Laughing at Hackers: 5 Proactive Steps You Can Take to Secure Your Laptops from External Threats

August 23, 2023

Here’s a joke that’s not funny: your company’s data was just hacked.

Shock waves, unmitigated panic, and alibis are all fair play when you as the CIO, CISO or Head of IT, wakes up to the news that a hacker has infiltrated their systems. Fingers are pointing in every direction, questions are flying, and your reputation is on the line. What went wrong? It could stem from the fact that you only protected your perimeter with a firewall – your organization thought that it was enough to safeguard its network infrastructure and didn’t think much about user devices. However, laptops are a popular attack vector for an assailant to get into your inner sanctum.

According to a recent report by Verizon, 94% of malware was delivered via email, and user devices like laptops were the primary targets. Moreover, a study by Ponemon Institute found that the average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million. It’s vitally important to adopt comprehensive security measures to protect not only your network infrastructure but also individual user devices.

So, what steps can you take to make your laptop more secure? Here are five strategies that you can use to combat external threats:

1. Utilize Strong Passwords

According to a report by Verizon, over 80% of data breaches are a result of weak or compromised passwords. To appreciate the importance of password strength, you must reconsider that hackers have computing power, time, and nerves on their side. But with the built-in technology of a password manager, you can utilize complex sign-in credentials for every account on your laptop, making them too difficult to crack in a reasonable amount of time.

A study by the University of Virginia illustrated that using a password manager can significantly increase the strength and variability of passwords, thereby amping up security. Once in place the password manager will automatically log you in without having to recall them all. It will also send you reminders to change passwords regularly, which is only advisable if you are using a password manager.

Furthermore, research by Pew Research Center indicates that only 12% of U.S. internet users utilize a password manager for remembering their password.

2. Enable Multi Factor Authentication

Fact. You need two factors to verify an identity. The FBI has reported that multifactor authentication (MFA) can block 99.9% of automated cyber-attacks. Moreover, according to Symantec, 80% of data breaches could be prevented with MFA. Therefore, multifactor authorization is the two-in-one (or more-in-one) approach that makes certain it’s you logging into the system.

The standard approach is to think of it as something you know, something you have, and something you are – a password, a smart card, and a fingerprint. Research by Google found that even the weakest forms of MFA, such as SMS-based verification codes, can block 100% of automated bots, 96% of bulk phishing attacks, and 76% of targeted attacks.

Despite the clear benefits, MFA is underutilized, with only 57% of people using it for their personal accounts and 30% at work, according to a report by Microsoft. If utilized MFA provides arguably the most effective line of defense in securing your laptop from external threats.

3. Install Updates and Patches

New software vulnerabilities are constantly found. A study by Flexera found that in 2019, 60% of breaches involved vulnerabilities for which a patch was available but not applied. The only way to avoid being exploited by this kind of attack is to install software patches and updates. They will help to fix any known security vulnerabilities in the software you use.

Further underscoring the importance of regular system updates, the Ponemon Institute’s 2019 State of Cybersecurity in Small and Medium-Sized Businesses report revealed that 63% of respondents experienced a data breach due to a known, unpatched vulnerability. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer – keep your software updated!

4. Use Antivirus and Anti-malware software

According to a report by AV-TEST, an independent cybersecurity institute, over 350,000 new malware and potentially unwanted applications (PUA) are registered every day. This alarming number illustrates the importance of antivirus and anti-malware software in protecting your laptop.

The state of the art in defending  against attack vectors and malicious threats keeps changing. Antivirus (AV) has given way to Next-gen Antivirus (NGAV), which has been upped by endpoint detect & response (EDR). You should look into whether NGAV or EDR is right for you, it really depends on the potential damage that a breach to the individual laptop can cause. Regardless of what type you use, installing a current antivirus and anti-malware software will assist in intercepting many external threats.

5. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A study by the Ponemon Institute revealed that 68% of organizations admit antivirus solutions are not sufficient. Increasing cyber threats and a rising remote workforce, necessitates the use of secure, encrypted connections. There is a growing need for VPNs as a tool for securing internet connections, particularly when accessing public Wi-Fi networks. VPNs create a private network between a company’s network and a remote user to secure the internet connection.

In a nutshell, a VPN is vital for remote workers as it provides a secure, encrypted connection when utilizing a home connection or public Wi-Fi. In the age of remote work and digital nomads, using a VPN has gone from an optional extra to a necessary security measure.

To Summarize

Is gaining peace of mind that your end-user laptops are secure a burden for you? If the answer is yes, then these tips should aid your computing device protection game. You can’t go wrong with utilizing strong passwords, enabling multi factor authentication, installing updates and patches, using antivirus and anti-malware software, and using a VPN.

Take your laptop’s security one step further than your office firewall; take preemptive measures to make hackers regret even trying! Remember, security should always be your top priority as data breaches can have severe consequences for your organization.

If you have questions about getting your laptops secured or need a partner to secure and manage your laptops for you, reach out to us at info@montra.io or +1-404-665-9675.

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