Here’s What Small Business Can Do Now to Improve Their Data Security

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As a small business, you might believe you’re not at risk for a data security breach. However, you’re just as vulnerable as larger corporations. Learn how to safeguard your data with these tactics.

As a small business, you might believe you’re safe from a data security breach. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, small businesses are just as vulnerable as large corporations. Why? It’s because you, as a small business, hold something valuable that malicious hackers and criminals crave: data. Data about your customers, which can go for a good sale on the darknet. Or your personal business data that could cripple operations when malicious criminals exploit it. You’re left with the option of paying the ransom to receive your lost data or recovering what’s stolen from backups (if you have them).

Your data is valuable, so it’s important to take steps to safeguard it. An overwhelming 87 percent of small business owners stated in a recent Manta survey that they were not vulnerable to a data hack. But with data crime expected to spike in large costs – $6 trillion per year – if left unguarded profits will soar for the wrong party.

Your data is vulnerable. Data is money to hackers, and they’re looking to sell your valuable data on the darknet to make a hefty profit. A data attack not only accompanies a monetary loss, but the attack can have lasting relationship damage between employees, customers and vendors. You have more at stake than just your profits.

As a CEO and founder of a cybersecurity startup, I make it my business to know the best tactics for safeguarding valuable data. The fundamental step in securing our data is becoming educated. We must educate ourselves on that latest facts and figures, data loss concerns, and strategies to halt data breaches.

Develop a data security plan.

Now that you understand the vulnerability of your company’s data, take the next step and conduct a thorough data checkup and analysis. It’s important to know where your data is and who has access to it. These are fundamental steps that will later translate into your incident response plan.

A data breach just happened, what do you do? It’s vital for an organization to have an incident response plan that launches into action when an event occurs. The second step in devising this plan is coordinating the right diversity of expertise between mid-managers, IT specialties and the C-Suite, because security is an everybody problem, not just IT.

Create a basic security checklist for employees.

Let’s get the basics down. The truth is, your employees are the weakest link in your security plan. With one click on a malicious email or visit to a malware website, that one employee can take down your entire network. We’ll get to the importance of the employee training program soon, but we can make this even simpler.

Create a checklist of easy everyday tasks that are basic security. Relay this list to your employees. Better yet, if these small processes can be automated – like updating passwords and computer software – the basic checklist just became more basic.

Conduct an employee awareness training program.

The key to an employee awareness training program is simply awareness. You want employees to be aware of the threats that can enter your organization and steal data. It’s imperative they understand the importance of company data, and that it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect it.

Yes, it’s important to develop a good and thorough training program. However, sending employees to a once-a-year workshop does little in developing good security habits. Test your employees monthly with campaigned phishing attacks. Award those that successfully avoid the attack and further train those that do not. This is one way that you can incorporate training into your daily operations.

Restrict access to sensitive data.

If budget’s a problem, or time, restricting access to your most important data is a great approach. Once you have conducted a thorough analysis on your important data composites, part of protecting that data can be restricted access to it.

Verify only the users that absolutely need to see that sensitive information. By doing this, you further reduce risk, and you can focus your money and efforts toward monitoring the transfer of data among a smaller group of individuals.

Monitor to keep your eyes and ears open.

This brings us to my most robust suggestion in protecting small business data. Monitoring software helps detect and prevent the leading causes of data breaches – your own employees. The software sends out an alert any time an employee engages in risky behavior, such as emailing sensitive information or clicking on a harmful link, even if the action was completely accidental. The administrator is notified instantly, reducing data breach lag time and cutting down data breach costs. This speedy approach to a data breach and comprehensive evaluation of company systems is why monitoring is one of the best and most efficient ways to ensure data security.

Use a wealth of resources.

We’re lucky. With the increasing awareness of data vulnerability and costs, several research companies and blogs have developed a wealth of resources to help small businesses prepare for data loss prevention.

Security is always a venue open for improvement. Learn from those that have fallen victim and set your small business up for success by protecting sensitive business data.

Isaac Kohen

Isaac Kohen started out in quantitative finance by programming black-box trading algorithms. His time spent in the financial world and exposure to highly sensitive information triggered his curiosity for IT security. He worked as an IT security consultant for several years where he spearheaded efforts to secure the IT infrastructure of companies with masses of confidential data. When Isaac first entered the industry, IT norms were to prohibit and lock out as many people as possible to protect data. He found that this was a very ineffective way of solving the issue because it made it hard for many people who wanted to cause no harm, to do their jobs. He decided to focus on algorithms targeting user behavior to find outliers within the companies he consulted with to help detect insider threats. Isaac has since then launched his own employee monitoring and insider threat prevention platform, Teramind (https://www.teramind.co/), that detects, records, and prevents, malicious user behavior. Isaac can be reached at ikohen@teramind.co.

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