One of the biggest concerns businesses have in today's information-centric landscape is the threat of a breach that leads to the loss of valuable data. Unfortunately, security breaches are becoming increasingly common and more severe.
One of the extreme examples of a mass data breach happened not very long ago to Target. Everything from customer names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, emails and payment data was stolen — about 70 million customers were affected.
This just goes to show that even the biggest companies with the deepest pockets are not entirely immune to breaches.
In most cases, small businesses can have a tougher time keeping their information out of unfriendly hands. In fact, 70 percent of small companies that experience a major breach in cybersecurity go out of business within one year.
So what can you do to help prevent this from happening to you?
Here are three major precautions to consider.
Govern employees' use of business computers
Some of the common causes of security breaches are when employees do things like unknowingly download viruses, transfer files between their work and home computers, or install unauthorized software.
To avoid inadvertently causing a breach, there are a number of things you can do to govern employees' use of computers for a decreased risk factor.
•Avoid re-using passwords: Create different passwords for each system accessed. Make the password complex. Security experts recommend using passphrases instead of words to make them more complicated to break.
•Use multifactor authentication when possible: This requires a user to present multiple pieces of evidence in order to gain access to a system.
•Change passwords regularly: At the end of the day, passwords are the first line of defense. It's recommended that you encourage customers to change them every 90 days. Consider looking to automated password-reset tools to make the process simple and ensure that you don't forget.
•Practice safe Wi-Fi: Wireless network access is a basic necessity today. It's just about impossible for businesses to connect with customers without Wi-Fi. Regardless of whether you use a computer, cellphone or tablet, making sure your network is safe is crucial to preventing breaches. Failure to do this will put you and your employees at risk every time a connection is made to a network in or outside of your business. Consider investing in a corporate VPN, or encourage your employees to set up a personal one. They are relatively cheap and will help to protect both work and personal data.
Internet use is constant in the workplace these days. As breaches become a more common occurrence, employers and IT departments need to do everything they can to practice good "cyberhygiene" and stress how important it is for employees to take caution in their use of business computers.
Encrypt your data
Data encryption needs to be a priority for businesses of all sizes. According to a survey that the Ponemon Institute conducted for Experian, 60 percent of companies that fell victim to a data breach had failed to encrypt their data.
Encrypted data has little to no use for thieves. Most importantly, things like payment information are rendered useless.
Encryption technology only provides access to those with a key. Even though this is a well-known concept, a lot businesses do not utilize it for petty reasons such as these:
- "It's a headache."
- "It can't happen to us."
- "We don't need it."
- "Maybe next month."
Investing in encryption is one of the best precautions you can take against breaches. Keep in mind that each day you put it off, you are endangering your entire operation.
There are a lot of outstanding data storage services that also have encryption software. For example, pCloud, a cloud software that allows you easily to manage all company data across your business, is equipped with an encryption option that makes sure everyone involved has maximum digital privacy.
Think of your data as gold and encryption is the key to the treasure chest. Failure to possess a key is basically encouraging thieves to steal your gold. While there might be a few challenges that come with implementation, it is well worth it.
Invest in training and education
We all know how important cybersecurity is to a business. One of the most important things you can do in this field is make sure that all your employees are educated and on the same page about risks and precautions. A 2015 report by Intermedia found that 93 percent of office workers engaged in some form of unsafe online behavior that could potentially put their company at risk.
There needs to be a strong balance between the policies and employee participation, without too many overly complicated procedures.
Look into training programs such as the one offered by Stay Safe Online for advice on how to properly train your employees to follow safe processes.
Hackers and thieves are always finding new ways to get around security systems to steal valuable personal and financial data. Making sure both you and your employees are ahead of the game is extremely important in keeping your data and servers safe. Your customers will thank you (and trust you) for it!