Cybersecurity is critical for all businesses today. Whether you run an online store or you simply have computers and devices connected to the internet you need to guard against data breaches. You also need to have a plan to improve the protection of customer and employee data. Here is a brief description of data breaches and how to prevent them.
What is a Data Breach?
A data breach is a confirmed security incident in which a cybercriminal gains access to, steals, transmits or exposes sensitive and confidential information without proper authorization. Data breaches usually involve information such as customer data, personal health information, trade secrets, intellectual property, and government security data. Hackers usually target poorly protected websites, and overexposed, unstructured data held in document files on corporate servers, laptops, and mobile devices.
What Impact Can Data Breaches Have on Business?
Data breaches come with compromised security, potentially heavy fines by a governing authority, and other negative consequences such as…
A dented reputation
The most precious asset a company can have is its good reputation. But as soon as news breaks about a data breach in a company, that reputation diminishes, and the brand value is adversely affected by any such cybersecurity breach. The news travels far and wide through social media and mobile news channels.
Reduced ability to beat competitors
Some hackers specialize in stealing intellectual property and proprietary information that give companies their competitive edge. As soon as they get this information, they leak it to rivals and the general public. This gives customers a sense of insecurity. They can easily decide to turn to competing brands and stop buying from the company after such an incident.
Drop in revenue
As soon as a breach is discovered, there’s usually a temporary suspension of operations. All work is suspended until the source of the breach is discovered. Due to this shutdown, the company loses revenue. The longer the shutdown, the greater the loss of profit. Customers may also decide to find alternatives or patronize a major competitor.
How to Protect Your Business
To reduce the risk of having a data breach, you should take the following steps:
Take a security test
Allow professionals to perform a detailed security test on your information system. Professional ethical hackers will use a penetration testing methodology to test the resilience of your system by carrying out precisely the kind of hack that can occur in the real world. Upon completion, any weaknesses are identified, and appropriate fixes are implemented.
Train your employees
After you have tested your system for vulnerabilities, you need to train every member of your team to be vigilant and show them how to identify suspicious activity. Many breaches occur because unsuspecting employees click on links, open files or download attachments that contain malicious programs. Just like fire drills, it’s very important to send out regular reminders about data security to all employees.
Improve your firewall
A solid firewall will protect your network from unauthorized access and stop malicious applications from gaining access to your network. The firewall monitors traffic that comes in and goes out of your computer network. When a program or user tries to gain access, it uses your pre-defined settings to decide whether to allow or deny access. However, it’s important to maintain and upgrade your firewall regularly for it to remain effective.
Invest in encryption
Encryption scrambles text and turns it into an unreadable stream of characters. So if hackers gain access to your data, they will not be able to decode it. As much as possible, you should encrypt all sensitive data. Information like personal identification data, financial and transactional data that is sent across your network should be encrypted. Encryption can be used to protect all the data in your files whether they are stored in fixed disks, removable media or in the cloud.
Use stronger login tools
Many hackers know how to bypass basic password authentication. So consider upgrading to two-step authentication, biometrics and security keys that have proved to be effective deterrents to most hackers.
It is important to take all necessary steps to avoid any kind of data breach. Prevention is the key word here. However, should the worse occur, you must have a rapid response plan ready that allows you to get your business back on track. Always ensure that you have the latest security software updates, maintain up-to-date backups and keep your employees vigilant about continuing to observe the safe practices you’ve passed onto them.
About the Author: Cristine Felt
Cristine Felt is a software developer that has a passion for writing. Spent 10 years working as a healthcare software developer in Memphis, TN and hoping to become a health journalist in the near future. You can find her online, tweeting about health, or at home preparing a nutritious meal for her family.