You probably know that your company should be doing more with data security, but where do you start? Getting your business to the security systems it should have can be a long process, but even small steps will help you mitigate the risk of a data breach for the long term. Here are some quick actions you can take as well as some planning steps to get you started with data security.
- Encrypt your emails. One of the easiest ways for people to gain unauthorized access to company data is intercepting emails and email attachments. Secure your email communications by encrypting messages and setting timers for message expiration – once the intended party has received the information, do they really need it forever?
- Protect your network. All company networks should be password protected and, ideally, hidden from discovery by non-employees. By ensuring that only company employees have access to the office internet and file sharing servers, you decrease the chance of data breach by unauthorized users.
- Enforce a strong password policy. Even though the technology used to attack and secure data has evolved dramatically since the initial spread of internet usage, your best first-line defender is still a strong password. Most websites and applications suggest a password that is a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. And contrary to popular belief, mandating frequent password changes may be doing more harm than good, as employees can get frustrated and use weaker, easier to remember passwords, which actually lessens the security payoff. Instead, use two-factor authentication wherever possible, and change passwords if you believe an account has been compromised.
- Limit and control access to data. Use a “need-to-know” approach to your company’s private data: restrict access to data files to only those employees that need to use them for their work, and even consider blocking access to all but essential personnel outside of business hours. By being vigilant about access, you’re mitigating the risk of insider leak, a common form of data breach.
- Lock your doors. No, really. Data security doesn’t all take place in the realm of technology like computers and smart devices – it also means securing your important files and sensitive documents. Be sure that any rooms containing private company information can be locked, monitor and control access to files, and keep offices closed after business hours.
- Create an inventory of company data. What data does your company collect from its customers and employees? Where is it stored? For how long? Understanding your company’s current data collection and storage practices are key to creating a more secure system, and helps you know where to focus your efforts. You can also find areas to limit data collection going forward – the less data you collect, the less you’re responsible for, so if you don’t need it for business operations, do you really need it?
- Design ways to educate employees. All these security practices you’re implementing won’t do any good if everyone in the company is not on board. The reality of cyber security can be difficult to grasp when the media only discusses huge breaches in big companies. Design or implement programs like trainings and learning platforms to teach employees that cyber security is vital to the business’s success and the safety of customers and themselves.
- Discuss security with any technology service providers. If your business uses a cloud provider for cloud-based applications and data storage, you should talk to them about the security measures they have in place to protect your cloud assets. From location security where servers are stored to security software and 24-hour monitoring, your provider should be able to lay out the steps they take for their clients to keep data and networks safe from breach attempts, as well as recovery plans should a successful attack occur.
- Implement better security tools. On your end, you should set up network security tools to protect and monitor your network for weak points and breach attempts. There are a wide range of security toolsavailable to businesses for end users and IT professionals, so you should determine what tools make sense for your company, then implement them as soon as possible.
- Put experts in charge of your data security. All of these changes will be much easier if you have help from data security experts. Whether you hire a dedicated cyber security professional or you work with a managed service provider, security experts can help you select, purchase, and implement security solutions for your business, as well as managing monitoring, maintenance, and updates of your security systems.
- Create a device security policy. Whether employees at your company use company-provided devices or their own personal devices, you should have a device policy outlining appropriate business use. Provide easy-to-use security software, such as anti-malware, and require locking whenever the device isn’t in use. In the case of portable devices, you should also consider a method of wiping the device should it be stolen or lost.
No matter how small the action you take, working towards a more secure business can help you keep your data safe. Start small and work your way up to create a system of cyber security that works for your company.