Collecting and storing information is a practice that’s necessary for businesses to thrive. Without data, companies couldn’t pay employees or know who’s a customer and who’s a lead. But a lot of the information organizations gather and retain personal and sensitive. Businesses need to protect it from hackers and cybercriminals who will use that data for nefarious purposes.
With data breaches on the rise, all companies are potential targets regardless of size. Staying vigilant against security threats can prevent the loss of sensitive data and the costs that go along with it. Here are four ways you can keep your business’s data secure.
1. Automate and Enforce Authentication
Controlling who has access to the information your company uses can stop hackers from getting to it. Implementing policies like two-factor authentication, strong password requirements, and biometrics can make it harder for an intrusion to occur.
Two-factor authentication ensures the person entering in login credentials is authorized to use them. Another layer of verification is sent to a device the individual owns, like a cellphone. A second way is to authenticate something unique to the person, such as a fingerprint.
Automated IPaaS solutions can manage your company’s authentication process. These applications can also maintain your compliance with various data privacy regulations, including the California Consumer Privacy Act.
A further advantage of using an integration platform as a service is that it can help detect fraud and network intrusions. You’ll get alerts about suspicious activities from one platform instead of having to rely on multiple points of detection.
2. Minimize the Data You Gather and Store
The Federal Trade Commission recommends that businesses collect and keep only the information that’s necessary for operations. If your database has sensitive information your company doesn’t need, go ahead and wipe it. It’s good practice to purge data and records after it’s no longer necessary to keep them on file.
Although your business may collect data to complete sales transactions, you may not need to store it. Things like checking account numbers and credit card numbers aren’t necessary to retain once the sale is over. Although some apps give customers the option of storing card data for future transactions, this added convenience increases your risk.
The less sensitive information cybercriminals have the potential to access, the better. Plus, collecting and keeping only what you need reduces the possibility of employees accessing and transferring personal information. While system administrators may have permissions for most data folders on the network, non-IT employees will not. Give staff members access to the data they need to do their jobs and nothing else.
3. Create a Backup Schedule
Backing up the data that’s stored on your network will create a second copy of the information. Many organizations schedule nightly backups of any changes to data on the network. This practice makes it easier to restore lost or stolen information.
When someone deletes or adds a file to a folder, there’s a record of that activity. You can compare differences between the information in a folder from one point in time to another. And backups can restore information employees delete or remove by accident.
You’ll need to control virtual and physical access to the location where you place your backups. Many organizations choose to store backed-up data locally. You can place these servers in a separate area that serves as the company’s network operations center (NOC). Digital control methods and locks can grant or restrict access to the room. Only employees who have access cards with the proper codes or permissions can physically get in.
Other companies choose to store servers with data backups at a separate location. This works well for organizations with more than one building. You can still control physical access using digital methods, and this strategy can sometimes prevent loss when natural disasters occur.
Creating and implementing a regular backup schedule is a key component of your company’s disaster recovery plan. A disaster recovery plan is something 68% of small businesses don’t have. That’s unfortunate, as the potential downtime from the lack of a disaster recovery plan can cost up to $300,000 every hour.
4. Use Encryption
When transferring data, it’s best practice to use some encryption. This disguises and masks the data as it moves over networks or between applications. Various encryption methods exist for VPNs, hard drives, email programs, and websites.
VPN encryption methods ensure remote employees are securely transferring data back and forth. If your company uses the built-in VPN capabilities of Windows, you’ll want to include an encryption protocol. Train your IT employees to configure VPN client setups with that protocol. Run tests on your VPN server to make sure it’s working. If you decide to go with a VPN software app, verify it’s using encryption, as some free applications do not.
Encrypting hard drives prevents unauthorized data use and access if the physical drive is stolen or lost. People who try to access data from an encrypted hard drive will need to use the correct password.
Of course, it’s easier to implement hard drive encryption if your business only uses a few devices. When numerous devices change hands among employees, it’s harder to keep passwords and maintain security. For large organizations, it’s often more feasible to use file-level encryption for shared documents that contain sensitive data.
As an organization, you may want to implement email encryption for all messages. This includes everything that’s sent and everything that comes in. Encrypting all messages also ensures what employees store in their email is more difficult for hackers to read. Sensitive and proprietary information is sometimes transferred back and forth internally via email, although it’s not best practice. This makes compromising someone’s email attractive to criminals.
Protecting personal and sensitive data is a business obligation. You don’t want to lose the trust of your customers and employees by exposing their information. Examining the data your company collects and stores can help you streamline your security practices. Determine why you’re gathering and keeping information, and stop doing so if you don’t need to.
Automate your authentication procedures and refine who has access to specific records and resources. Remember to back everything up on a regular schedule and use encryption whenever possible. These steps can save your company’s data from becoming a cybercriminal’s next black-market sale.