43% of the millions of daily hacking attacks target small and medium businesses, and 64% of companies have reported falling victim to these attacks. The average SMB incurs average losses of $3.9 million following a successful attack. They also suffer crippling interruptions to their everyday operations, and some don’t recover.
It is easier and cheaper to protect your business’s data against cyber-attacks and other forms of theft or loss. Here are eight tips to improve your cybersecurity and data security measures:
1. Implement Strong Cybersecurity Measures
A strong cybersecurity program should be your first line of defense against hackers. It should provide comprehensive data security. It should protect against malware attacks for the whole network and all connected devices.
Hackers are always developing ways of breaching the latest cybersecurity solutions. As such, it is also important to keep your cybersecurity program updated at all times. This ensures that your program is equipped to black the latest threats. Unfortunately, many people don’t bother with updates, which is the main reason behind the Equifax attack that affected 143 million people.
2. Encrypt Sensitive Data
Data encryption provides an extra layer of protection against malware and ransom-ware attacks. It also renders the data useless if a hacker is successful in stealing it.
Data encryption is a simple and clever concept: scramble readable text and only make it readable using a secret code. Scrambled text is difficult to malware and ransom-ware to detect, increasing its safety in your digital systems. Additionally, it is useless for hackers as it takes a lot of time and resources to decrypt data.
As such, it is advisable to encrypt all sensitive data before storing or transmitting it. Invest in a powerful encryption program that would require quantum computer power to decrypt.
3. Secure Wireless Connections
Wireless networks are convenient, but they are also vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Their wireless nature means that anyone with the proper expertise and resources can gain access to your systems remotely. Majority of successful cyber-attacks have been perpetrated via wireless networks. As such, take extra measures to protect all data transmitted via your wireless networks.
Encryption is the best way to secure wireless communications. Fortunately, all wireless routers offer several encryption options. The Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) option is the best as it uses the latest encryption algorithms.
It is also recommendable to set up separate public and private access portals to isolate the company’s computers from the public users. The private access points will be for employees sharing sensitive data. These points should be secured using business-grade cybersecurity solutions. It is also recommendable to set access levels depending on individual employees’ access to sensitive data.
Last but not least, it is important to have your company’s router in a secure location. As such, choose a competent host company that guarantees the best cybersecurity measures. Alternatively, host the router yourself to ensure optimal security and performance.
4. Secure Employees’ Personal Devices
Employees often use their personal devices to access company data. Additionally, many employees take their work home with them, including sensitive data. They are an easy target for hackers because their personal devices are not usually as secure as the business’s systems. As such, it is important to account for this loophole, especially if employees necessarily use their personal devices for work.
It is important to sensitize your employees on the importance of the business data and the threat posed by cyber-attacks. This will make them actively avoid threats and risks.
Additionally, secure your employees’ devices to prevent unauthorized physical access. The best solution is biometric security, which ensures that only they can access the phone. Other solutions include two-factor authentication systems for passwords and automated locking and wiping fail-safes. You should also consider getting your employees devices featuring next-gen cybersecurity solutions, as many consumer-grade devices feature average security solutions.
5. Keep an Information Inventory
It is easy for business data to get scattered across multiple networks and devices. For example, there is data on your employees’ phones and laptops, in defunct flash drives, and many other places that you may not even realize.
This raises one important concern: how do you keep track of who uses this data and for what purposes they use it? It also makes it necessary to maintain a comprehensive and up-to-date data inventory.
Your inventory should identify all of your data storage locations, including what amount and type of data is stored in individual employees’ devices. It should also provide logs for everybody who accesses this data and how they use it.
An inventory for your data will help improve data management and organization. It will also deter employees from misusing this data, while also making it easier to track data breaches directly to the source.
6. Schedule Regular Data Backups
Ransom-ware attacks are on the rise. Their concept is simple: hold a business’s data hostage and threaten to destroy or sell it until the business pays up. Data is invaluable, and it would be disastrous if it was lost or compromised.
There is a simple solution for protecting against data loss: back it up. Backup data as soon as you receive it in a separate storage location. Alternatively, set up a regular backup schedule depending on factors such as how much data you work with – it is advisable to back up your data daily.
Backing up data in a separate storage location will guarantee access in the unfortunate event that you are hacked. It will also deny hackers their leverage for ransom-ware attacks, as you don’t need to pay to get access to your data. On that note, data encryption is also necessary to deny hackers the leverage of selling your data – or using it at all.
7. Protect Against Insider Threats
The best cybersecurity measures are useless if there is an insider with access to your data and nefarious intentions. As such, it is important to account for insider threats.
Hackers often prey on employees’ ignorance and naivety using social engineering attacks. As such, it is important to sensitive your employees about data security. Schedule training sessions to equip them with basic cybersecurity skills.
It is also important to screen employees who would knowingly compromise your business data for personal or financial interests. Monitor your employees’ data usage and limit their access to sensitive data.
It also doesn’t hurt to take extra measures and ask your employees to sign non-disclosure agreements that will make them liable for legal repercussions if they compromise your data. Make sure that your NDAs are comprehensive by using a detailed non-disclosure agreement template.
8. Have a Ready Response Plan
Unfortunately, many cyber-attacks are successful. You may become the next victim of a cyber-attack or data loss, regardless of all your cybersecurity measures. What would you do to cut your losses in such a situation? How would you recover your data and retain your customers’ confidence?
It is important to have a ready response plan for a successful cyber-attack. Your plan should focus on how you can resume optimal business operations after an attack. There are two integral factors for this: encryption and data backup.
Encryption is necessary to make your data useless if hackers manage to get their hands on it. Additionally, data backup is necessary to quickly resume business operations after the original data is compromised or lost.
Data is as much a currency for businesses as money. It is necessary for supporting all business operations. Since, SMBs are willing to pay millions of dollars to get their data back, and successful cyber-attacks can be so crippling that recovery is impossible. As such, it is important to ensure full-proof security for your data.