Hackers are everywhere looking for easy targets to get their hands on your data. Whether it's phishing, ransomware or data breaches, all of these things can lead to a massive headache for your business. Business data protection must be at the forefront of any business's technology security plan, especially with small businesses.The average cost of a data breach in 2021 rose to $4.24M - an increase of over 10%, according to the latest study by IBM and the Ponemon Institute. And while that number includes businesses of all sizes, a more critical statistic of note is that the likelihood of your business experiencing a data breach is nearly 33% higher than it was just five years ago. Our companies must do better when protecting our data from the bad guys. This article features five small changes you can make with your business today to bulk up your business data protection.
Encrypting business data takes plain text, like that you would see in an email or text message and scrambles it into an unreadable format. For the receiving party of the encrypted data, a user must have the correct encryption key to decipher the code and return it to a readable format. Data encryption is a critical defensive strategy against a cyber incident.
Businesses should encrypt any customer data that includes personally identifiable information (PII). This sensitive data includes credit card information, social security numbers, phone numbers, addresses and more. Businesses should take advantage of any data encryption services in their current software stack. For instance, Microsoft Outlook offers ways to encrypt email data that contains personal information. There are several ways to encrypt emails so that people without the decoding key can't read them. Visit the help section in Microsoft Outlook to learn various ways you can easily encrypt emails to improve data security.
One of the most widely-used ways hackers get into businesses and acquire data is through compromised passwords from current and former employees. Once a password is compromised, it is probably just a matter of time until it ends up on the dark web for sale. Businesses must implement robust password policies that clearly define the password strength rules. These rules specify things like the minimum number of characters a password must have and if they have to include special characters, numbers or capital letters. Password policies will also define how often users must change passwords and the length of time that must pass before a user can reuse a password.
While having strong passwords is helpful, your business can bulk up data protection by adding multi-factor authentication for applications and computers. Multi-factor authentication requires users to not only have a strong password but a second method to verify their identity. Other methods can be a security code, a fingerprint or voice recognition. The whole point is to make accessing devices, software and data more difficult for cybercriminals.
Employee Cybersecurity Training
Your most vigorous defense against a cybersecurity incident may not be in your tech stack but in the hands of your employees. An informed and well-trained staff provides your organization with a great barrier against cyber attacks. With employee cybersecurity training, businesses provide ongoing, consistent training for all employees about all sorts of potential cyber pitfalls, how to spot them and how to avoid them. With the constantly-evolving methods that hackers use to trick employees into giving up your data, having quarterly training for all employees on how to spot phishing and social engineering attempts is vital in ensuring your training meets your objectives. It is also critical to do random "tests" to see what information resonates with employees and what items may need further concentration.
Review Privacy and Security Settings
We are all guilty in some way of ignoring settings. Think about the last time you downloaded a new app and just hit agree when it offered the terms and conditions. In many of these instances, we have no idea what we are agreeing on. That is why it's essential to read through what information the app will be sharing with other parties about you.
It's also imperative to know what social media accounts and apps have access to tools on your devices. For instance, if you're using Instagram, you had to authorize Instagram to have access to your camera to post a photo from it. By allowing access to your camera, someone could hack Instagram and gain access to all of Instagram's users' cameras. Yes, it's an extreme case, but all users have to agree to these terms to use the app. Makes sure you're reviewing these settings and understanding just what you agree to before saying yes.
Use Firewalls, Antivirus and a VPN ALWAYS
We all know about antivirus software. This solution examines data on web pages, files, folders and software and looks for known threats or malicious activity. If and when it spots a threat, it will disable the use of said file or folder because of a "violation" of the policies set up in the software.
A firewall is a network security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic and allows or blocks data based on a set of security rules. Firewalls provide a barrier of security between your internal network and incoming traffic from outside sources to stop malicious forces like viruses and hackers.
Virtual private networks or VPNs allow users to have online privacy by creating a private network on a public internet connection. The VPN creates a private channel on which your information can travel back and forth from your business network to your computer when you aren't in the office. This private channel allows employees to access your business networks on a network, including a public Wi-Fi connection, and protect the data they send and receive so hackers can't see what you're doing.
While this is certainly not an exhaustive list to keeping your data protected, it is a jumping-off point for starting the business data protection process. If your business needs help with business data protection and security, a reputable Managed Services Provider can help you implement a robust plan. At Fraser, we work with companies across the area to keep their networks and IT environments protected from cyber incidents. Contact us today for a free IT assessment and learn how to implement a complete business data protection plan.