With businesses holding more data than ever before, the frequency of cyber breaches grows exponentially.
A recent survey showed that there were over 1,792 reported data breaches in 2016 alone. The breaches compromised almost 1.4 billion data records. Furthermore, studies suggest that most of these fraudulent activities were orchestrated by someone close to the business – such as a partner or employee.
To safeguard themselves and their clients, businesses need to have data security measures in place. These begin with carefully evaluating the data that is in their hands, securing it and then outsourcing it if necessary.
We can never be completely immune from cyber-attacks and data breaches. However, understanding how a breach occurs and taking precautionary measures are the first steps to mitigating the risk.
Below are five layers of protection that every business must consider implementing.
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1. Perform regular backups
Many organizations fail to regularly backup their data. Backups are often seen as an additional task rather than a necessity. Additionally, companies just perform data backups without taking the extra step of protecting it.
As the amount of data that needs to be backed up accumulates, the resources (such as servers, network and storage) become constrained. Besides the data amount, the locations and nature of data get increasingly complicated. All this contributes to a growing demand for advanced solutions such as virtualized servers, applications and cloud infrastructure.
Therefore, you need to invest in advanced data recovery and backup solutions. Today’s businesses often turn to the cloud for flexible and scalable solutions. The cloud is usually a great option since it allows for consistent and rapid copying of data.
Another essential tool to consider is snapshot technology. This application creates instantaneous data copies. This not only improves the data backup process but also speeds up recovery time. According to Kroll Ontrack Research, one-third of companies experience data loss when moving data.
2. Implement strong data security policies
A company must look at its policies and check whether information security is embedded into the company structure and culture.
In the absence of a security protocol, most businesses become susceptible to cyber-attacks. Most organizations are unable to combat data breaches due to the lack of post-breach protocol and policies. It is important to stay up to date on the latest threats. Cybersecurity podcasts are a great way to stay informed while learning about new aspects of the field.
It is vital to establish a data storage policy that is to be implemented and followed by all employees. The plan needs to outline the data access structure within the establishment. Keeping audit trails will ensure that those who have access to a particular type of data can be held accountable.
The path should be able to provide insights into when the data was retrieved and why it was accessed. Organizations also need to know that larger sets of data are more likely to fall victim to a cyber-attack. Hence, it is crucial that stringent policies are dictating and ensuring that unnecessary or old data is promptly deleted. Limiting access to social networking platforms is a significant step in securing business data.
For these strategies to work, it is important to design a data classification policy. This is what allows you to control who can access and share organization data.
The data classification procedure involves identifying data, selecting the appropriate classification and category tags, determining the various sensitivity levels and outlining procedures and policies which allow staff and others who make contact with the establishment’s data to function within the compliance framework.
There are three layers of data classification:
- Public: This is the level with the least sensitivity. It contains data and information that poses little to no risk to the organization, even if it were to fall into the hands of a malicious individual. Data that is classified as public is one that contains the type of information that you publish in fiscal reports, sales documents and case studies.
- Private: This layer is home to data that is mildly sensitive and could have some repercussions if it were compromised. Only company employees should have access to this data. You could go a step further and restrict it to certain positions or departments.
- Restricted: This is the most stringent layer. It contains very sensitive data that could cause irreparable damage if compromised. Access here needs to be on a need-to-know basis only. The information is tightly guarded, and it goes without saying that no one outside the company can have access to this data.
You can have multiple levels of classification depending on the types of data you have and the size of your workforce. The aim is to ensure that no one has access to data and information that does not involve them.
3. Curb internal threats
Cyber-attacks due to an employee error are usually either intentional or due to negligence. When corporate espionage happens, all employees must be investigated and monitored. Aside from malicious intent, negligence by employees costs companies a lot of money. A big percentage of workers often leave their computers unattended while others click on spam links that end up installing viruses onto their machines. It is no surprise, therefore, that a large chunk of security incidents result from human error.
To minimize the risk of human error, ensure that you closely monitor your staff. This includes reading the signs of unusual behavior and limiting access to critical business data. Additionally, mitigating security breaches arising from employee mistakes should start by training and educating employees about data protection.
4. Use encryption
Having and using encryption to protect your business data could go a long way in keeping attackers out. Ensure that you encrypt at an individual level, such that both the incoming and outgoing data is encrypted. You should implement appropriate encryption systems on multiple levels of your IT infrastructure. For example, you may want to encrypt employee devices, as well as your servers. That way, you ensure there are no loopholes in data transfer that hackers might use to their advantage.
5. Seek outside expertise
It is wise to pick a managed security service provider to take care of your data. With that, you can leverage advanced network security infrastructure. Additionally, you can also have security specialists at your disposal to counter any lack of expertise within your organization.
When you outsource security services, you are eased off the burden of doing information protection yourself. However, outsourcing will mean that you let go of your control over the information. This is the reason to why it is vital to ensure that you thoroughly research a security service provider before you hand your keys over to them.
In an era when data is synonymous with money and cybercrime is a real issue, all businesses have to understand that data breaches are costlier than the price of investing in data security systems.
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