It is very critical for businesses to protect confidential data that they collect and retain such as customer information, legal contracts, bank details, and other important documents. If not handled properly, data can be compromised which can cause irreversible damages not only to companies but also to their customers, partners, and employees.
A lot of small and medium-sized companies do not realize that they are vulnerable to a data breach. In fact, according to research by the UK Cyber Streetwise Campaign, 66% of SMEs do not consider their business vulnerable to data security threats. This misconception is one of the main reasons why many companies do not enforce protective measures. Protecting confidential business data is not a complex process. By following these simple recommendations, you can minimize security risks and safeguard your data.
1. Organize your data
Just like valuable property such as money or jewelry, confidential data must be secured. But for you to do this, the first step is to actually identify which data is confidential and organize them accordingly. When data is scattered in different locations, it will be very difficult to apply access control procedures.
Depending on the nature of your business, it would be ideal to implement a data management system that will create a structure for all the information that your company holds. This will not only make data access more efficient but also make it easier to secure information.
2. Limit access
Access to confidential data should be limited only to relevant employees. This will make it easier to monitor and track usage in case of a data breach. This is especially important if you have employees who are not full-time staff.
Limiting access does not only apply to people but can also pertain to other factors. Many financial companies, for example, do not allow their employees to open personal email accounts and restrict suspicious websites in company-owned computers and networks. It is also possible to disallow access when an employee is out of the office or in an unsecured internet network.
3. Use secure third-party software and applications
There are many software and applications that can help streamline business processes such as financial accounting software, cloud storage, and email hosting companies. While using these solutions can help increase productivity, there is also the risk of losing significant data.
When entering or storing data using a third-party solution, make sure that the provider is a reputable company. Avoid providers that may offer free solutions that are too good to be true. Do a background check to ensure that the provider is offering top-notch security features such as end-to-end encryption, zero-knowledge privacy, and reliable backup procedures.
4. Protect from malware
New technology has also opened the gates to more sophisticated malware programs that are not only costly but can also cause irreparable damage. And while installing anti-virus software may seem like a basic IT task, many people still disregard this practice, opening themselves up to major risks.
Implementing strict employee guidelines on how and from where they access data is recommended. A lot of employees in the UK now have the option to do remote work or work from home. In doing so, it is not uncommon to use personal laptops, mobile phones, and public Wi-Fi networks when performing company-related tasks. This means that even if all of the company’s laptops have the most sophisticated anti-malware software, this becomes pointless if the personal machines of employees are vulnerable to attacks.
5. Perform IT Security Audits
In order to establish a secure IT environment, companies must review the effectiveness of the security measures they have implemented. While consulting with tech experts is recommended, performing a basic IT security audit on a regular basis can help companies gauge if their IT systems are up-to-date.
The key to carrying out a successful audit is to be able to correctly detect the threats the company’s systems are vulnerable to and finding appropriate solutions to mitigate these risks. This will help businesses be prepared in case of cyber-attacks and other threats.
6. Implement innovative troubleshooting solutions
When computers break down, applications shut off, or when data is lost, the company is instantly put at risk. In these emergencies, the success of recovery usually depends on how fast the issue at hand can be resolved. As the cliché goes, time is money so the faster the solution, the better.
After performing an IT Security Audit, it is important to identify the fastest and most efficient way to solve a problem. Unlike several years back when the only way to fix anything is to call up a technician to be physically present onsite, there are now faster and more practical ways such as remote troubleshooting wherein the reduced response time means downtime is avoided, and productivity is not stalled.
7. Apply physical security measures
According to a Data Breach Investigations Report, 63% of data breaches result from weak or stolen passwords. This should not be a surprise considering that 65% of business managers record their passwords on a document like a Post-it note or share it with others. What this shows is that while employing digital security measures is necessary, the old-fashioned way of physically securing your business assets is still very important.
Passwords should not be physically written on a piece of paper in the vicinity of the computer. Laptops and machines must also be shut down after use. Keep in mind that even the most secure private offices can still be accessed by people who do not work for the company such as cleaning and electrical staff employed by third parties.
A lot of employees who bring their laptops or confidential documents neglect the importance of security. Most times, laptops are left inside the car, or they even ask strangers to keep an eye on their bags at the airport. These mistakes can lead not only to the loss of the laptop but also to losing the confidential data stored in the machine.
Laptops kept at home, and confidential documents should not be left lying around for everyone to see. Instead, these must be placed inside a drawer or a locked room. While most people think that their home is a safe haven, there are still many people who may come in and out of the house, so it’s better to be secure than be sorry.
Why data security is a business necessity
Information is one of the most prized assets a business could have. When collected, managed, and utilised properly, it can be a vital tool to help businesses grow and gain valuable advantage over competitors. It is then highly important to ensure that this asset is protected at all times.
About the Author: Nathan Sharpe
Nathan is a business advisor and business blogger at Biznas. He has helped many clients solve their business problems, and now imparts his advisory knowledge onto others to help them improve their businesses too.