Protecting Company Data In Six Steps

Data is the gold of the 21st century. It’s no surprise criminals are so eager to get their hands on it. Security magazine estimates the average cost of a data breach to be $4.35 million. So how can a business survive and succeed in this environment? Keep reading. Here are six steps any owner or manager can take to safeguard their company’s data.

Step One: Trust No One

The best way to protect your networks is to limit access to them. In security jargon, this is called “zero trust security.” Always insist upon the appropriate credentials from any new user accessing your network. The onus is on the user to prove their good intentions. Act to limit their lateral movement inside your systems. Accomplishing this means keeping their access privileges to the minimum needed to execute their legitimate tasks. Remember to conduct user access review actions to keep your list of valid users current. Security threats change all the time, so stay aware and vigilant.

Step Two: Strengthen Authentication Measures

As stated before, validating credentials is critical to security. Consider using multifactor authentication (MFA) methods to augment those zero-trust protocols. MFA requires users to provide multiple factors to get access to a system. This system is more rigorous than a password, but passwords remain vital. Keep your passwords strong by making them random and varied. Use an alphanumeric/symbol mix of at least 12 characters. Science shows that changing the case of even one letter makes a password far more challenging to crack. The statistics imply that if the resulting password is hard to remember, making them hard to guess is worth doing.

Step Three: Encrypt All Data

Data can (and arguably should) be stored offline in a flash drive. These devices often come with security systems like biometric locking. Data can also be encrypted in transit by employing a virtual private network (VPN) whenever you’re doing transactions online. Think of all this encryption as extra “layers” of the security “onion.” However, when it comes to sensitive data, it’s best to store it off-site or on an external hard drive. But suppose you believe this to have been compromised or don’t need the information any longer. In that case, the best solution is to hire a local professional to help erase the data. For example, if you live in the Bay Area, searching online for hard drive destruction services in San Francisco can help you quickly find reliable companies. 

Step Four: Avoid Unsecured WiFi

Remote work is a trend that’s here to stay. The same is true of working on the go. Eventually, some of your business will probably be done on a device attached to a WiFi network. Ensure that the people managing the connection are as serious about security as you are. Never send sensitive information over a passwordless WiFi connection. Anyone in the same room skilled with computers could be listening in. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t use the connection at all.

Step Five: Teach Employees to Recognize Threats

A recent study by the respected security company Tessian found that about 85% of all data breaches had human error as a primary cause. Basic mistakes like clicking on unfamiliar links and hitting the wrong button were responsible for many of these errors. Scams were another huge factor. So-called “phishing” scams in which a criminal poses as a legitimate company to con people into giving them sensitive information are among the most common. Train your workers in proper phone and computer etiquette, and you’ll avoid many issues.

Step Six: Physically Secure Devices

Computer intrusion is only one of the tactics at a cybercriminal’s disposal. If your physical devices get stolen or compromised, no hacking is necessary. Ensure that computers are locked up at the end of the day, and insist that remote workers take similar precautions. Putting passcodes on all mobile devices is an excellent start. This level of caution should extend to materials like computer manuals and written-down passwords. Don’t let a lapse in physical security leave your data vulnerable.

Cybersecurity isn’t easy. That said, you don’t have to be an IT expert to know how to keep your assets safe from criminals. Consider the requirements and goals of your business, then craft a cybersecurity plan that fits.