If you think you are immune to a data breach as a small business, think again. It is only the huge companies that hit the headlines, but small businesses and start-ups are particularly vulnerable to a cyber attack. This is because cyber security installed on computers storing data may not be as effective or sophisticated in recognizing and preventing threats.
A data breach can have a huge impact on a small business, especially due to the fines imposed by data protection regulations. Loss of personal data will also lower the trust that consumers have in your business. The loss of personal data of a sensitive nature can cause discrimination as well as identity theft.
So what steps can you take as a small business owner to prevent a data breach?
Ensure you have up to date security defenses installed onto your computer systems. You should have firewalls installed, which will prevent unauthorized access to your network as well as anti-malware and antivirus software.
Ensure you have a secure system in place for the external transferring of data, innovations such as powerful software for today keep security as a priority in ensuring data reaches the correct destination safely.
Passwords providing access to your computer systems should be changed frequently, at least every 90 days. The password must not be written down or shared. The more complex the password, the better. Consider a combination of numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters. Passwords are your first line of defense in cyber security, so must be taken seriously.
Recognise phishing emails
72% of all cyber security breaches are caused by business owners and staff opening phishing emails, so it is essential that all employees in your business are trained on how to recognize and avoid them.
Phishing emails are bogus emails that mimic trusted senders. Emails are opened as the receiver is lured into thinking it is from a reputable source, personal information is given and attachments are opened, potentially causing a massive breach in data security.
As phishing emails are becoming more and more sophisticated it is important to never open an email that you were not expecting or click on links from unknown senders. Email security systems will filter out some spam, but not all.
Sometimes data breaches occur by staff or business owners inadvertently releasing information. It is important therefore to educate yourself on what is seen as confidential information. If you employ staff, the best way to maintain confidentiality is to restrict access to personal data. This could be a restriction to data secured on the computers or data stored in filing cabinets. Lock it away with passwords and locks.
Unfortunately there are instances where data is deliberately shared by employees, restricting access to where the data is stored will reduce such incidents.
Regularly audit security measures
There’s no point of putting all of the above measures in place, to then ignore them for the next year or so. You should develop the habit of auditing how secure personal data is regularly. This will allow you to update practice, it may also highlight security breaches that may have otherwise gone undiscovered.