Data security is crucial to every business, especially in the current era where less and less emphasis is on paperwork. In data computation, you cannot expect everything to go perfectly, and it is paramount for every organization to prevent a data breach. In the cyber era, hackers are taking over cyberspace and have the tools to access private information if it is not properly protected.
Data breaches can also occur from failure of the company’s storage devices. It may be difficult to prevent the activities of hackers, but there are ways you canfollow to prevent data breaches in your company. Eleven of them are highlighted below.
1. Limit access to executable files
Executable files are often sent through emails or pop ups, and they self-extract and install the moment they are downloaded. Only a small dedicated team of staff (probably those in the IT team) should be allowed to run .exe files on a computer linked to the network – since hackers can gain access to almost all the computers connected to that network. Every other device connected to the system must be blocked from downloading files.
2. Use a hurdle/multi-layered defense system
Decentralize your data in such a way that the different tiers will have different layers of security. If a hacker is able to crack one security system, it is important that they run into another. This is the same reason why it is important that all your online accounts should have different passwords. If a key can open all the doors in your house, there is no way to stop a bandit if they somehow get a single key. Hackers mostly target passwords, so emphasis should be laid on creating strong passwords. Default passwords should be changed to a more complex password combining characters and numbers. Passwords should also be changed quarterly.
3. Erase the files off disposed storage equipment
Any organization that wants to dispose of their storage equipment should, first of all, make sure they shred all the files. Deleting the files is not enough, because some software can recover deleted files. Shredding the files will permanently prevent them from being recovered. In cases where the device is to be discarded, it is better to incinerate them rather than throwing them in a trash can.
4. Routine testing of your security
Software and hacking tools are continuously being improved, so it is paramount for every organization to test their security system regularly. Routine testing should be done internally and externally to make sure the security system is up to date. For the best interests of the organization, the external testing should be done by internal staff. Internal testing by IT staff can point out vulnerabilities so that they are patched up.
5. Analysis of the data entry points
There are several routes through which data can enter your network including personal storage devices, FTP servers, emails, and more. Identify all the different data entry points and make sure they are secure. A system should be set up to scan all data going in and out of the system for virus and bugs.
6. Organizations should use encrypted networks and devices
Anyone can get access to an open network. It is said, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”, and open networks, as well as unencrypted devices are prone to cyber-attack. Institutions should ban access by unencrypted devices because hackers can use them as a window to gain entry into the network. Your wireless and router must be configured so that the Service Set Identifier (SSID) is hidden. It is necessary that all sensitive information should be encrypted before it is stored on devices, or transferred to the internet. A few operating systems and software have built-in options for encryption which you will need to activate. There are encryption programs that can be tailored to meet different business needs.
7. Backup and secure your data
For any number of reasons, your data can be lost or damaged – imagine what it would feel like if that were the only copy of that data you have. Hackers target sensitive information like financial data, trade secrets, and other personal information. To ensure your data is safe, lock physical records in a secure location and back them up. The backup files should be encrypted and stored offsite in case there is physical damage like burglary and fire. Removable storage devices and paper files should be put away in a cabinet, drawer or safe when they are not in use.
8. Programs should be updated regularly
Hackers target outdated programs and look for loopholes in them. Some threats lurk around, like being embedded in Microsoft Office documents and PDF where they remain undetected. Developers continually work on programs to take away points that can be exploited. Keeping your programs updated will take out the old weak points, and keep your networked computers safe. The security details of some of the programs are also reviewed in software updates.
9. Every staff should have security training
The 2014 Cyber Security Intelligent Index by IBM Security Services revealed that 95 percent of cyber-attacks are aided by human errors. On the list of risk factors caused by human errors include using the default password, a lost or stolen device, unlocked devices, misconfiguration of administration system, inappropriately configured or updated systems, mismanagement of system patches – and the list goes on.
Preventing data breaches should begin with the hiring process. Just as it’s important to hire intelligent individuals, it is crucial to understand whether they have any risky behaviors. While recruiting, management should ensure that individuals understand the concept of breach prevention.
The importance of ensuring your staff has security training cannot be overemphasized. Security training should be a part of the training program workers go through before they start work. Remember, “an organization with an optimum security system can still be compromised from simple human error, or carefree oversight on the part of the staff.” The recent major breach of Sony data is a result of employees falling for an obvious password phishing scam. Worms like Stuxnet have also compromised the systems of corporations as a result of staff using flash drives from unknown origins. A single employee without security training is a threat that can lead to partial or total compromise of the entire system.
In addition to having proper security training, every employee should have a separate user account to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information in the business computer. Mobile devices that can be stolen easily must be locked when they are not in use.
10. Details of your security system should be confidential
Having a robust security system can lead to pride and exaggerated confidence. Irrespective of how much you trust your IT team, it is paramount that you keep the security details of your establishment confidential. Information as small as the kind of system you have can prompt an outsider to attempt hacking your system. It is recommended that every establishment should read the piece by Barclay Simpson on what hacks have transformed the industry.
11. Protect your system from malware
Malware is a malicious software, like spyware and viruses that can get access to your computer to steal sensitive information, or cause damage to your device. There are many ways malware can gain access to your device, including clicking an infected link on a website. To keep company systems free of malware, anti-spyware and anti-virus software should be installed on all company devices. Employees should be trained to watch for suspicious links and emails.
How do you tackle security threats to your company? Do you follow any other methods to protect your company data? Let us know in the comments section below.