Don’t think you’re vulnerable to a data breach? Think again. In 2018, businesses reported 1,244 breaches – and small businesses accounted for 58 percent of victims. In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, here are seven ways to prevent a data breach in your business:
Take Inventory of Your Risks
Conduct a complete audit of your systems, including on-premises, cloud and third-party IT assets that could lead to your network. Think about not only obvious points, like your servers and applications, but also your employees’ devices, Internet of Things-enabled devices, and industrial control systems.
Once you’ve taken stock of your infrastructure, prioritize any issues you find. Likely, you’re dealing with limited resources, so decide which problems are putting you at the most risk, like unpatched software or weak passwords.
Control User Access
When possible, employees should only have access to the data they need for their positions, and sensitive data should only be accessible to authorized users. It’s unlikely that all of your employees need access to all of your data, all the time.
Think also about how to handle departing employees and temporary employees like vendors and contractors. Provide the necessary passwords, key cards, laptop access and more that those employees need, but make it a priority to rescind access as soon as their work with your company ends.
Keep Software Updated
Many high-profile data breaches, including the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, are a result of hackers exploiting a weakness in older software. In the case of the WannaCry attack, Microsoft had already released patches to close the exploit, but many companies had failed to apply the patches or were using out-of-date Windows systems that no longer had support.
Fortunately, the fix for this is fairly simple. Patch and update your software as soon as the developer releases those options, and upgrade your software when it’s no longer supported by the developer. This is especially timely now with the end of support for many Microsoft products starting in January 2020.
Enforce BYOD Policies
Your employees are probably using laptops, tablets and smartphones for at least some of their work. Unsecured endpoints can lead hackers straight to your network, rendering your other security measures much less effective and making your sensitive data vulnerable to a breach.
To combat this threat, you need a dedicated mobile device management program. Whether you provide the device or employees use their own personal devices, implement data security measures to ensure that employees are handling, retrieving and sending data safely. If a device is lost or stolen, create a policy to protect your data, such as remotely wiping the device.
No one likes managing their passwords, but unique passwords are critical to preventing a data breach. Don’t leave password strength up to chance. Require your employees to use complex passwords that are changed frequently, at least every 90 days. Employees should not write passwords down where others can find them.
A password management tool such as LastPass or OneLogin can store and remember multiple encrypted passwords to reduce the hassle of employees forgetting complex passwords. Another security best practice is multi-factor authentication, where passwords are supplemented by passcodes, challenge questions and other identification measures. Even if an employee accidentally gives their login information away in a phishing attack, two-factor authentication will minimize that damage.
Security-wise, employees are your weakest link; 95 percent of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. Train your employees to identify and report signs of a data breach, but more importantly, train them to prevent a data breach. When your employees fully understand and support initiatives such as BYOD security or password management, your security will be stronger across the board.
Perhaps the most crucial area for employee training is email. Since the majority of malware, ransomware and phishing attacks stem from illegitimate emails, training your employees how to spot and report strange senders, links or attachments can drastically minimize the chance of a breach.
Back Up Files
Our last tip is to back up your files. While this is always a best practice for all businesses, it can especially pay off when your business suffers a ransomware attack. When your files are securely backed up to an off-site or cloud location, you won’t have to debate whether or not to pay the hacker. You’ll simply clean your systems, retrieve your data and continue your day.
Unfortunately, backups are no longer a set-it-and-forget-it measure. Hackers are disabling backups and then waiting 30, 60, 90 days to take systems down, leaving companies with no choice but to pay a ransom to retrieve their data. Regularly testing your backups to ensure that they’re working as intended is key to protecting yourself.
How We Can Help
Implementing all of these security procedures can be time-consuming and costly, especially for a small or mid-size business. We assess your security needs and implement procedures to help you minimize the chances of a data breach or quickly identify and contain a breach in progress. Don’t ignore the threat of data breaches – contact us today.