Data security isn’t a concern of the giants alone. Small businesses also face cyber security issues on a regular basis. It’s critical for businesses to take every measure possible to protect themselves from cyber criminals. 

Bank account details, personal files, payment information, client contacts — an organization cannot risk having such information fall into the wrong hands. Even just losing important data or documents can have grave consequences.

Startups, in particular, should pay special attention to cyber security, as smaller companies are even more vulnerable to risk than larger organizations. The highest level of data security should be implemented before a company opens its door to business.

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Why you should pay attention: Cyber security statistics

Every company has limited resources for different departments such as development, marketing, and sales. It takes constant effort for these areas to thrive, which is also why things can quite easily fall apart in the event of a security attack.

According to The SSL Store, ransomware attacks occur every 14 seconds. That’s nearly 2000 attacks in one work day, any one of which can hit your small business if you don’t have strong security measures in place.

But that’s not all. Statistics also show that small businesses are the target of cyber attacks 43% of the time. 

This means that if your company is currently in its crucial growth stages, you should be twice as vigilant. Being unprepared for the possibility of a cyber attack is just as bad as wanting your business to fail.

Cyber Security costs: How much you should budget

The same post by The SSL Store showed several monetary figures surrounding cyber security, but here’s the most alarming of them all: the cybercrime economy profits at least $1.5 trillion annually.

Source: The SSL Store

In a survey by Small Business Trends, 55% of the respondents said they have experienced a cyber attack in between May 2015 and May 2016. The damage dealt to these companies were worth just under $900,000 on average, with an additional $955,000 due to disruption to normal operations.

In other words, it means that there’s always people out there who could be trying to hack into your system at any given time. The biggest information disaster your company has ever experienced may just be a typical Thursday to them.

Source: Small Business Trends

What does this mean for you? It’s simple. 

You need protection from these potential attacks. And in this particular scenario, skimping out is the last thing you want to do. If you want a good level of business security, you need to allocate part of your budget to data safety.

Determining an exact amount of money to dedicate to cyber security defense is difficult.

However, according to this article by Gartner, organizations spend just below 6% of the overall IT budget on security and risk management.

But spending over that doesn’t automatically guarantee information safety. You could be spending twice as much on the latest security solutions and a talented IT department, but the entire system could still fail if your team itself isn’t able to follow network security best practices.

Without further ado, here are 8 data security precautions that companies can follow to help ensure safety.

What can an organization do to ensure data security? Click To Tweet

1. Control who can access important company data

A company should limit the number of employees that have access to sensitive data. The more people you give privileges to, the higher the chances of getting hacked. 

Accessibility should be on the most minimal terms: just enough for an employee to be able to do their job and nothing more. For example, an employee must only be allowed to install software that’s related to their scope of work. Other privileges should be blocked.

User rights should be carefully monitored on a regular basis, and user access must be revoked as soon as an employee leaves the organization. 

Access rights must be supervised and changed when an employee changes roles within the company. This will help prevent important information from falling into the wrong hands.

Moreover, in the case of an information breach, performing a root cause analysis will be easier if fewer people have access to the company’s data.

2. Update passwords regularly

Regularly updating passwords is an easy and reliable security measure, but few companies follow this practice. 

You’re putting yourself at unnecessary risk by not creating unique passwords or not changing them frequently enough.

Hackers and even some modern apps can crack hundreds of codes in a second. 

By having passwords that are easy to guess, you’re practically inviting thieves to steal your private information. 

Ideally, your passwords should be at least 12 to 14 characters long, as longer and more complex passwords are harder and will take much longer to crack. 

Auto logins should also be avoided, as this puts all of your information at risk should your system ever get compromised.

Additionally, avoid using the same password for every application or platform. Using the same password for all of your accounts effectively defeats the whole purpose of using passwords. 

Once an account of yours is broken into, everything else will follow.

It’s also recommended to change your passwords every three months at a minimum for better system safety. It may sound like a headache to remember so many passwords, but it’s well worth the risk of losing your critical information or having it fall into the wrong hands.

