How to prevent data breaches
Any business, big or small, is a potential target for thieves or hackers attempting to steal data or disrupt their IT operations. If you store or process financial transactions or information on behalf of clients, customers, or even employees, then you are in possession of data worth stealing. Alternatively, a third party may just want to bring your business to a standstill by corrupting or compromising data for a variety of malicious reasons.
It’s vital that every business does all that they can to prevent data breaches. If you are holding confidential data on behalf of anyone, then you are in a position of trust. It’s not just your own livelihood that you have to worry about: you are responsible for guarding the information of those you work with and for. Allowing unauthorized access to this data can seriously damage your reputation, and this tarnishing of your brand can be more costly than simple financial losses.
Make your defenses clear to see
Preventing data breaches is not necessarily about making your computer system impenetrable. It’s more about concealing your valuable data and making your defenses strong enough so that the difficulty of overcoming them outweighs the temptation to do so. You’ll never make unauthorized access impossible, but you can strongly discourage it.
Have a clear disaster recovery plan
Prevention is always better than cure, but if the worst happens, then you should be ready for it. Have a clear plan in place in the event of a data breach, and make sure that everyone in your company knows what to do. The aim of the plan should be to minimize damage and to make sure that your core business functions are back up and running as quickly as possible.
Back up your data
Regular backups of all important data are essential. You should make at least three copies in two different formats, with one of these being kept offsite in a safe place to guard against theft, loss, or corruption. The more often you back up, the less you’re likely to lose. The downside is that storage space costs money. However, it’s less than what it could cost you if the data is compromised.
If you don’t have the skills, outsource
IT security should be taken extremely seriously. If you don’t have someone in the team with up-to-date skills to make sure that your data is protected, then hire in a professional on a temporary basis to do the job. By using a reputable umbrella company, you can be sure that your IT contractor is trustworthy as well as fully tax-compliant. You’ll also have a clear point of contact if any problems arise.
Access to data and processes should be on a strictly need-to-know basis. This is often known as the principle of least privilege. Basically, every employee should only be able to access the minimum amount of functions that they need to do their job. If they have to exceed this minimum on occasion, change the passwords afterwards. This isn’t about not trusting anyone – it’s just common sense.
You’ll never be 100% certain of preventing data breaches, but keeping all your systems up to date and monitoring performance while taking due care should substantially reduce your risks.