There's a large list of problems businesses of all sizes face on a daily basis, near the top of that list are data breaches and loss of sensitive business information. No industry is immune to data breaches - there'll forever be a group of hackers who see value in obtaining personal identifiable information (PII) of customers and employees. The Internet of Things (IoT) is largely to blame. Nowadays, businesses rely on integrated technology to take their work to the next level. However, that next level has a bunch of cybercriminals waiting to infiltrate your network security the moment there's a flaw, exploit or door left wide open.
Thanks to mounting, complex cybersecurity concerns, it's difficult to avoid a data breach but not impossible. In fact, there's a few simple yet highly effective practices any business owner can implement to prevent a data breach or minimize data.
Encourage Your Employees to Report Security Threats
This may not seem like much, but the first step every business make first take is establishing a culture that fosters active participation to protect your workplace's privacy and online security. Employees should be able to recognize security threats that show up in the workplace – small threats such as printing a customer's social security number on a government document through a public printer – or something significantly more dangerous - emails with sketchy links or attachments from an address not already in your contacts.
Help your employees report internal concerns and observations they have had in a timely manner to address any data security they have found. Start incentivizing your employees to report any network vulnerability, small or large, for each discovery is one step closer to reinforcing your data security. Additionally, you should educate your employees so they can comprehend and identify real data security threats and network flaws, reducing the number of 'false positives'.
Perform Timely Updates
Remember back in 2017 when Equifax, one of the largest credit bureaus in the world, had a huge data breach that saw over 143 million Americans have their SSNs and addresses leaked onto the dark web. The thing is, Equifax's failure to protect their customers traces back to a single security patch they forgot to download. When there's a new software update available that highlights a security fix, make sure you update it as soon as possible. Don't be that user who forgoes an update for one of these reasons:
- The update may cause conflicts between programs. This is the biggest concern most people have, causing them to be weary of updating any program immediately. After all, there's no point fixing what's already working. That's why backups are so important. If you're afraid that an update will cause program conflicts, back up your data and then apply the update. Worse comes to worse, you can revert the change, see what's causing the compatibility issue and resolve it from there. This certainly beats having to deal with a data breach because you failed to install a security fix.
- Security notifications aren't going to the right person. This can be a big deal, especially if the recipient doesn't realize they are responsible for applying an update. The notification may be going to an old employee email, a third-party contractor or someone in a different department. If this is the case, the patch may never roll out putting your business forever vulnerable to whatever attacks that patch is meant to block. Make sure your notification settings so it goes straight to the appropriate person in charge of your IT and update the recipient email whenever you transfer your IT work to someone else.
- There's miscommunication about auto updates. Automation is a big part of both our personal and business affairs, but its never safe to assume your network security is self-updating. Far too often, an employee will ignore an update notification thinking that it's just a Whoever receives the notifications for any security update should double-check and see if the changes have gone into effect, regardless if they think the update rolled out on its own.
Encrypt Your Data
Protect your business data and information by encrypting it, making it indecipherable to anyone but you and any persons that have access to the encryption key. Encryption won't protect you from any cyber attacks or breaches, but it renders your data unreadable and prevents hackers from seeing or selling any of it. What's more, encryption can prevent data manipulation. Data manipulation is when hackers will alter your data to make your and your company look bad for their personal or political gain, rather than just holding it for ransom or selling it off.
Some big name companies that've had breaches in the past – Equifax, Uber and Yahoo – have failed to encrypt their consumers' information, relying too heavily on firewalls and intrusion protection systems that hacker groups continually break through. As a result, they've suffered significant penalties and a tarnished reputation for failing to protect the data of millions of people.
What can you learn from these big name companies' mistake? Always encrypt your data.
Back Up Your Data
It's critical to your business that you back up its data on a regular basis, and that you do it on multiple servers instead of just one. Backing up your data takes a lot of time, but trust us, it's better to do it now than not have it when you need it the most. Should your server ever fail or the data on it is corrupted, having multiple backups will save you and the rest of your company a lot of time and stress knowing there'll only be a small downtime before operations are back up. Having a server backup is also a huge defense tool against ransomware attacks.
One thing to know about backing up your data is to maintain its encryption and that you don't store the encryption keys along with your data, but rather offline with trusted individuals. Make sure that your stored data is in different, but easily retrievable formats. We highly recommend you make at least two copies of your data as well.
Test Your Protection
There's no better way to see if your company's network security is holding up like it promises to than putting it to the test. Now more than ever, companies are hiring white hat hackers as security specialists to find any exploits or holes in the system that would allow other hackers illicit access to the company's data and information. From there, these hackers work with the I.T. department to identify ways to cover these exploits and holes up for good.
This may all seem counterintuitive, but you'd rather be the one that finds the weakness if your network security before a hacker with ill intent does.
It doesn't matter what size or industry your business is, your business could be in any hacker's sights at any time and you need to be ready for it! Get ahead of any potential threat to your company by utilizing these 5 practices. For more information or to see how Biztek Solutions can help you out, contact us online or by phone at (951) 638-0502.