You would typically hear of data breaches happening to large corporations all around the world. But just because you are operating a small business doesn’t mean you’re not susceptible to a data breach. Surprisingly, small businesses are extremely vulnerable to such attacks because they usually do not have enough resources and technical knowledge to be well-prepared. In 2021, most businesses across the country lost a combined amount of $1.59 million in business opportunities due to breach costs. Regardless of the size of your business, it deals with sensitive information ranging from your customers’ private details to your business’s financial accounts and records. That’s why keeping your data secure should be one of your topmost priorities as a business owner. Although there might not be a guaranteed way to protect your sensitive information, implementing user access best practices and following these smart steps will help you prevent a data breach.
1. Limit employee access to data
You must try as much as possible to limit how much access your employees have to sensitive information within the business. That means ensuring employees who do not need access to a particular program or document don’t get access. One of the best ways to do that is by using a role-based-access method, which gives every employee the amount of data they can access, depending on their role in your business. The accessible data should be relevant to their job and function. A role-based-access method can help limit the number of social engineering attacks your business receives. For example, suppose all your workers have access to your business’s finances. It will be much easier for a cybercriminal to steal one employee’s login credentials to gain access to your documents in such an instance. Limiting employee access makes it more difficult for an outsider to get into your system.
This method also helps prevent any confusion and makes it easier for you to streamline responsibilities in your business. It also allows you to follow breach attacks easily as you can trace incidents to particular login details. More importantly, this method allows for increased efficiency and security.
2. Separate your business and personal accounts
There is a thin line separating business and personal accounts. Sure, it seems convenient to have all your information under one password. That way, you wouldn’t have to struggle to keep numerous passwords in your head. However, you will be putting your personal life and business at risk of a data breach. Unfortunately, most small businesses avail themselves of data breaches with this mistake. The last thing you need is someone illegally accessing your private email and having access to sensitive business information— all at once!
So, how can you keep your business and personal accounts separate? As a business owner, you must introduce security measures for your business. Limit how many times you change your passwords, as experts say that regularly changing your password causes users to pick bad and obvious choices. Instead, introduce other measures such as 2-factor authentication, web filtering, and 3rd party backups. You must also train your staff and subscribe to a service that will immediately notify you if your business accounts have been compromised.
3. Work with a computer security specialist
Hackers and other criminals on the internet are constantly evolving and finding new methods of obtaining sensitive information from businesses. This makes it hard for businesses to know if they are adequately protected. And it makes it more difficult to focus on other business operations. That’s where hiring computer security or cybersecurity experts comes in.
Hiring an external computer security specialist can be very advantageous to your business. It can be cost-effective, especially if it might cost you more to manage a team of in-office specialists. Working with a service provider gives you access to a team of experts who can adequately handle your requirements without worrying about other associated costs. Another benefit is that you will be working with a team of experts following new trends and threats that can free up your time and help you focus fully on your business. Check out this list of the top cybersecurity companies that can provide you with quality service and expert professionals for your data protection needs.
4. Educate your employees
Data security is a top priority for every business. As such, everyone working for you must understand how and why they must keep information safe. One of the best ways to do so is by regularly training and educating your employees. Unfortunately, some of the biggest breaches are caused by human error— about 88% of them. Training your employees on data security can go a long way in preventing a data breach. What types of computer security training would your employees benefit from? At the most basic is security awareness training, where employees are taken through a general overview of common security threats, what they look like and how they should react when they come across one. This type of training will help them identify malware, ransomware, phishing, and social engineering threats. Your employees must also undergo password security training and data protection training. You can also develop safety policies for social media usage, the internet, and email. You’d be surprised to find out that hackers usually target people through social media and email accounts. Your employees must learn to keep their business information off their devices. These training sessions should be held frequently so that your employees know how serious it is and also to always remain alert.
5. Update your business software tools
You shouldn’t mess with your timely updates regarding data protection. Whenever your software prompts you for an available update, make sure you do it immediately. You might get tempted to click that “Remind Me Later” option. However, if you’re not working on anything urgent, you should update your system immediately. These updates usually come about to various issues, including security loopholes and flaws that would have otherwise made it easier for hackers to access your accounts. Therefore, using outdated software puts you at risk and makes your business vulnerable to cybercriminals. By updating your software, you prevent data breaches from occurring. Plus, it helps you feel more comfortable knowing that your system is secure when you do so. Ensure that you set any improvements and patches to automatically update in the background while you work to protect yourself against potential threats.
6. Secure all endpoints
An endpoint is any device that can connect to a network. Examples of endpoints include computers, laptops, and mobile devices. Since endpoints serve as entry points into your business’s network, the wrong click on an unsecured device can lead to a big data breach. All endpoints must be protected by an automatic lock screen, anti-malware, and constant monitoring to reduce the risk of a breach. You must also disable features that increase your vulnerability, such as Bluetooth.
Endpoint security has a lot of advantages. One of the best benefits is that it makes the IT security process more streamlined. Some endpoint security platforms can automate various tasks, including automatic software updates and machine learning to identify any potential risks or threats. With most businesses adopting remote working models for their employees, endpoints are now spread over, making them difficult to secure. Endpoint security is a smart way to overcome this challenge and can keep your remote team secure at all times.
7. Dispose of data properly
Although poor security practices might be the leading cause of data breaches worldwide, hardware end-of-life is also a more potentially dangerous cause. Many businesses sell or donate their old computers without deleting the contents on their hard drive. Deleting files is not enough, as those files can be easily recovered. When you’re replacing your computer, ensure that any old devices have been properly cleaned so that any sensitive data cannot be retrieved by someone else in the future. To avoid possible leaks, it is advisable to work with an IT or security specialist to ensure they use a tool that can overwrite your data multiple times to make it unrecoverable.
There are other effective ways to dispose of your business data properly. For example, If you have a lot of paper-based documents, shredding them might be the most secure and effective measure. Hardware like computers and hard drives should also be shredded after use. You can also look into having a hardware disposal policy that spells out the tips on how to dispose of your devices.
As businesses continue to rely on technology, cybercrime will always be a threat. Data breaches can cost your business hundreds of thousands of dollars. With these smart tips, you can get started with protecting vital information that your business works with. However, you must ensure that you constantly update your data protection methods, as hackers and criminals are always finding new ways to obtain sensitive information. Therefore, you must invest in your business’s security to make it more difficult for an outsider to access your data. If you do not want to be the next victim, ensure that you always stay a step ahead with your security. Once you get too comfortable, it increases your likelihood of an attack.