Protecting Yourself from a Major Data Breach: A Small Business Guide
If you think your business is too small or insignificant in the grand scheme to be a target — think again. Small businesses actually make up the majority of data breach victims. Here’s what you need to do to protect your business.
Find Your Weak Points by Performing a Technology Audit
Whether it’s your in-house IT team or an outside tech firm you task with the job, auditing all of your hardware and software central to your business operations is a critical defensive move. You’re looking for flaws, weak points, and vulnerabilities. Any party looking to access or steal your company’s data can find entry through anything from your point-of-sale system to your accounting software. Take your payment system or credit card machine, for example. If you’re using one that doesn’t have data security and fraud prevention, invest in one that does.
Any costs you incur securing your data (buying new hardware and software) at the outset are well worth it. The average cost to a business of a major data breach (already in the millions) increased again last year and is highest in the US.
Understand the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
Because of 2002’s Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), it also falls on a company’s IT department to protect clients, customers, and shareholders against fraudulent practices and issues with accounting. All businesses must comply with SOX — regardless of their size — which includes saving business records (including electronic messages) for the past five years. You’ll also need to protect sensitive data by providing encryption, as well as disclose any potential breaches or wrongdoing to the public. To make sure you and your company are in compliance, you may need to invest in some security software to make sure you don’t fail an audit. Failure to comply with SOX could result in a hefty fine and/or time in prison.
Focus on Employee Training
About 75 percent of data breaches come from hacks or some sort of malevolent bad actor brute forcing their way into a system or using malware and ransomware to take control of your data. The majority of these begin with some sort of phishing scam. This means that all the digital security in the world can’t save you if your employees are just opening the door for hackers. Fortunately, when you experience a phishing attack that results in the loss of data, you can hire teams of professionals, such as those at Secure Data Recovery, that can help you get back on your feet without an extended period of downtime.
However, the first step to preventing such attacks is education. Your employees (and you, probably) need to fully understand what dangers are lurking out there. One major skill is to be able to quickly spot a phishing attempt. Criminals will either try to get you to reveal sensitive information (passwords) by posing as a trusted or authority figure via email or trick you into clicking on a link or attachment that triggers the installation of malware. Your employees should also be able to tell if their accounts or devices have been hacked.
Don’t Trust Your Employees with Everything
Of course, you have to trust your employees. However, you don’t have to trust every single one of them with every single piece of data you have. There is a place for limited and specified permissions (whether role- or user-based) inside your company. By doing this, you can ensure your employees only have access to what they need to see. This will help you prevent data breaches, as employees giving up sensitive information is the other 25 percent of breach causes (either by negligence, ignorance, or malicious intent).
Invest in a Good Data Storage Solution
Having all of your important data stored in the cloud or on one single server is a recipe for absolute disaster. Data breaches often go hand-in-hand with data loss, and if you want your business to be able to recover from either, you will want to have multiple solutions for backup data storage — some of them offline using things like external hard drives.
The first step to protecting your small business from a hack or data breach is to admit that you are vulnerable. When you truly accept that you are at risk and understand the consequences of inaction, it will become quite easy to devote time, resources, and money to security, storage, and employee education.