In 2017, 179 million records were exposed through data breaches. That’s the highest recorded number of data security breaches to date.
Data breaches have a lasting effect on your business. In fact, 20% of businesses that experienced a ransomware infiltration ceased operating as a result. What’s worse, 12% of those businesses lost money.
With the number of data breaches at an all-time high, what can you do improve data security?
Whether you’re a large enterprise or a small business, there are several steps you can take to reduce the chance of experiencing a data breach.
Keep reading to find out 9 ways you can better protect your data and the data of your customers.
Limit Access to Important Data
One of the biggest threats to your data security is your employees. That’s why only a small number of trusted employees should have access to your most sensitive data.
Do you know which employees have access to your most sensitive data? Or is everyone able to access this information?
Identify who should have access, based on whether they need it to perform their role and limit access to those employees.
Use Strong Passwords
In the US, ‘123456’ and ‘password’ are the two most commonly used passwords. These passwords are easily guessed and give external threats quick access to your information.
All of your data should be password protected with strong passwords. A strong password is a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters. It should also include numbers and symbols.
Every one of your users should have a unique password to enter the system. The programs you use should also have different passwords. Using the same password across software can give a hacker easy access to all of your stored information after one correct guess.
You can use a password manager to store passwords safely. Never write passwords on a piece of paper or shared via e-mail or online communication.
Encryption is an effective method of protecting your data. It scrambles your data into a code that nobody outside of the organization can read. Anybody accessing encrypted information from outside the hard drive would be unable to use the data.
All it takes to encrypt your data is turning on the standard full-disk encryption tool on your operating system. In under a minute, all of the information stored on the drive will be encrypted.
It’s important to keep in mind that encryption only works when a user is logged out of the system. If a user remains logged in and an external threat can enter the system, the encryption won’t be enabled. Setting your computers to log out automatically will reduce this risk.
Know Which Data Needs Protection
Not all of your data is sensitive data. But do you know what data needs protection and what data doesn’t? Identifying sensitive data and its location is the first step to protecting it.
If you store a lot of data and aren’t sure where to start, consider engaging a company that specializes in master data management. They can help you organize your fragmented and unorganized data into a manageable system.
Once you have organized your data, you can classify it into three categories: confidential, internal, and public. Confidential data should be restricted to only certain employees. Internal data should stay within the organization, and only public information should be permitted to leave.
Backup Your Data
Regularly backing up your data can help mitigate the fallout of a cyber attack. If you have your most recent data backed up and stored, it’s less likely that you have to cease operations and potentially lose money.
Setup automatic or manual backups on a daily or weekly basis. You can save your data through cloud-based technology or on an external hard drive.
Train Your Employees
Your employees should be trained on the importance of data security. Go beyond your IT department and ensure all of your employees know what your points of weakness are.
Employees should be aware of the internal and external possibilities for data breaches. They should understand the importance of strong passwords and not sharing vital information on open-access programs. They should also be up-to-date on the latest cyber fraud schemes and security threats.
Don’t Skip Security Updates
As a business owner, you may skip software updates because they disrupt the daily workflow. But putting off updates can leave your data vulnerable to external threats that are constantly working to identify weaknesses and take advantage.
Software and operating system companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple send updates when software engineers identify potential security threats. The updates they make are essential to ensuring that those weaknesses are eliminated.
This is why you should never delay updates. They contain important security patches that keep your data protected.
Don’t Store Unnecessary Information
Collecting and storing credit card information may provide convenience for your customers as well as your employees, but it’s an unnecessary risk.
You may consider using a third-party processor when it comes to credit card payments. This keeps sensitive data off your system and reduces the risk to your clients.
Pay for an Antivirus
While external and internal threats pose a great risk to your data security, viruses can also cause significant damage to your system and your ability to access your data.
Viruses are often used by hackers to disable your computer’s immunity to outside threats. Once your system is infected with a virus, it’s more vulnerable to attack.
While Microsoft is equipped with a default firewall that can be used to protect against viruses, you may want to take extra steps to protect your system. Investing in antivirus or anti-malware is a long-term solution to ensuring data security.
These programs will scan your system regularly and identify threats as soon as their arise. It’s essential that these are kept updated, so they’re looking for the latest threats.
Make Data Security a Priority
In recent years, data breaches have caused different disruptions for both large and small enterprises alike.
A data breach may mean you have to cease operations, which can lead to a loss of profits. Taking steps such as training your employees, backing up your data, and using strong passwords, are easy and effective ways to ensure data security.
But if your data is unorganized and you’re unable to identify what needs to be protected, you can’t begin this process. Before engaging in data security measures, let us help you centralize and categorize your sensitive information.
Check out how we can help you take the first step in protecting your data.