plan guides you on utilizing the available IT resources to achieve long-term and short-term business goals. It tells you the best IT investments and decisions depending on what you want to accomplish. A solid IT plan covers the following areas:

Dismissing the cloud

Cloud computing is one of the fastest-growing business tech solutions today. Flexera's 2022 State of the Cloud Report shows sharp upticks in cloud adoption, utilization, and investments among small and large companies in just the last year.

The cloud brings you powerful computing resources that would otherwise be out of reach, and for just a mere fraction of the cost. Moving your workloads to the cloud also minimizes your IT footprint and the associated risks, cutting IT costs and complexities. Plus, the cloud alone can open doors to so many progressive opportunities, such as workplace flexibility, secure data management, robust communications, distributed workforce, and more.

Dismissing the cloud as just another fad is one of the most regrettable IT mistakes you could make. Yet, adopting the cloud can be as easy as switching from software licenses to software-as-a-service (SaaS) products or migrating on-premises servers to hosted platforms.

Discounting cybersecurity

Cybercrime is an inevitable risk when working with data systems. Threat actors are relentless in their quests to sabotage business operations, steal corporate data, and defraud individuals and organizations through increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. In fact, cybercrime has escalated to a national security concern with government agencies, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Communications Security Establishment (CSE), warning Canadian organizations of the growing threat.

These are not baseless warnings either. A single data breach can set you back $4.24 million and ruin your business reputation and customer trust. So, ensure you tick every item in the cybersecurity checklist, including:

Forgetting to back up data

Do you have a reliable data backup system? Without it, you're exposing your organization to unnecessary risks. A data backup and disaster recovery system guarantees data availability at all times. Data is such a vital business asset that its fate cannot be left to chance. Keeping a data backup protects data integrity even after a cyberattack, accidental deletion, hardware/software failure, natural disaster, or IT outage.

Backing up data is a crucial cybersecurity practice. More than that, it plays a big part in business continuity planning.

Going at it alone

The tech world is a complicated space. And the fact that things change so drastically and rapidly makes figuring out the business IT landscape all the more difficult. Running a business and keeping a close eye on IT at the same time can be overwhelming. For example, you have to find the right resources, implement them, and continually check that they run properly. You also have to take care of security, compliance, licenses, IT labour, etc. — it's an endless list.

But why do all this alone when an IT expert could help you out? That's what we do here at Highway 99. We lighten the load for entrepreneurs through professional managed IT services. Our team of experts does all the heavy lifting so you can focus solely on running the business without worrying about making IT mistakes. Book a consultation session today to learn more about our IT solutions.

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The idea of cloud computing was first conceived in the 1960s by J.C.R. Licklider, one of the computer scientists working on ARPANet (the earliest version of the internet). But it wasn't until the early 2000s that cloud computing really took off. Today, the cloud is a $483 billion industry and is only growing. According to Flexera's State of the Cloud Report, 63 percent of organizations run more than 25 percent of their workloads on the cloud. And given the accelerating cloud adoption and utilization rates, two-thirds of SMB workloads will run on the cloud in the next year.

What's so great about the cloud that everyone is so eager to get a piece of it? Cloud computing is basically a way of leasing digital processing power and accessing virtual resources over the internet. But in essence, the cloud is a disruptive technology that has completely redefined the meaning of enterprise IT. Here are five reasons why the cloud is so revolutionary:

Minimizes IT investments and costs

One of the biggest digitization challenges most businesses face is acquiring and running IT systems. IT equipment and software are not cheap, and maintaining an operational IT infrastructure requires a hands-on team of IT experts. Plus, you have to frequently upgrade IT components as older systems become obsolete.

Since the cloud is already an established IT platform, you don't have to purchase expensive servers, computers, or networking devices. Also, the cloud provider maintains and updates the platform, so you don't incur any upkeep costs either.

Secures data and digital workflows

The cloud is built from the ground up with a multi-layered security architecture for maximum data and user safety. Cloud security incorporates physical on-site security, data decentralization, firewalls, encryption, monitoring and logging, intruder detection systems, and network protection, among many other advanced safety measures.

Despite some valid concerns about cloud security, the cloud is way more secure than any on-premises system on so many levels. In fact, most organizations trust cloud storage with their data backup and recovery systems. Besides, the biggest threat to cloud security is not external attacks but internal misconfigurations.

