Data. It’s one of the most critical and valuable assets of any organization. Is it any wonder, then, that cybercriminals around the world go after it? Your job as a business owner is to implement a security program that protects and shelters your data. And yet it can be extremely difficult, as some of the more recent breaches show.
The moral of these—and other nerve-wracking hacking tales—isn’t to point fingers but to showcase the importance of data protection.
For instance, the April 2022 announcement of the Block-Cash App breach may have exposed more than eight million customers’ data. Only the month before, Microsoft experienced a hacking incident, although the company stated that it affected no client data. And at the beginning of the year, nearly 500 Crypto.com users had $30+ million stolen collectively after a serious breach.
If cybersecurity threats can bring down globally recognized corporations, they can affect any organization. Plus, what happens when you don’t have the crisis management resources or long-time credibility of a legacy enterprise? Your brand might not survive the bad press or customer fallout.
Putting Stronger Data Security Measures in Place
If you’re concerned about data breaches, hackers, and cyber thieves, go to the head of the class. You’re being a wise, future-leaning founder.
However, you may need a little help to figure out how to set up protective barriers between your data and digital criminals. Try some of these strategies to make your company less of an attractive target.
1. Understand your industry’s baseline for any data security program.
Depending upon the industry you’re in, you may be legally required to protect many different types of data. These could include anything from financial records and employee information to trade secrets.
You may also be required to undergo routine compliance audits, as happens with businesses in the financial sector.
Chances are strong that you probably know what’s expected in terms of data security. Still, it never hurts to think about all the data you keep on hand and how it’s used. Regulations change all the time and you don’t want to be caught unaware—or find out your ignorance led to a breach.
2. Evaluate the risk levels of your third-party vendors.
According to a CyberRisk Alliance Business Intelligence study, nine out of 10 data breaches in 2021 were linked to third-party vendors. In other words, all the vendors that you use may become “back door” avenues for hackers. While working with any third-party vendor has its risks, there are measures you can take such as using software to track and assess risk level. For example, integrated risk management platforms like Ostendio MyVCM allow you to assess third-party risk and make sure those that do have access to data are adequately protecting it.
Even if a vendor says that it’s safe and secure, you can’t take everything at face value. Conducting due diligence with the help of intelligent risk management systems will give you peace of mind. Additionally, you’ll have a documented audit trail to show later, if necessary.
3. Look for remote work gaps in your data security program.
As of late 2021, a report by The New York Times showed that 86% of telecommuters didn’t want to return to the office. They were happy to work remotely.
While this is well and good for many reasons, having a team of teleworkers can be risky for your business. Without appropriate protections in place, your remote workers may be making your corporate data far too accessible.
You don’t have to pull everyone back to headquarters, though. Just make sure that they can use a corporate virtual private network (VPN). The last thing you want is someone logging onto public WiFi in a nearby coffee shop.
Additionally, remote employees should have devices to use for work only. For example, using a password management tool such as 1Password can help you create stronger logins and manage employee access to third-party tools. Insist upon two-factor authorization for all logins as well.
And when someone leaves the organization, immediately remove all their access points to your systems.
4. Conduct routine internal security audits.
Even if you don’t work in a field where you have to undergo security audits, you can still conduct them yourself.
Each quarter, gather information from your department heads. Ask about changes that you might not be aware of that could affect your data risk. Such changes could involve anything from new suppliers to a tech stack addition.
Once you’ve pinpointed all changes that have happened, you can determine if they are putting your data at risk. Work together on this with your IT leader or CTO, if you have one.
If your company is very small or a startup, consider working with a technical consultant a few times a year. Breaches can be costly events and you can’t afford even a tiny one.
How costly? According to IBM’s figures for 2021, the average cost of a breach hovered at just over $4 million.
5. Train employees on how to be savvier data security “mini-managers.”
Your people may be highly talented. In fact, that’s probably why you hired them in the first place.
However, they may not understand that some of their everyday activities are making your data vulnerable. Cybersecurity training is one of the best gifts you can give to your team members. After all, the more insights they have, the easier it will be for them to spot problems like phishing scams or a potential malware download.
As part of your educational approach, be sure to create a document on data cybersecurity trends, as well as best practices for your workplace. Consider including it as a section in your employee handbook. There, you can outline what to do in case of a suspected breach or cyber threat.
The more knowledge your staff members have, the more able they’ll be to help steward your data. New techniques are developed constantly, so you should prioritize training for employees at least twice a year. This also serves as a good reminder to keep everyone alert to phishing scams and other data security program threats.
Your customers, employees, and stakeholders may not always tell you, but they expect you to protect their data. The best move you can make is to lock up the data that comes into your business as tightly as you can. The harder your data is to extract, the less appealing it will be to cyber thieves looking for a fast score.