According to studies, the average cost of a data breach is $4.45 million. But in reality, it is hard to put a value on the real cost of losing your most confidential company information. It can soar over time with numerous direct and indirect losses that are difficult to quantify.
Business data—from customer information, employee records, and supplier contracts to business plans, marketing strategies, patents, and formulas—is an invaluable asset for any enterprise. Losing it could compromise your competitive position, damage the trust your stakeholders have placed in you, and destroy your organization’s reputation overnight. At times, it could also land your business in legal trouble.
So, it makes every sense to keep your business data secure. But what type of data threats can harm your company? And what strategies can you deploy to keep sensitive information safe? Keep reading to find answers.
Understanding the Threats to Your Business Data
Your organization can experience two types of data-related threats.
1. Data theft
Driven by various motives, these are deliberate attempts to steal confidential information. For example, criminals may get hold of your customer database to demand a ransom. Competitors could go after your secret formulas to jeopardize your competitive edge. And disgruntled employees may leak internal documents out of spite.
Data theft can involve various strategies, from malware attacks, phishing scams, and impersonation fraud to hacking, account takeovers, and physical theft.
2. Involuntary data leaks
Unfortunately, human error is at the root of many data breaches. This means there is a definite risk of your employees and other critical stakeholders, including suppliers and business partners, compromising your data by mistake.
For instance, an employee could type in the wrong email address and mistakenly send sensitive information to an outsider. They may also unintentionally leave behind a laptop or business document at a public location, ultimately providing anyone who takes it with access to company data.
Top Strategies for Keeping Your Business Data Safe
The importance of devising a robust data protection framework for your organization cannot be stressed enough, especially considering the value of data assets and the cost of losing them.
Let’s take a look at the top strategies to adopt.
1. Strengthen data security
This involves both the digital and physical security infrastructure of your business.
Here are the essential steps to consider:
- Carry out a vulnerability assessment to determine the current security levels and gaps. This will allow your organization to identify what works and where additional focus and investments are required. Schedule these assessments on a periodic basis once you initiate your security strategies.
- Set up password protection, firewalls, data encryption, and other security features to safeguard devices, files, and networks.
- Install a reliable virus guard to prevent malware threats.
- Update software regularly to mitigate vulnerabilities.
- Limit internal access to digital data sources and physical premises. With more than 50% of businesses encountering an insider threat in 2022, initiating access controls using passwords, fingerprints, and similar techniques is critical for today’s businesses.
- Minimize the use of printed documents, which can be easily misplaced or stolen.
- Opt for cloud storage solutions instead of keeping data on laptops and other local devices. It is a more secure and accessible method of data storage.
- Keep backups of all critical information to ease the recovery process in the event of data loss.
- Establish monitoring systems to detect and prevent data threats.
2. Set up airtight policies
Data security policies are essential for articulating your organization’s strategies and activities to protect critical data and prevent breaches.
While guiding employees on important security protocols for safeguarding sensitive information, they will also allow your stakeholders, especially customers, to understand the steps your company takes to protect their data, giving them the confidence to do business with you.
Establishing standard operating procedures and guidelines should be a major part of this. Use them to define actionable steps employees must take to implement your business’s data security policy.
Some of the areas to cover include:
Disposal of devices and data
This should address the safe disposal of laptops as well as personal phones and devices that contain official data traces. Wiping out all digital information that could compromise business security is critical in this regard.
How employees discard printed documents is equally important. A shredder is always a safer option than a wastepaper basket.
Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) protocols
Threats to business data have multiplied as many employees opt to use their own laptops and smartphones for work purposes. Therefore, setting up strict guidelines on using personal devices securely is crucial for preventing cyberattacks and accidental data leaks.
Background checks should be a prerequisite during the hiring process for minimizing insider threats. These checks help you identify any potential red flags or risks associated with a candidate’s past behavior or criminal record.
When suppliers have access to sensitive information related to your company, from prices and order volumes to delivery terms, a breach at their end could jeopardize your data security. Thus, screening vendor activities and security procedures is also vital.
3. Train employees
An essential part of your security policy is assigning responsibilities and tying them to KPIs. This allows you to effectively enforce your security framework and hold relevant staff accountable for their action.
However, before that, you must train employees and provide them with the knowledge and resources required for executing their responsibilities.
Here are critical areas to include in your training sessions:
- Common data threats, such as phishing, impersonation scams, and hacking.
- Measures to identify data theft and leaks. For instance, employees can authenticate emails by checking DMARC record of the email address and verify phone calls from unknown numbers using PhoneHistory.
- Preventative action to avoid data threats, such as downloading legitimate and company-recommended apps and software, following password best practices, avoiding unsecured Wi-Fi networks, and protecting both office and personal devices.
- Protocols for notifying the organization when employees experience or suspect a data threat.
As data breach cases surge in the US, there is no better time for your business to critically evaluate your security strategies and deploy measures to amp up information safety.
While you focus on protecting your business data, don’t forget to set in place a mitigation strategy and prepare your employees to effectively tackle an inevitable breach.
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