Data is a company’s biggest asset. Should it ever be compromised, the repercussions can be plentiful. If you don’t protect company data, you could lose hundreds of dollars, your reputation, and, in some instances, your business.
As you hear about data breaches from big companies, the news likely alarms you. You wonder how you can protect your company from the same. Below are a few suggestions for how to keep your assets from being jeopardized.
1. Assess What Needs Protection
What information do you need to protect? Some types of info might include:
- Customer data
- Company financial records
- Marketing plans
- Trade secrets
- Employee records
- Client contracts
2. Determine to Store Your Data
Where you currently store your data can tell you a lot about how secure it is. For instance, if you store your information in the cloud, you might want to consider investing in software that enhances cloud security. This software will not only secure your data but also back it up in case it becomes compromised for reasons beyond your control.
3. Put Protections in Place
You now know what needs protection. Your next step is to employ procedures that will help you to put protections in place. The safeguards listed below are measures you can take in the office to ensure the safety of your company’s assets.
Encrypt files and data that are transmitted via email or stored in the cloud. Encrypting your documents will translate them into codes. Only those who have permission and the correct passwords will be able to decipher the documents.
When it comes to accessing company databases and software, strong password creation is vital. You should ensure that your passwords are unique and not easily identifiable by someone from outside your company. You might need to change your passwords frequently, especially when employees leave your organization.
Secure Payment Portals
Does your business presently collect consumer cardholder information? If so, it is imperative that you are utilizing secure payment portals to keep this information safe.
There are several ways to backup company data. You can save it to another space on the computer, use an external hard drive, or work with a data center. Come up with an adequate procedure for your backups. Your procedure should include how frequently you do your backups and what measures you will use to do so.
Ensure you have the best anti-virus software, firewalls, and intrusion detection in place. These will ward off a lot of cyber threats that are out there that could compromise your assets.
Internal factors, particularly ill-informed employees, can compromise company assets. Employees who are unaware of the risk factors involved with company data breaches and how to prevent them can heighten company vulnerabilities.
You could be at risk if employees access information on a Wi-Fi network or leave software open for others to manipulate. Even losing a company phone could be dangerous. It is essential you provide consistent training on how to protect company data so that your employees are always informed.
Make sure your training includes an agreement form for employees to sign. The form should state they’ve taken the training, understand the risks, and will abide by the policies and procedures set forth in it. This contract removes some of the liability from your firm and also provides peace of mind.
5. Plan for the Worst Case Scenario
Despite your planning and preparation, there is still the possibility that your company assets could be compromised. It is beneficial to have a plan in place to retrieve this information and restore confidence in your business. Having a backup plan will also minimize the blow to your company, vendors, and customers.
- Identify what data has been compromised and how this loss will impact your company and/or clients.
- Change your passwords, servers, and storage methods to prevent further intrusions.
- Assess how the breach happened. Was it internal or external?
- Contact a data security company to determine how you can prevent future breaches.
- Collaborate with law enforcement agencies if necessary.
- If the data breach will impact them directly, notify your customers.
- Offer assistance as best you can in securing customers’ identities. You should inform clients of the need to contact their credit card companies, as well as three major credit bureaus.
- Assure customers that you have resolved the matter, and explain how you will protect their information going forward.
- If necessary, be prepared to offer your customers restitution for their losses.
It goes without saying that in the last few years alone there have been an alarming amount of company data breaches. These have directly impacted customers, as well as the reputations of the firms who have been hacked. The best move you can make to protect your company from suffering the same fate is to plan and prepare.
Nothing is foolproof, and threats are constantly changing. But being prepared ahead of time minimizes your risks and, at the very least, ensures that you’re ready should a breach occur. If you have not yet taken the proper steps, be sure to take action now before it’s too late.
Originally published 8/24/16; updated 6/18/20 to add infographic.
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