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Australia’s Data Breach Notification Laws Part 2: How to Protect Your Business

We've discussed what the notifiable data breach laws entail, why they exist, and why they'll be so important to both businesses and private citizens across the country moving forward. But to put it simply, no single mitigation strategy is guaranteed to A) apply to every type of business, or B) prevent every type of cybersecurity incident that you may encounter. 

There are far too many variables at play for that to be true.

Everything, from the type of business you're running to the industry you're operating in will affect both the types of attacks you're likely to face, their frequency and, most importantly, what you need to do to mitigate risk as much as possible.

That said, there are a number of key steps that you can take to help build the solid cybersecurity foundation you're going to need in the years to come.

Here are eight essential mitigation strategies that you should absolutely bring into your own business as soon as possible.

1. The Power of Application Whitelisting

One of the best ways to actually prevent malware compromising your systems in the first place involves application whitelisting, which involves making a list of approved and trusted programs to prevent any unauthorised access to your system.  This ensures all non-approved applications and programs are prevented from executing.

2. Patch Those Applications as Quickly as You Can

Just because your system is free from bugs and malware now does not mean it will stay that way forever. To ensure your system stays protected, keep all your applications updated to the latest version and download any security patches as soon as you can once they're released. Set up your system to notify you of any pending software updates. Doing this ensures security vulnerabilities and bugs are fixed and addressed before it can escalate further. 

3. Don't Forget About Microsoft Office

Everyone uses Microsoft Office and because it is used almost everyday, it can be prone to misuse and can be exposed to vulnerabilities. Along these lines, you should configure Microsoft Office macro settings to block macros from the Internet (which is a common way that malicious code is delivered online). You should only be using vetted macros from either sources that you explicitly trust, or that only have limited access to write information to your hard drive. Likewise, only use macros that have been digitally signed with a trusted certificate. 

4. User Application Hardening is More Powerful Than You Realise

Application or system hardening eliminates risk by removing all non-essential programs and utilities and keeping only the ones you need. Always use application hardening to configure web browsers to block elements like Flash, ads, and even Java on your systems. While some tools and utility programs are undoubtedly useful, they are also very common ways that hackers use to deliver and execute malicious code on compromised systems.

While you're at it, go through all of your commonly used applications (including PDF viewers, web browsers and yes — Microsoft Office) and disable any features that you do not explicitly need for the same reasons.

5. Putting the PRIVILEGE Back in Administrator Privileges

Next, you'll want to take steps to reduce the damage of cybersecurity events if and when they do occur. You should always restrict administrative privileges on your systems whenever possible, as admin accounts that are exposed are major targets for hackers.

Always re-evaluate who has administrator privileges and why on a regular basis, giving and revoking those privileges as needed. And whatever you do, never use these types of powerful accounts for something that could potentially lead to a compromise like web browsing or reading email. 

6. The Keys to the Kingdom: Your Operating System

Always patch your operating systems whenever updates are released and never, under any circumstances, should you use unsupported versions (like Microsoft Windows XP). When operating systems stop being supported, this means vulnerabilities will no longer be fixed with updates even if they're discovered. As security vulnerabilities are another common way that systems become compromised, it stands to reason that you should always update as soon as possible.

7. Your Most Powerful Weapon: Multi-Factor Authentication

You should also enable multi-factor authentication on all systems that support it, including but not limited to VPNs, RDP, SSH, and other remote access techniques. Stronger authentication will always make it harder for someone to gain access to the sensitive information you're trying to protect.

There's a reason why an estimated 30% of all organisations are looking to expand multi-factor authentication in the next year — it really is that effective.

8. Backups, Backups, and More Backups

Finally, always make DAILY backups of all important data including both new and changed data. Go out of your way to test these backups regularly and retain them for at least three months.

Doing so will make sure that you can always access information immediately following a cybersecurity incident, which will go a long way towards making sure you get back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Powernet: Your Next Step Towards Compliance with Australia's New Data Breach Notification Laws

At Powernet, we firmly believe that when it comes to cybersecurity, the old saying of “the best defense is a good offense” really does apply. This is why we encourage you to check out part three in the notifiable data breach series that discusses how to develop a data breach response plan.

If you have any additional questions or concerns you'd like to see addressed about this or any other essential topics, please don't delay — contact Powernet today.

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