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8 Ways Small Businesses Can Safeguard Data

Published on Aug 7, 2015 at 2:32 pm in Tennessean Articles, Tips & Tricks.

Technology is thoroughly intertwined with our everyday lives — and businesses are no exception. In today’s technology-dependent world, a 40company’s data is at the very heart of an organization.

A few weeks ago, I explained steps businesses can take to protect themselves against CryptoLocker, a very specific type of malware. With news of another security breach breaking each week, it’s never been more important for businesses to protect their data. Here are a few more actionable steps businesses can take to digitally defend themselves.

Assess your current situation. The first step to securing your company’s data is to perform a security audit to determine vulnerabilities in your current system. If you don’t have enough knowledge to properly pinpoint potential weaknesses, it may be wise to call in a professional to help you identify areas in need of improvement.

Educate employees. While employers may list malware and hacking as top security concerns, end-user behavior was found to be the root cause of data breaches. According to a 2015 CompTIA study, human error is to blame for at least 52 percent of IT security breaches. Employees are the first line of defense, so bringing them up to speed on proper protocol is one of the most effective ways to protect data.

Establish security policies. Half of the companies surveyed by CompTIA reported they either did not have a security policy in place or were working toward establishing one. Effective security policies are reflective of the company’s culture and its approach to information, so it’s unlikely a generic policy will suffice — take the time to consider your business’ specific needs and customize your policy. The tech industry is constantly evolving and it’s important to make sure your company’s security policies and training programs are, too.

Keep software updated. Those pesky software update reminders may not seem crucial for the day-to-day operations of your business, but keeping your operating system, browser and other applicable software up-to-date is a key safeguard against potential cyberthreats. Not installing available updates leaves your business wide open for potential hacks.

Create strong passwords and change them frequently. Using your pet’s name or your street address as your password may be easy to remember, but there’s a fairly good chance hackers can easily guess it, as well. Passwords should be changed regularly — some experts suggest changing your password as often as every three months.

Encrypt sensitive information. With the increasing prevalence of mobile devices in the workplace, employers can no longer ensure privileged information stays within the walls of the organization. Encrypting data provides a stress-free way to guarantee only authorized users access sensitive data. With a variety of tools available, data encryption is not a one-size-fits-all solution, however, and business owners should do their research before deciding which strategy is right for them.

Back your data up. According to Schofield’s Second Law of Computing, data doesn’t really exist unless you have at least two copies of it. All company data should be backed up, either manually or by scheduling a reoccurring automatic backup. To prevent against accidental data loss in the event of a fire or flood, backups should be stored at a secure offsite location or in the cloud.

Implement an off-boarding process. Be sure to change login information and passwords whenever an employee exits your company. While this may seem like an obvious step, it can be easily overlooked, giving a former employee the power to potentially derail your entire operation.

Extra precautions feel unnecessary until your data is compromised or lost forever. According to Online Trust Alliance’s recent report, 90 percent of breaches last year were due to firms lacking cyber-security strategies and risk assessment. So, even though data breaches can be costly and devastating, they are also largely preventable. Do what you can now while the ball’s in your court.

This post also appeared in The Tennessean, where Concept Technology has a bi-weekly feature in the Business section.