Data Security and Privacy
Data privacy and security is a challenge for all businesses in today’s tech-driven world, and business leaders find themselves continuously addressing new threats and updated regulations. Though established organizations can often enlist the help of external service providers, or rely on well-established internal IT teams, startups and small businesses don’t always have the resources, both cash and human, to do this. There are, however, cost-effective ways to manage data and protect against breaches.
It’s necessary for IT to have a view of what everyone in the company is doing with data, how they’re using it, what tools are in place for storage and sharing, and what access limitations and authentication procedures are in place. This can be tricky when considering the cross-over between personal and business devices, and growing workforce mobility can further obscure the tracking of data. A very simple, but serious, issue is the synchronization of data across devices; unknowingly, employees may be introducing the risk of data breach. The first step to managing visibility of data is implementing data security policies and sharing guidelines. It’s as important for employees to understand what they can and can’t do with data as it is for those securing data to know where it’s stored, how it’s encrypted, and who should have access.
Traditional Antivirus Isn’t Enough
Though antivirus and anti-spam tools shouldn’t be discounted, they don’t offer enough protection for business data security, particularly considering the continued move to cloud and mobile working solutions. Experts recommend protecting information from the inside out rather than relying on external defenses, and this requires monitoring of where data is kept, how it’s used, and how it’s shared, in order to prevent data breaches. Once attackers break through security systems, they’re often allowed plenty of time to wreak havoc because their entry isn’t recognized until they deliberately make it known. Real-time monitoring of data ensures breaches are identified immediately, allowing for swift defensive action.
Staff training has its benefits for every business, but for startups that potentially have employees scattered across locations it’s imperative that sensible cyber practices are in place. Many of these would be considered fairly basic concepts, but it only takes one slip-up to bring down an entire organization. Teaching staff about strong password practices, only to use trusted Wi-Fi networks, and never to leave devices out of their control, can help mitigate risks and protect sensitive data.
Further training on types of cyber attacks that exist is also of benefit, as awareness helps employees utilize technology more carefully. Providing, for instance, an understanding of ransomware and how it threatens an organization can entrench rules such as not opening suspicious attachments, ensuring links are valid before clicking on them, backing up data regularly, and never plugging in unfamiliar USB drives. Breeding a culture of constant vigilance is one of the easiest and most cost-effective methods of securing data.
Though many small businesses consider themselves too insignificant for cybercriminal awareness, experts acknowledge that, in fact, they can be key targets because they’re identified as often lacking the necessary security implementations. Though security resources may be lacking, a quick fix is to define critical business assets and ensure these are adequately protected first. Every business has something that makes it unique and valuable, and it is precisely this which makes them a target. If necessary, considering outsourcing the security of critical assets.
From strong encryption of sensitive information to continuous monitoring for suspicious or potentially harmful actions, the many methods of protecting data needn’t be costly but will require thorough investigation. There are also many cloud solutions available with their own protection in place, and though they come at a cost they are typically flexible and scalable, thus suiting startups and small businesses from foundation, through growth, and to maturity.
By Jennifer Klostermann