December 18, 2017
If you run your own business, you have good reason to fear security breaches. In 2016, there was a total of 1,091 data breaches in the U.S. alone, according to a report by CyberScout and the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). Furthermore, some of the most trustworthy brands have been recent victims of cyber attacks, including Yahoo, Equifax, eBay and more.
The purpose of this information is not to instill fear, but to give you a look into the reality of a potential data breach. The good news is there are several precautions you can take to safeguard your business. Here are the top 10 ways you can easily keep the data of your business, employees and customers safe.
1. Install a firewall
Investing in an excellent business Internet package that provides high speeds, built-in Wi-Fi, and protective security measures is essential for getting your business up and running. This is just the first step. If protecting yourself from a potential data breach is your aim, you also need to install a proper firewall.
A good firewall will protect your computers from malware and corrupt viruses that are often used to steal information. A firewall also recognizes when large amounts of data are being inserted into or extracted from your network. If this happens, the firewall will shut everything down to prevent theft.
2. Use security software
A good security software will test your computer, network and payment terminals for breach vulnerabilities. The most common types of security software programs are anti-virus, anti-spam and spyware removal software.
These types of software programs will automatically conduct scans, provide accurate reporting, and give you feedback as to how you can detect potential weaknesses.
3. Change usernames and passwords
The first rule of thumb when it comes to password security is to change the default username and password that comes with any type of computer program or software you use.
You should not only change the default username and password, but also make it a common practice to update your password every 60 to 90 days. You can do this manually or opt for your system to automatically require a new password before you can use the computer or software.
4. Update your operating system
It’s easy to fall behind when it comes to updating your operating system (OS), but make sure you don’t. Operating system manufacturers constantly work behind the scenes to vamp up security, and every time they make a new breakthrough, they’ll upgrade their security safeguards. To make sure you don’t forget to update your OS, opt for automatic updates.
5. Limit access to sensitive information
An internal security breach is when someone from within the company, usually an employee, accesses the network and steals sensitive information.
You can reduce the risk of this type of breach by limiting access to sensitive information to only those employees who absolutely need to see it. Invest in special software that detects unusual activity or computer patterns and monitors outbound communications. This type of software can alert you if one of your employees appears to participate in potentially illegal activity.
6. Use encryption software
If you have the means to process payments, then use an encryption software to protect customer information. Most large credit card companies require you to take several compliance measures, including installing encryption software.
If you don’t have the means to take these measures yourself, then outsource your payment processing to a company like PayPal that will do it for you.
7. Use more than one network for different business actions
Another good way to safeguard your business is to invest in a separate network for your payment terminal. That way, even if a hacker manages to get into your computer network, they won’t be able to access any payment information. Why? Because it’s on a completely separate network.
Anything you can do to make a hacker’s job harder will improve your business’ security.
8. Learn the basics of data and security
If you own and operate a business, you should understand the fundamentals of data and security. This includes knowing where your data is stored and what protection services are offered by your Internet provider, hosting company, firewall and security software programs.
You should also know the location of all your unstructured data. In other words, you should be familiar with where and how your documents are stored, how your e-mail provider operates, and what type of cloud services you have for file sharing.
9. Put data protection policies in place
A huge part of safeguarding your business is educating your staff on data security. Establish thorough data protection policies and then train your staff, partners, stakeholders, and customers on those policies. When everyone on your team understands what can lead to a data breach and what they can do to protect the company from a breach, your company’s information will be safer overall.
10. Have a response plan for data breaches
Even if you take all the proper precautions, sometimes data breaches still happen. For this instance, you should have an incident response plan. Research shows that if you don’t have a plan, the cost of the data breach could rise by 10 to 15 percent.
When disaster strikes, have procedures in place to assemble a task force, contain the problem, assess the severity of the breach, notify the proper authorities and protect your company from future breaches.
Use the tips above to protect your company, your employees and your customers. By properly safeguarding your business, you can avoid potential data breaches. And if you have an incident response plan in place, you can minimize the effects of any data breaches that manage to slip through your defenses.
Monique Serbu is a freelance digital journalist specializing in business, marketing and technology topics. Her work can be seen on Venture Beat, MediaPost and the Stanford Blog. In her spare time she likes to spend time outdoors hiking and hanging out with her Cocker Spaniel.