It seems like yet another company is falling victim to a data breach almost every week. This isn’t surprising — the average company will face 22 data breaches in 2020 alone. But just because cyber attacks are common doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly; the average cost of a data breach is expected to surpass $150 million this year.
While larger companies often survive a data breach, smaller businesses likely won’t be so lucky. Research shows that 60% of small companies that faced a data breach had to close their doors within 6 months of the attack.
What companies are learning — and what cybersecurity experts have been saying all along — is that a reactive approach to data security isn’t cutting it. Your business shouldn’t wait until a breach happens to worry about security. Furthermore, it is unwise to assume that your company will be protected if you simply adhere to industry compliance standards.
Businesses need to be proactive with their data security in order to protect themselves against a potential breach. Being proactive can also minimize the effects of a breach, should one occur. Taking your data security seriously now, before something happens, puts your business in the driver’s seat and in control of its own success.
These 5 tips will help your business operate above simply being compliant when it comes to security, and develop a truly proactive data security approach.
Identify What Data is Sensitive
Company-wide, there needs to be an understanding of what data needs to be protected. This is a concept that starts at the C-level and should be regarded as a fundamental way of doing business, rather than an afterthought.
There are regulations — like the GDPR or PCI DSS — put into place that require companies to protect customer data, but these regulations should be considered the bare minimum. As your business takes a proactive approach to data security, it should be clear to anyone on your team that customer privacy is paramount and should be protected — not only because it is a law, but because it is right and ethical.
Employee training should include information about what data needs to be protected and what steps need to be taken to protect that information. The most detailed security measures will do nothing if they aren’t followed carefully by every team member. Instead of being reactive — only fixing a problem once you have a leak — you can be proactive, and prevent future breaches from even happening.
Encrypt Data At Rest and In Transit
One of the best tools at your disposal when it comes to data security is encryption. Once you have identified what data needs to be protected, ensure that it is encrypted at rest (when it is stored on your servers), and also in transit (as it travels from one point to another). Encryption will encode the data so that it cannot be read unless it is decoded with a cryptographic key. This ensures that even if your system is breached, the sensitive data will be protected. For a complete guide to data encryption, check out our previous blog post on the subject.
One vital step in data security is to control who has access to sensitive data. As a principle, only allow access to those who need the data to perform their duties. If you limit access to sensitive data, there will be fewer entrance points for a potential hacker. Regularly monitor privileges and remember to discontinue access if someone leaves the company or switches departments.
Continuously Monitor Security
The best data security is achieved when the processes are constantly checked and adjusted accordingly. You should be consistently monitoring your system for vulnerabilities or flaws in the processes. You will also need to update software regularly to ensure that your security is up to date. Outdated software is one of the easiest ways for hackers to gain access to your system.
Take a Holistic Approach
As you look to improve your data security, make sure you are looking at the entire system. Many companies make the mistake of only focusing on what they “have to” secure based on industry regulations, instead of focusing on making security a priority because it’s the right thing to do. Not only is it the right thing to do, but with so many companies in the market today, businesses that take their customers’ privacy seriously have a competitive edge. Consumers are tired of their data being used against their will and prefer companies that prioritize their security.
Wickr: A Key Element in Your Data Security Plan
As your employees begin to understand the importance of data security, your team will need a way to send sensitive data without making it vulnerable to cyber attackers. Wickr is a fully secure collaboration app, protecting your data with end-to-end encryption and a zero trust architecture, so your team is protected whether they are on a voice or video call, conferencing, messaging, file sharing, or using any of our other many features. Download AWS Wickr today for free!