3. Limit the personal devices your team can use

One of the biggest mistakes most companies make is giving their team’s personal devices access to the organization’s confidential data. 

Although BYOD (bring your own device) is rapidly gaining popularity — particularly in startup culture — the security risks that come with it can be catastrophic.

When employees have the company’s information stored on their personal devices, it will remain there even after the employee leaves the organization. This translates to potentially large-scale data security issues.

A company should have a strict BYOD policy that outlines protocols for gaining access to the organization’s data from off-site locations. The policy should include MDM (mobile device management) guidelines, so the IT department of the organization can monitor any device that has access to the company’s network. 

Your IT department should also have the authority to withdraw access or wipe a device in case it’s stolen or lost.

4. Educate teams on security protocols

While having an exceptional IT department greatly increases your organization’s overall level of security, your team’s knowledge still plays an integral part in keeping company information secure. 

Ever heard of the saying “loose lips sink ships?” This is true for cyber security as well, except “loose fingers” would be the more accurate term in this case.

Before granting your team access to valuable data, you should hold security training sessions for them — after which they must be able to demonstrate a respectable degree of proficiency in the matter. 

Training should include education on how to detect and report potential security threats, how to protect their devices from malware infestation, and troubleshooting common security problems, among other protocols.

Everyone in the team should be kept in the loop about new viruses and spyware, and taught how best to avoid them. Hackers can get into your system through your team’s social media accounts and email IDs. Hence, it’s important to give your staff basic education in order to maintain an all-around safer network.

5. Create a regular security maintenance schedule

It’s critical to keep your network up to date on security standards if you want to avoid a threat. 

Technology is a fast-changing phenomenon; security practices from a decade ago have long been obsolete and should no longer be used. 

Many companies fail to make the effort to keep pace with the latest cyber security standards, which potentially endangers their data. Using outdated techniques and encryption algorithms can be risky as cyber criminals can easily attack them.

These thieves depend on you to make blunders. As soon as they find a gap in your network security, they’ll exploit it. This means that you must be vigilant in not only implementing security protocols, but also in refining them and updating them to the latest standards.

This can be best achieved if your company has a set schedule for scans and updates. Your IT department should be dedicated to planning and carrying out regular maintenance activities for all your software and hardware.

6. Practice secure data management

Some people also tend to leave their storage devices lying around the workplace unattended, which is already a security accident waiting to happen.

It’s a major mistake to let your data stay unprotected. One case of a lost tape, iPad, laptop or USB drive can have severe consequences for your company, landing your small business in a legal or financial mess.

If you use portable devices to store sensitive information, you must use strong encryption techniques to keep your data safe. Tools like BitLocker To Go can help keep your information protected on devices such as USB drives and laptops. 

For devices like iPads, you can deploy mobile management security software to protect and encrypt data.

7. Don’t do everything by yourself — hire an expert

It’s a fact that there’s a shortage of cyber security skills. According to estimates, the shortage is approximately a million positions and increasing rapidly.

Whether your company is a startup or a large organization, you can’t make it work by trying to do everything in-house.

If you need help with incident response, security monitoring, penetration testing or any cyber security protocol, you should go to the experts. 

It can be a good idea to partner with an established security services provider so that your data is in the hands of specialists. Your team can then concentrate on expediting your projects and business with peace of mind.

8. Consider buying a cyber insurance policy

Following all the tips mentioned above greatly decreases your chances of getting hacked, but the reality is that you can never be 100% confident. You must still be prepared in the event of an attack.

It’s a good idea to buy a cyber insurance policy for your company, should your system ever get breached. You don’t want to be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on something you could have prepared for. 

But having an insurance policy doesn’t mean you can lie low. This will only serve as your last resort, when all your security measures have failed. The important thing is that you keep your systems up to date and everyone in your team well-informed.

Final word

Staying abreast of data security is a 24/7 job. You must continually improve and upgrade your safety efforts. Many small businesses become complacent over time, thinking the worst will not happen to them. This type of thinking can make you vulnerable to attacks. You must always remain vigilant in order to steer clear of security breaches.

Do you have any tips that we haven’t listed? We’d love to hear about them below.