How to Keep Data Secure in a Business

Table of Contents

1. Why Is Data Security So Important for Companies Today?
2. What Are the Biggest Threats to Business Data Security?
3. How Can Businesses Identify Their Most Sensitive Data?
4. How Do Passwords and User Permissions Help with Data Security?
5. What Role Does Employee Training Play in Data Protection?

Every business relies on data for one reason or another. Whether you’re tracking retail sales, monitoring KPIs for your marketing campaigns or pursuing a long-term financial goal, you need facts and figures to make sure you know where you are–and where your business is going. It’s for that reason that it’s essential to know how to keep data secure in a business.

Addition Financial offers a broad array of accounts and financial products to help businesses in our membership area thrive. We got our start as an education credit union, and it’s part of our mission to provide resources to help our members maintain good financial health and achieve success, whatever that means to them. With that in mind, here’s our guide to keeping your business data secure and preventing unauthorized access to the information you need to keep your company running.

Why Is Data Security So Important for Companies Today?

Any data breach has the potential to be catastrophic for your company. Let’s start with why data security is crucial in today’s business environment. The overarching reason is that there’s always a risk that somebody unauthorized will try to gain access to your business data and use it against you. Any data breach has the potential to be catastrophic for your company.

When a breach occurs, there are several things that could go wrong. If someone gains access to customer data that includes personal data, for example, they might duplicate credit cards and steal from your customers. Such an event would undoubtedly erode your customers’ trust in you.

Data breaches may also be regulatory infractions. For example, healthcare providers are bound by HIPAA to keep patients’ health information secure and private. Without adequate data protection, patients’ sensitive data could be compromised, harming them and you in the process.

The takeaway here is that data privacy is essential regardless of what your business does or how big it is. Confidential information, whether it’s your trade secrets or customers’ personal details, must be protected. Any data loss has the potential to be catastrophic, and that’s why cybersecurity is so important.

What Are the Biggest Threats to Business Data Security?

Cyber threats are constantly evolving. Here are some of the biggest threats to business data security plus some tips on how to protect your company.

Phishing

82% of all security breaches begin with a phishing attack. Phishing is one of the oldest types of internet fraud and it’s still going strong. It involves a scammer sending a spoof email or text that looks like it came from a legitimate company. The message asks the receiver to provide confidential information such as passwords or PINs. The scammer then uses that information to steal data or money.

Estimates indicate that as many as 82% of all security breaches begin with a phishing attack. That’s a huge number that indicates how prevalent phishing is. The best way to protect yourself from phishing is to educate users to make them aware of the risks and teach them how to identify phishing attacks.

Weak Passwords

Weak passwords are a problem in all industries and in our personal lives. We understand that it can be frustrating to remember dozens of different passwords, particularly when they include a random string of numbers, letters and symbols. That said, weak passwords on work computers and systems can be devastating when they lead to a data breach.

The solution here is obvious and easy to implement. First, you’ll need to set strict password parameters for anybody who has access to your network. Second, you should enable two-factor authentication, requiring a secondary identity check such as a fingerprint or texted code to access your most important and sensitive data. Adding this simple security measure can go a long way toward protecting your data.

Ransomware and Malware

Ransomware and malware both pose threats to network security and the company data you have stored. Ransomware holds your data hostage, requiring you to pay for its return. Malware can take a variety of forms that can be used to steal your sensitive data. There are indications that ransomware attacks are increasing, so it’s important to take the risk seriously.

Some ransomware attacks use data encryption that makes it impossible for targets to access their data without paying. The best defense against ransomware and malware attacks is to have a reliable firewall installed on your network along with anti-malware software. You should also back up your data regularly and store it outside of your network, whether that means maintaining a backup drive or using cloud storage.

Not Updating Software

Every software service provider has a responsibility to track cybersecurity threats and address weaknesses in their software. The most common way to do that is to issue patches that must be installed on every device using the software to close the hole in the software’s security.

We’ve all had the experience of getting a pop-up advising that there’s a necessary security update that we need to install. Even when these updates are inconveniently timed, it’s not a good idea to ignore them. The best protection against attacks using holes in software security is to stay on top of updates and patches and install them as soon as you are notified that they’re necessary.

Internet of Things Attacks

It has become increasingly common for businesses to be connected to the cloud in more than one way. For example, healthcare providers use scanners and other diagnostic equipment that links to their laptops and tablets. Manufacturers use cloud-based equipment to track orders and shipments. The risk is that with so many more connections in place, there are more opportunities for data theft–and more points of access known as the Internet of Things.

Companies can protect themselves from IOT attacks by using strong passwords and two-factor authentication for all IOT devices and by limiting access to devices. Additional security may be added by keeping IOT devices on a separate network from your computers.

DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS attacks, involve users flooding an online service provider with traffic, rendering the service unusable for others. Large companies such as Google, Github and Dyn have been targeted by DDoS attacks. If you provide online services, then you’ll need to guard against this type of attack.

Some ways to protect yourself from DDoS attacks include real-time adaptive monitoring, caching and installing a Web Application Firewall.

How Can Businesses Identify Their Most Sensitive Data?

One of the most important things you’ll need to do as a business owner is to identify your most sensitive data and protect it. Here are some data categories to prioritize:

  • Any data that’s fundamental to the running of your business. Examples might include trade secrets, intellectual property, financials and client contracts.
  • Any data that’s protected by state or federal regulations. For example, customers’ credit card information is protected by PCI-DSS requirements and health information is protected by HIPAA. Failure to comply with regulations may result in a fine, so it’s essential to protect data in this category.
  • Any data related to your employees, including HR files that may include dates of birth and Social Security Numbers.
  • Any data you hold on behalf of a client or customer, even if it doesn’t fall under regulatory guidelines.

The bottom line is that any data you store that could impact your business function or reputation is something that should be protected as much as possible.

How Do Passwords and User Permissions Help with Data Security?

You know that strong passwords are a crucial part of business data security, but let’s talk about how they (and user permissions) can help protect your data.

Passwords are often the only layer of protection between your data and a scammer or thief. If they’re easy to guess, then it may take only a few minutes for someone to gain access to your systems and data. Strong Passwords

As we mentioned above, you can add an extra layer of security with two-factor authentication, requiring either a biometric scan or a security code to access your data.

User permissions are often laxer than they should be. Only those employees who need to have access to your sensitive data should have access. It’s easy for companies to forget the importance of user permissions, but enforcing them and limiting access can go a long way toward keeping your data secure.

What Role Does Employee Training Play in Data Protection?

We’ve covered many of the digital protections you can put in place to shield your company’s data, but we haven’t covered one of the most important steps: employee training.

The truth is that many cybersecurity issues arise as a result of employees’ actions. While some of these actions might be deliberately malicious, and training can’t help, it can help with accidental or careless mistakes that may impact your data.

Employee training in cybersecurity requires careful planning. To be effective, all employees must be required to complete training. Your training should focus on your biggest security risks. For example, if your company has many IOT devices, you might want to put special focus on the proper use of these devices.

Protect Your Financial Data with Addition Financial

Data security should be a priority for every business. Your employees, customers and suppliers count on you to keep their information safe. The overview we’ve provided here can help you to identify your most sensitive data and protect it.

Do you need a financial institution that values security for its members financial data? Addition Financial would love to have you as a member. Click here to learn about the benefits of membership and join today!

The content provided here is not legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. Please consult with legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific needs or questions you may have. We do not make any guarantees as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not support any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability or legal obligations for your use of this information.

Topics:

Business, Security