With more companies than ever doing the bulk of their business online, it's never been more necessary to have a strategy in place for keeping data safe. Many consumers are rightly skeptical about the ability of businesses to keep their personal information secure in an age of rampant identity theft. Thankfully the countermeasures are evolving as quickly as the threats, and savvy business owners can put them to use and earn the confidence of their customers. Here are six tips for keeping your company's data secure.
1. Learn the Technology
You'll never be able to stop a threat that you don't understand. Most entrepreneurs get into business because that's their passion, and this often translates to a general unawareness of the technical threats out there in cyberspace. Business owners should be able to answer communications security questions like "what is an SQL injection?" or "what is ssl encryption?"
Hitting the books like this may seem like a lot of work, but cybercriminals count on your ignorance of the nuts and bolts of digital technology to slip past your notice. Getting into the habit of reading computer security magazines or just taking a refresher course on computer operation can keep you both current and aware in regards to the threats to your operation.
2. Backup All Data
Studies show that when a data breach happens, the financial cost can be crippling for small businesses: about $146 per record compromised. The cost of a breach includes the cost of repair and recovery, so this cost can be mitigated by backing up your data, especially anything vital. Saving information in the cloud is a good start, but it's really not enough, given how many vulnerabilities there are in distributed computing. Invest in flash drives and then keep them under lock and key. Storing hard copies of the most important documents in locked filing cabinets can certainly add to clutter, but at least you can't lose a sheet of paper to a power outage. In other words, treat your data like you would any other precious commodity.
3. Install Defensive Tools
The most straightforward (and probably the most important) step you can take to safeguard company data is to have advanced antivirus software installed on all of the devices used for business purposes. This can be easier said than done, though, with so many people still working from home. That's why the idea of endpoint security is so important. It's a method of deployment that emphasizes standardized defense protocols at every user endpoint across decentralized networks. Tailoring defense to need is also a component of this. For example, firewall systems are great for deterring malware attacks by controlling the flow of emails in and out of the network; that's important for companies with a high communications volume. Learn what fits your business so you can optimize your response.
4. Update Software Regularly
A Pew Research study back in 2017 found that 42% of people update their phone's operating system only when it's convenient. A full 14% never do. The Petya ransomware attack the previous year served as a good example of why it's so important to update. System updates typically contain patches to security flaws that were only recently discovered. Often, the update is recommended in the wake of a specific emerging threat. Whenever one of these updates becomes available, it's worth it to at least consider installing it. This means installing it on all of the devices used by your business and informing employees working from home that they should follow suit.
5. Train Employees in Best Practices
Speaking of employee awareness, research has revealed another surprising statistic: nearly half of all reported security breaches are due to employee negligence. One of the most common cyberattacks, called a phishing scam, involves sending emails or phone calls that only seem legitimate and then fast-talking people into giving away sensitive information. The best antidote to this is regular training in proper protocols. Show workers the telltale signs that an email is fraudulent. Teach them to recognize the difference between a real URL and a scam site link. Most importantly, make sure that nobody opens attachments or visits sites without express permission. Knowledge is power, so empower your workforce.
6. Call the Experts
Sometimes it's best to fight fire with fire. Hackers are often stereotyped as criminals, but it's just not true. In fact, ethical hackers are licensed professionals who learn cutting-edge intrusion techniques in order to use the bad guys' tactics against them. Companies hire them to try to break into their systems so they can gauge how vulnerable those systems are. Hackers will be able to figure out backdoors and security holes that even the programmers didn't realize were there, making their knowledge indispensable to any comprehensive online protection strategy.
Keeping the internet a safe space in which to do business is everyone's responsibility. By having a well-rounded digital defense strategy in place, you'll be safeguarding both yourself and your clients.