A data breach occurs when hackers and people with malicious intent gain access to sensitive client and employee information. The threat of these data breaches is rising daily, resulting in major loss of revenue and litigation. Unfortunately, a security breach can affect both small and large businesses. So what should you do to stop a data breach from occurring in your company? Here are some helpful recommendations:
1. Improve Printed and Electronic Data Security
You should lock up all physical files and documents containing private data in a well-secured location. Create different groups for the purpose of accessing data on your servers. Give access only to employees who need to have access. Do your due diligence and conduct a thorough background check on people you want to employ, particularly if they will handle sensitive personal data of your clients and employees. As much as possible, don't permit any temporary workers to gain access to personal information.
2. Test Your Information Security System
Just like you can test your readiness for a fire outbreak through a fire drill at work, you can also test the ability of your information system to withstand a hacking attack. The process is called ethical hacking or penetration testing. It involves trying to explore common loopholes that most hackers use to gain access to sensitive information without permission. If your business depends on your information system for sales and management of client relationships, this test will reveal any vulnerabilities in advance and help you to take care of them.
3. Restrict Computer Use
Make sure your employees use computers strictly for business and not for personal use. Don't allow employees to work with any peer-to-peer file sharing sites or applications. These applications usually overload your network and allow users to easily download malware. You can find a list of these peer-to-peer apps used to share documents, media files and software and use your firewall to stop them from working on your network.
4. Train and Update Your Employees
Educate all members of your team about all the types of sensitive personal data, confidential information and how to safeguard them from unauthorized access. Teach all workers to lock up all files in cabinets at the close of work. Ensure that they sign out of their computers and lock their offices before they leave. For easy reference, put all important information about data security in a policy document and ensure that all employees read it and follow it to the letter.
5. Update Security Software
When software companies discover any bugs or security loopholes, they release updates, patches and new versions of their software. Make it a habit to install them as soon as they are released. You can decide to do major software updates manually but you need to apply upgrades to anti-virus, firewalls and anti-spyware software promptly. You should also subscribe to your software vendor's newsletter and get prompt notifications when new vulnerabilities are discovered.
Any time you feel like putting off the installation of security updates for your operating system, remember the WannaCry virus of 2017. This virus affected hundreds of thousands of users around the world because of vulnerabilities in the old versions of Windows. Microsoft released a security upgrade before it occurred but many ignored it and lost their data to hackers.
6. Control the Use of Mobile Devices
Many data breaches occur because workers leave their laptops or tablets unattended. For this reason ensure that every employee has password protection and has to re-login after a certain period of inactivity. Only permit telecommuting on computers owned by your company. If any computer or mobile device gets lost, take immediate action to block its access to your corporate network.
7. Create a Strict Password Policy
It is essential to keep all passwords secret. Don't allow employees to write passwords down or keep them in a digital file where hackers can find them. Also, make sure all passwords are strong and difficult to hack. Hackers use various types of techniques to gain unlawful access by applying brute force and trying out various password and username combinations.
Ideally, no password should be found in the dictionary and they should contain upper case letters and special characters. Ensure that passwords expire and they are changed after a specific period. If your workers are finding it difficult to remember their passwords, you can use a password manager program that encrypts and stores passwords for easy retrieval.
8. Scrutinize Unsolicited Emails
Hackers use phishing emails to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting users. Usually, a mail seems to come from someone you know. Then you are asked to click on a link or download a malicious attachment. For example, a frequently used phishing technique is a fake email that appears to come from a shipping company like UPS, FedEx or DHL. If you click on the link to download the attachment, the installed program will give the hacker access to sensitive information on your computer. So let all your employees be wary of all emails with attachments and links.
It is better to work hard to prevent a data breach than to try to mitigate the after effects. Most prevention techniques are not difficult to implement and they can save your business from embarrassment, liabilities, and crucially, loss of revenue.