Data security is getting a lot of attention right now, and with good cause. With research by the Pew Research Center showing that 18% of adults online have had personal information stolen as of January 2014, it’s clear that data security is a major concern for business owners.
A data breach can damage not only your business operations and finances, but your customer relations and reputation. Your customers’ trust, once lost, can be nearly impossible to win back, so making data security a top priority makes good business sense.
What are some of the data security risks you need to be aware of and what steps can you take to mitigate those risks?
Sources of Data Security Risks
There are two main sources of data security risks:
- Internal risks do include malicious acts by employees, which often get media attention, but they also include vulnerabilities that come about due to how data is used and stored, and who has access to it;
- External risks come both from deliberate attacks, and from security vulnerabilities that leave your business’ systems open to malware and software bugs.
Five Areas to Pay Attention to
Paying attention to these five key areas will help you to build up a strong data security policy across the board:
- Policies and plans – To protect your data, create helpful policies and plans. These should cover acceptable use – who may access data and what they may use it for – and procedures for handling a data breach. If your company has a bring your own device policy, make sure your employees know what they are allowed to store and access on their own devices;
- Network security and checks – Keep your network secure with tools such as firewalls and anti-virus software, along with regular network checks and assessments to isolate potential problem areas. In this case, prevention truly is better than cure;
- Encryption and back-ups – Data encryption is a valuable tool for any business, one which you can’t afford to overlook. As well as encryption, make sure your employees are aware of the importance of using strong passwords. All your sensitive data should be regularly and securely backed up;
- Restricted access – Consider carefully who has access to data and whether they need that access. Data should be made available on a strictly “need only” basis;
- Employee education – It can be all too easy for your employees to assume that data security is someone else’s problem. Involve all of your employees in data security with information on why it matters and what is expected of them.
Special Considerations for Data in the Cloud
As the article “Don’t Let Security Concerns Impact Use of Big Data” points out, many businesses fear that bigger data means bigger security risks, especially when it comes to storing data in the Cloud. In fact, it’s perfectly possible to gain all the benefits of the Cloud while still keeping your customer and employee data safe.
Start by applying the same controls as in the rest of your business: Limiting access only to those who need the data, making sure data is backed up regularly, and ensuring users employ strong passwords. Think about whom data will be shared with and whether it’s necessary when collaborating on documents or sharing data with third parties.
It also helps to have an open and honest discussion with any vendor before purchasing a Cloud service, to find out how they handle security and back-ups, and whether their methods suit your business.
Data security is a major concern for any business owner. However, with good planning and constant attention to detail, it’s possible to minimize your security risks and keep both your business and your customers safe.
About the Author: Tristan Anwyn writes on a wide variety of topics, including social media, SEO, data security and the Cloud.