This article was updated on July 6, 2018.

Sometimes it can feel as though cyberattackers are winning the war. As noted by Venture Beat, several factors conspire to tip the scales, including the inherent vulnerability of new systems, the unintentional security gaps created by employees and the fact that companies have to implement strong defenses across their network while hackers are free to concentrate their efforts on a single weakness.

But the fight isn't over yet. Here's a five-step self-evaluation plan to help boost your cybersecurity best practices and improve your network defense.

1. Identify Issues

As a first step, you should identify potential areas of compromise. This process is crucial for small businesses as many consider themselves to be lower priority targets given their lack of large-scale data. In fact, hackers often attempt data breach attacks on smaller companies because their IT security may not be as mature as their enterprise counterparts. But that's just the beginning. Businesses also need to identify potential compromise routes such as employee data theft, stolen electronics that contain corporate information, the proprietary knowledge of former employees and the risk of hijacked domain names.

2. Spend Smart

While IT security is a top priority for many companies, no business has an unlimited budget to fight off cyberattackers. As a result, it's important to spend wisely. Start with basic anti-virus, anti-malware and firewall packages, many of which are available at a reasonable monthly cost and can help stop the lion's share of common cyberattacks. It's also worth considering the temporary services of an IT consultant or security firm to help you set up, deploy and test a new security infrastructure.

3. Assess and Act

Next on the list of cybersecurity best practices is a reminder to regularly assess your ongoing risk and take relevant action. Again, it's a good idea for you to hire outside help on a regular basis — every six months to a year — to conduct risk and vulnerability assessments.

Based on your results, you should take action. For example, one way for you to quickly enhance your security posture is to use two-factor authentication, which requires employees to provide a one-time code (typically sent to mobile devices) along with their username and password to gain network access.

4. Utilize Defense By Design

While layering on new security countermeasures can help combat threats, small businesses should also embrace the concept of defense by design. It all starts with data encryption: Simply put, you should encrypt everything. It doesn't matter if you opt for on-site, cloud-based, in-house or third party solutions: Just make sure that you're using strong, asymmetrical encryption for data in motion and at rest.

Another good idea is for you to start talking. You should strive to share security knowledge with other organizations, law enforcement and academics. After all, hackers aren't afraid to work in groups: Don't single out your business as an easy target.

5. Tap the Right Tools

Last but not least, you need to make sure you have the right tools. These include Ping utilities to detect basic network problems, Message Analyzers to provide more in-depth traffic detail and behavioral security tools that can both analyze past breaches and help predict future trends.

The bottom line is that you should leverage a step-by-step self-evaluation to help enhance your cybersecurity best practices.

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