Whether you’re still in the early stages of your small business or already a seasoned entrepreneur, you likely deal with tons of data. We are, after all, in a data-driven era of business. However, as integral as data is to your daily operations, it also makes you a target for malicious actors seeking to steal and sell your information.
Without robust security measures in place, the consequences can be disastrous, ranging from reputational damage to loss in revenue. In contrast, a solid data protection plan can help instill confidence in customers, reduce downtime, and position you as a trustworthy choice.
To guide you in safeguarding your critical assets, we’ve put together some security measures you can implement today.
Employee errors can inadvertently leave your business vulnerable to cyber attacks. According to a study by Tessian, 36% of employees believe they’ve made a mistake at work, accidentally compromising their company’s data. This, however, isn’t to say that employees are to blame—often, the root cause is a lack of awareness about common cyber threats.
To mitigate this risk, the responsibility rests on you to carry out comprehensive and regular training. This should cover cybersecurity best practices, such as spotting signs of phishing emails, evaluating the safety of websites, and avoiding the use of public Wi-Fi.
Most employees depend on their mobile phones for communication. But despite being indispensable, they’re a notable security risk. Employees often store confidential data on their phones, including emails, client details, and notes from meetings. In some cases, they may even use their devices to hold passwords for work-related accounts.
To effectively protect your company’s data, establish clear and comprehensive policies on the use of mobile phones. For example, you might mandate employees to install apps only from official sources such as the App Store, and caution against connecting to public Wi-Fi. Moreover, security measures such as remote wipe, password protection, and encryption can restrict access to data if devices are stolen or lost.
Providing your employees with full access to all your company’s files and information isn’t always necessary. Instead, it’s safer to restrict their access, permitting them to view, download, and use only the data they need to perform their respective roles.
Adopting role-based access control (RBAC) is a strategic move that not only reduces the risk of data exposure, but also limits the damage done when one user’s credentials are compromised. It’s crucial to note that if a hacker gains access to even one user’s credentials, and that individual has unrestricted access, they can easily exploit your entire system. RBAC acts as a “gatekeeper” to your company’s sensitive files, making it more challenging for hackers to gain access to all of your data.
Any business dealing with sensitive data, such as clients’ birthdates and Social Security numbers, should use encryption. It works by converting data into an unreadable format called “ciphertext”, which can only be decoded with a decryption key.
In the event of a breach—whether due to malware, employee error, or other causes—cybercriminals won’t be able to make use of the data without the correct key. And although encrypted data can be decrypted, the process can be time-consuming and complex, making it not worth the effort.
When criminals gain access to your Wi-Fi network, the consequences can be severe, ranging from loss of valuable information to the installation of malware. Such incidents have the potential to ruin your reputation, not to mention diminish your customers’ confidence in your services.
Fortunately, strengthening your Wi-Fi’s security is a fairly straightforward process. Here’s what you can do:
- Modify your Wi-Fi’s default settings. Don’t use the default login details that come with your Wi-Fi. Update the network name or Service Set Identifier (SSI) to something nondescript to avoid giving away information about your company.
- Use a strong password. Your Wi-Fi manufacturer likely set up your router with a weak password such as “password” or “123”. To stop criminals from connecting to your network, replace it with a more complex code, making sure it contains at least 12 characters and a good mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Position your Wi-Fi router in a secure space. Easy access to your router increases its chances of being tampered with by cybercriminals. Make sure to store it out of sight, such as on a shelf in your office.
Although SOC 2 compliance isn’t a legal obligation, it’s worth considering, especially if you want to reassure customers that their data is stored and processed securely. Businesses that comply with SOC 2 have successfully met strict security criteria, positioning them as better prepared to respond to threats.
To comply with SOC 2 security standards, you will have to undergo an audit, wherein your business’ data protection protocols and response plans will be thoroughly examined.
As the term implies, a ransomware attack occurs when criminals steal your data and/or lock access to your systems, demanding money for their release. If you fail or refuse to comply, they may threaten to delete or disclose your data. Recovering from such an attack can take businesses weeks, resulting in a substantial loss of income.
To counter the threat of data loss due to ransomware—a crime that will occur every 2 seconds by 2031—regularly backup your files, including financial records, customer databases, and other critical information. This measure allows you to restore your data and swiftly return to normal operations, all without succumbing to the attacker’s demands.
Threats are ever-evolving, as cybercriminals are always seeking new ways to exploit systems. Software developers are aware of this, which is why they regularly roll out updates, designed to address newly discovered vulnerabilities that could put your data at risk.
Whenever you see a prompt to update your software, don’t ignore it. Attackers often exploit unpatched apps to infiltrate systems, potentially compromising your confidential data. Continuing to use outdated software may leave you open to malware, ransomware, and other malicious activities.
As a business owner, safeguarding your information is one of the smartest moves you can make. By implementing these strategies, you not only guarantee the integrity of your data, but also earn your customers’ trust while avoiding potential financial pitfalls. So stay savvy and steadfast in your commitment to security—those who invest in data protection are ultimately the ones who find success.