How to keep your start-up safe?

When building a start-up company, it might be tempting to overlook some important security aspects. For example, do you commonly use public WiFi networks when you’re on the go? Do you enter your PIN securely? These are just some of the questions. This post aims to give you some basic ideas to think about and potentially to implement in your company. But remember: no matter how strong cryptography you are using – even if it unbreakable – the weakest link is the end user. So, it’s worthwhile to continuously educate the end users (eg. employees) about potential threats, as well as promote an open atmosphere that encourages communication between IT and the end users.

SKM does everything to keep your app as safe as possible, but it’s equally important to keep in mind things you can do to increase security. Remember – in case of uncertainty – always ask!

Office Guidelines

Depending on your office place, you may be exposed to various threats. For example, unauthorized people (eg. visitors, cleaning service, people from other departments) may pass by your desk, and if you happen to have confidential information on the desk, it may no longer be a secret. Or, what if you forgot to lock your PC…?

  • Lock Office & Computer: Always lock your PC when you leave your place. If it is possible, lock the office too.
  • Clean Desk Policy: Don’t leave stuff on your desk, for example, during a lunch break.
  • Personal Devices: Don’t set up your own WiFi or use personally owned devices.
  • Wear Security Badge: Always wear your security badge. When you spot people without one, walk them to security.
  • Never Let Unknown in: Never hold the door for people you don’t know. Be careful with tailgaters, i.e. people that get in right after someone else with access.
  • Printing Confidential Information: Do not print confidential information. Keep in mind that some printers store everything you print.

Password Guidelines

A common mistake is to use the same password on multiple websites. If one website gets compromised, all your other accounts will be endangered.

  • Unique for Critical Services: Although it’s a good practise to keep a unique password for all your accounts, not all websites might be critical to protect. You should, at the very least, have a unique password for your email, banking, and other accounts that contain sensitive information about you or your organization.
  • Two Factor Auth: For those websites that support two factor authentication (2FA), consider using it. Should your password be compromised, there is another level of authentication, one that is not as easily compromised as the password itself (unless you lose your phone, etc).
  • Password Design: The password should contain upper/lower case letters, numbers and symbols. It should not contain words from the dictionary (or their derivative). Eg. Pa$$w0rd is a bad password.

Smartphone Guidelines

A smartphone contains more sensitive information than we think: our email messages, passwords, documents downloaded from the cloud, pictures, personally identifiable information, and more. Therefore, it’s important take great care of it.

  • PIN: Lock the phone with a PIN or a password
  • Encryption: Encrypt the phone and any additional SD storage, if applicable.
  • Remote Wipe: Set up remote wipe and device tracking (eg. Android Device Manager, Exchange).
  • Shoulder Surfing: Prevent shoulder surfing. When entering the PIN, take some distance from others. Think of it as the PIN to your credit/debit card. Would you want people behind you to see it?

On the Go – Traveling Securely

By travelling, you are exposed to many more risks than in the office. Using public WiFi and shoulder surfing are just some of the examples that pose a threat.

  • Public WiFi: Public hotspots are usually not encrypted, which means everyone can see your activity. It’s better to use cellular connection, if applicable, or a secure network. But, always assume everything you do is being tracked.
  • VPN: Use VPN to encrypt all web traffic (eg. when you use a browser).
  • You are being Watched: Any time you are online, assume that you are being watched all the time: all the websites, the passwords, etc are scrutinized by a hacker. When visiting websites, ensure that you only use secure connections, i.e. those starting with https://.
  • Confidential Documents in Hotels: Always keep important documents close to you and don’t leave them openly on the desk. Think ‘clean desk policy’.
  • Your Neighbours: Keep in mind that people around you may intercept your conversations.
  • Unattended Device: Best rule of thumb, ‘don’t leave your device unattended’. This reduces the risk of theft. If you need to leave it, hide it (eg. in a car).
  • Shoulder Surfers: Be careful and take distance from people when entering you PIN, especially if it is used to encrypt the device.

Email Guidelines

A common misconception is to assume that emails are private. That’s far from reality. Emails you send across the internet are in plain text, readable by anyone. Note, internal email communication may or may not go through the internet (i.e. it might stay within the company), however, check this with IT dept.

  • Emails are Insecure: Assume everything you send by email can be read by everyone. Sensitive information should be sent in an encrypted form, for instance using PGP.
  • Security may be Dissolved: Even if you assume that emails don’t leave your company’s server, keep in mind that your colleagues may have their emails on their phones, tablets, etc. It’s enough for the hacker to compromise one of the devices to be able to intercept the communication. Therefore, always encrypt emails.
  • PGP Pitfalls: If you’ve come this far, ensure that you check the fingerprint of the certificate.

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