February 19, 2014
As a business owner, the threat of intentional harm to your business-critical data is of great concern. With opportunistic cyber-criminals profiting from the vulnerability of unsecured companies every day, making security a priority is simple dollars and cents.
Fortunately, strong, time-tested security practices and a little education can help keep your business from becoming a victim. Here’s how to turn your screen door network into a bank vault of data integrity.
Establish Secure Device Practices
Begin by shoring up your infrastructure. For a modern business, this can involve an array of hardware and mobile devices, each of which represents a potential liability for your network security.
Computers located at your workplace should follow rudimentary security protocols both online and off. Employees should lock their computers when stepping away, even for a moment. In addition, attention should be paid to what external parties enter the workplace, when, and for how long. Anti-virus and anti-malware software should be installed and kept current on all computers and all software installed on the machines should be kept up to date as well.
In addition, all banking performed by the business should be performed exclusively on one machine with no other activity on said machine permitted. Social networking, e-mail, and downloading open specific machines up to security vulnerabilities, and when finances are conducted on a machine possessing such vulnerability, the consequences can be dire.
If your company does work on mobile phones, additional accommodations should be made for them as well. Make sure all wireless connections within the company are encrypted and secured. Whether provided or owned, employee phones should possess a passcode that changes on a regular basis, with the option selected to wipe the phone after a number of unsuccessful inputs. If your company provides mobile devices, install security software that allows for remote wiping, just to be sure.
Establish Secure Online Practices
With your machines secure, the activities conducted on them must be as well. This is true particularly for business activities, but improving the security of employees’ personal browsing habits will also improve security.
Institute secure access protocols that will build a strong barrier between hackers and your critical information. Require that employee passwords change on a regular basis, generally 60 to 90 days, be of a considerable length, and contain a diverse range of characters (numbers, capitals, and symbols). For businesses running e-mail through Google’s platform, two-factor authentication can be enabled that requires a code from a mobile application. This functionality adds an additional layer to your efforts that password-cracking programs can’t breach.
Exercise caution when utilizing cloud services, despite their convenience. Data sent over unencrypted channels is a prime target for hackers, and the major cloud services, including DropBox and iCloud, have been compromised multiple times in the recent past. If your business must use cloud services, thoroughly investigate the security protocols of your vendor or leverage your business’ IT department to build a solution in-house.
Educate Your Staff
Top-down implementation of security protocols will help build an enforcement structure, but getting employees to actually act on established policies requires training.
While many threats can be lessened through automation and device policies, the real vulnerability of your critical data lies with uneducated personnel.
Explaining your policies to your staff will help them understand the need for such strict enforcement. Your training should include sections on password policies, e-mail practices, and data flows so that they understand what makes them so vulnerable. In addition, it your staff should be enlisted to help identify intrusions and report potential vulnerabilities.
Your training should also include a comprehensive conversation about e-mail phishing. While hackers do attempt to pick the digital locks of secure systems, the most efficacious form of intrusion is through illicit software
installed through user admission. Inform them regarding what a trusted e-mail/e-mail address looks like and how to spot a fake. Encourage them to avoid downloading or installing anything unless the identity of the publisher is known. Remind them that they’re as much apart of your security system as the software and hardware you use, and that responsible browsing is an essential part of keeping critical information secure.
Invest In Failsafes
While you can certainly do your best to batten down the hatches, intrusions do occur. Whether through a new method of phishing or more sophisticated network intrusion technology, your business must be prepared to deal with the consequences when they occur.
Proprietary information is essential to the competitive advantage of your business so whether it’s stolen or lost, maintaining it is the key. Invest in localized and third-party backup systems in order to redundantly store all important information. Make sure that your third-party provider has sound security and encryption protocols as well, so that an intrusion into their system does not compromise your information integrity.
To fully cover your bases, invest in data insurance. Policies exist that can help cover damages in cases of cyber-crime and, even if you can’t get your data back, the compensation for your crisis will provide necessary resources to reboot and rebuild.
Data security has become as essential to business operations as sales. Your information is your livelihood, and employing the right policies and protocols will help guard your precious assets from compromise. Build your
infrastructure around secure usage and implement software and browsing policies that eliminate potential vulnerability. Train your staff to become a security asset and invest in backups in case things go totally awry. Guard your intellectual capital and your financial data, and your firm can feel safer conducting business as usual.
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