Accelerates IT deployments

You can sign up for a cloud service with just a few easy clicks on a computer or taps on a smartphone. Cloud solutions are nearly instant and come fully equipped and ready for deployment. Working with cloud systems accelerates and simplifies digitization since you don't have to physically purchase, ship, and set up any sophisticated hardware.

The cloud is also highly flexible and easily scalable to match dynamic IT and business needs. Such an elastic digital front enhances business agility and speed to market.

Brings highly advanced computing within reach

Cloud computing brings cutting-edge IT resources within reach of businesses that would otherwise not be able to afford them. Thanks to the cloud, even small enterprises and start-ups can access highly advanced digital capabilities affordably and sustainably. You'll find just about every business IT resources on the cloud, including VoIP phone systems, virtual servers, data centers, DevOps tools, and virtual workspaces.

The cloud essentially levels the digital arena for all businesses, giving SMBs and start-ups a fighting chance against IT-ready corporate giants.

Introduces new business opportunities

Embracing the cloud opens your business to unique new opportunities. Migrating to the cloud breaks your dependence on traditional on-prem IT processes, which could cripple your business's innovative potential. The cloud paves the way to exciting, progressive, new possibilities, such as:

Jump on the cloud with Highway 99

Utilizing cloud-based resources may be a quick, low-cost, and convenient way to build a robust IT infrastructure, but moving to the cloud is not always easy. You need an expert to guide you in making the right decisions, starting from which resources to buy and how to properly implement and use them. That expert is Highway 99. We specialize in helping businesses reach their digital ambitions through our professional IT management services. Feel free to call us at 604-262-2999, write to us, or book a free consultation to discuss your IT needs and challenges.

Cyber insecurity is one of the biggest threats to modern enterprises. Verizon recently released its 14th Data Breach Investigation Report which logged over 5,000 confirmed data breaches in 2021 alone. According to the DBIR, the most common threats today include social engineering, denial of service (DoS), ransomware, system intrusions, web application attacks, malware, and miscellaneous errors.

Based on such findings, we can deduce what an effective cybersecurity system should look like. Here's an overview of essential cybersecurity best practices for protecting corporate digital assets:

Employee training in cybersecurity

Verizon found that a majority (85 percent) of data breaches involve the human element. Unsurprisingly, employees are the weakest link in any cybersecurity framework, and they often make the first contact with attackers. Employees can fall for social engineering scams, disregard security policies, or make critical errors—all of which could jeopardize a company's security posture.

The only way around this problem is to educate employees on threat awareness, security responsibilities and accountability, and the importance of following security protocols and guidelines. Cybersecurity training essentially turns your staff from a liability to a crucial security asset.

Network and systems monitoring

IT monitoring tools are digital surveillance systems that keep a close eye on computing performance, user behaviour, and network traffic. These intelligent tools can pick up and flag any unusual activities that might indicate an imminent attack. For instance, unusual user navigation paths or requests could point to a compromised user account. Systems monitoring catches threats before they can cause any irreversible damage.

Access control management

An identity and access management (IAM) system forms the crucial boundary that ensures only authorized persons can access specific digital resources. In the past, you could get away with a simple username-password login wall as an IAM system. But passwords alone have so far proven unreliable. A dependable IAM system should incorporate multi-factor authentication, least privilege access, account auditing, and granular permissions, among other measures.

System health and security maintenance

Your IT systems' health has a significant effect on their security status. A poorly maintained IT infrastructure will not only break down more frequently but could also allow threats to slip in more easily. So, ensure all your hardware and software assets are always in top shape through proactive IT management, including regular servicing, fine-tuning, upgrading, and updating. More importantly, ensure that all the security tools, from firewalls and antimalware to intruder detection systems, are always up to date and working flawlessly.

Organizational security policies and culture

Besides all the security tools and devices, there is an intangible aspect to cybersecurity—the organizational culture. A security-conscious organizational culture means having the right knowledge, mindset, and attitude toward cybersecurity. It's weaved deep in the organization's ecosystem, from the staff and business processes to the company's values. It's your job to cultivate a cybersecurity culture in your organization by shaping company policies, employee perceptions and beliefs, and professional conduct to align with various cybersecurity interests.

