Data breaches have been on a steady rise. According to the data provided by Statista, the number of records exposed and the number of US-based data breaches are on a steady and consistent rise. Admittedly, there’s a slight downward trend over the last 4 years, but this should not be too reassuring. Especially when we take into consideration the fact that data has become one of the most valuable business assets within the modern digital landscape.
If we take a look at the data for the first half of 2018, for example, 4.5 billion data records were exposed as a direct result of data breaches. A big chunk of those exposed records account for unique passwords and email addresses that typically end up being uploaded online for sale. These stats alone should be perceived as quite alarming, which is why we need to take security infringements and data vulnerability (especially sensitive data) very seriously.
What is the Main Issue With Low Security Levels?
It is no secret that achieving high security levels should be an inevitable part of running a modern company, regardless of its size or the industry it belongs to. Both big enterprise-level organizations and solopreneurs face data losses induced by subpar cybersecurity strategies. Gaps in data security tend to occur for various reasons, most common of which include insufficient security budgets, negligence, and/or suboptimal levels of awareness in terms of security-focused mindset across an entire organization.
This low awareness level issue seems to be the most hazardous one, but is at the same time something that can be easily mended and fixed. However, there are still numerous businesses that are yet to reach optimal levels of data security. This can be done through following data safety best practices and investing more into preventing dangerous data or infrastructure breaches. Here are some of those best practices.
1. Protect Granular Data, but Don’t Forget About Infrastructure Security
It is critical to take a two-fold approach when it comes to security. This involves achieving high security levels in terms of both – your infrastructure system and your granular data itself. Most companies tend to neglect one or the other, which can turn out to be quite risky. Organizations that do not tackle security on both of the aforementioned levels are much more susceptible to losing data.
Ensuring that your firewall technology, for example, is top-tier, is just as important as protecting your data on a granular level. Businesses that make sure their physical or cloud infrastructure is gap-free, but also protect their data on a micro level, significantly decrease the risk of experiencing breaches. Always take care of the data that goes through your communication channels, as these often involve unprotected access from the following parties: your clients, your client’s clients and partners, suppliers, partners, outsourcing channels, third-party vendors, etc. This is a delicate and complex ecosystem of data-flows that can feature many weak spots in terms of data safety.
2. Take Care of the Data Handled by Third-Party Cloud Vendors
The modern business landscape involves utilizing third-party cloud-based products, platforms and infrastructures that can be tricky when it comes to data safety. For instance, recent research shows that 8 out of 10 businesses that use some form of a cloud-based platform provide these vendors with access to highly privileged data, even company secrets. Of course, working with these vendors is not inherently risky, but it is advised that each organization takes care of security on their own.
Be sure to have a clear overview of access permissions, and – wherever possible – make sure you grant the least amount of privilege to third-party vendors and applications. Using strong credentials and multi-factor authentication strategies is a good start, and be sure to rotate them on a regular basis.
3. Regular Testing and Encryption
The year 2020 has taught us many important things, and one of things is that the current digital environment grants us much more remote work freedom than we thought (or the employers were willing to admit). We are able to work from the comfort of our own home, without slowing down the workflow or jeopardizing the quality of our performance. Admittedly, there are certain challenges to be overcome, but with a couple of small tweaks in our mindset and daily routines, remote workers can indeed keep up, often even outperform themselves.
This is all due to the cloud environments and portable devices that have become an integral part of our everyday, as well as professional, life. We all have our own micro-ecosystem of smartphones, laptops, tablets, personal computers, and so on. The problem with this, security-wise, is that these gadgets are all potential points of entry for hackers, which is why performing regular security tests and using solid tactics can really step up your data safety game.
Basic security measures (including antivirus software and firewalls) are necessary but if the attack is coming from an experienced top-tier hacker, it is data encryption that can help you prevent hazardous breaches and data losses. Once you have all these data safety components properly in place, we highly recommend deploying regular testing of your data and infrastructure protection levels.
4. Take Care of Your Email-based Data
It is alarming how many businesses tend to neglect emailing platforms when it comes to securing their sensitive data. These platforms are among the main data-flow channels for most modern companies, which means they often harbor company secrets, business strategies, account invitations, employee credentials, etc. And let’s not forget that these messages can be used as evidence for legal cases.
This means that making sure your email-based data is safe and retrievable, properly archived via email archiving solutions and retained through strong email retention policies can be extremely useful, especially in the long run. When you are capable of protecting and accessing pertinent data in an easy and timely manner is crucial if your organisation gets involved in legal issues that could cause serious and costly damage.
5. Regularly Update Your Systems & Create Data Backups
This may seem like boilerplate advice, but this is another aspect of data safety that gets easily neglected. So, make sure you always keep your systems updated, properly patched, as well as backed up. Only then will your data be capable of outliving potential disaster and breach scenarios.
Both – investing in the technical aspects of data protection and honing the security-focused mindset – are critical aspects of achieving ultimate security levels. Be sure not to leave anything to chance as one single data breach can be enough to jeopardize your entire business. Only when all systems and channels are protected with adequate security layers and when your employee mindset is geared toward data safety, can your organization properly focus on performance and growth.
Bio: Damian is a business consultant and a freelance blogger from New York. He writes about the latest tech solutions and marketing insights. Follow him on Twitter for more articles