Incident response

Most people view cybersecurity solely from a defensive perspective. But an incident response plan is just as important as the defensive front. You need a response mechanism to deal with any threats that slip through the net. NIST recommends a 6-phase incident response plan with the following steps:

  1. Preparation
  2. Detection and analysis
  3. Containment
  4. Eradication
  5. Recovery
  6. Post-incident activity

Data backup and disaster recovery

A data backup and disaster recovery strategy plays a big role in cybersecurity. More specifically, it forms an essential part of incident response planning, business continuity, and compliance with data safety and privacy standards. Keeping reliable data backups guarantees data availability even after a data loss incident, be it a ransomware attack, accidental deletion, or data breach.

Are you keen on setting up a cybersecurity framework but don't know where to start? Partner with Highway 99 Technology Solutions and leverage world-class managed IT and data backup services to safeguard your business, digital assets, employees, and customers against cybercriminals. Contact us to get started.

Nowadays, managed IT services providers have become the go-to solution for managing corporate IT systems. However, some entrepreneurs and business leaders are still not convinced that managed IT is for them, while others assume it only suits big companies. But the truth is, any IT-reliant business — no matter how small — needs proper IT management, which might mean bringing in a managed IT provider at some point.

The big question is: how can you tell your business needs third-party IT management? Unfortunately, there's no single answer to this question. But here are five common signs your business could benefit from partnering with a managed services provider:

IT staffing issues

Finding and retaining highly skilled IT experts is a tall order, especially with the ongoing country-wide labour shortage. Several reports paint a grim picture of an intensifying talent shortage across all industries, with some businesses even shutting down due to a lack of workers.

If you're struggling to fill IT positions with enough skilled labour, it might be time to source IT support elsewhere. A managed IT provider provides you with a ready team of IT experts without having to hire more employees. Otherwise, relying on a short-staffed or under-skilled IT department could lead to a devastating lapse in IT maintenance, resulting in frequent downtime and mounting support tickets.

Overwhelmed employees

Most small businesses start with a small IT team or none at all. IT management is usually not that big a priority or concern during the early start-up stages. But as the business grows, IT responsibilities grow as well. The IT support demands will inevitably surpass the business's labour capacity if the workforce doesn't scale with the business. This may result in a workforce severely overwhelmed or hampered by endless technical obligations and challenges.

You can tell your HR is overwhelmed by increased errors, absenteeism, and missed deadlines or a dip in workers' enthusiasm, output quality, and productivity. Studies also show that overloading employees can have a debilitating effect on their emotional, mental, and even physical well-being.

Don't overwork your staff on account of IT support. Get an IT provider to relieve your workforce from frustratingly cumbersome, mundane, and time-consuming technical tasks.

Rising cost of IT maintenance

Do you feel like you're burning too much cash just to keep your digital infrastructure running? If you do, try hiring a managed IT provider to streamline and cut IT costs. Maintaining and scaling an IT infrastructure doesn't have to cost a fortune. An IT provider can help reduce your IT budget in the following ways:

Unsettling security concerns

In 2021, 85.7 percent of Canadian companies experienced at least one cyberattack, according to the Cyberthreat Defence Report. Cyber insecurity is indeed a significant pain point for any business reliant on information systems. But concerns over cybercrime shouldn't weigh down your business as long as you've put a robust cybersecurity system in place.

A managed IT provider can help you design and erect a formidable cybersecurity framework complete with defensive and responsive measures, security governance policies, and data safety and privacy compliance. Despite the ever-worsening cyberthreat landscape, managed security ensures you never lose sleep contemplating digital safety.

Digital stagnation

IT efficiency, performance, and productivity have a huge impact on business success. Utilizing the latest and most robust tech earns your business a massive competitive advantage and lead in its industry. But tech is highly volatile, and keeping up with emerging tech trends while constantly upgrading and optimizing IT systems to modern standards can be challenging. This is where a managed IT provider comes in handy.

With IT consultancy and planning, a managed IT provider guides you in structuring your IT setup to align with your long-term and short-term business goals. This turns your IT into a constantly evolving yet goal-oriented resource.

If your business shows any of these signs, it could really use managed IT services. And Highway 99 is ready to help you overcome these and more IT challenges. Book a free consultation or call us at 604-262-2999 to learn more about leveraging managed IT.

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