We live in an age of data, big and small. And today, one of the biggest threats to any business is the risk of data loss, either by malicious or accidental means.
In this article we’re going to look at what you can do to avoid data breaches and to protect your business against data loss and its consequences, but first let’s examine what those potential consequences are.
Understanding the risks
The results of data loss can be catastrophic, and an industry study carried out by the Diffusion Group finds that 72 per cent of businesses that suffer a significant loss of data close their doors within two years.
The financial effects of data loss can be hard to recover from, with costs incurred coming from fines for improper management of customer information, the costs of repairing the breach, and potential compensation payouts to customers.
The cost to your business’ reputation can be greater still, and even harder to recover from. Whether consumers or business clients, your customers put trust in you to keep their information safe, and if that trust is broken, their belief in you can quickly evaporate.
In situations where confidential company data is lost or stolen, it can severely harm the competitiveness and credibility of the business, and the belief of any business partners.
How common are data breaches?
Unfortunately data breaches are far from a rare occurrence. A blog on the Guardian’s Media Network reveals that 78 per cent of organisations have experienced at least one data breach in the past two years, while 60 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises admit to not routinely backing up data.
Malware, email attacks and phishing scams were found to be the most common causes of external data loss, and 36 per cent of the lost data was either customer information or financial data.
To help ensure your business does not become a part of these statistics, you need to take steps to proactively prevent data breaches and data loss. So, what needs to be done?
1. Install effective virus/malware protection and firewalls across your organisation
This is the most basic level of defence that all organisations, whether large or small, should vigorously put in place.
Having a virus/malware protection solution that is robust and up to date is absolutely imperative and will do a significant amount to prevent unauthorised access to your data or its destruction by malevolent software.
All devices should have the same level of security, whether desktop PCs, laptops, tablets or smartphones.
2. Change passwords often
Passwords become less effective at securing your systems and data the longer they remain unchanged; they can be shared or exposed through sheer negligence, or stolen via technological methods such as hacking or through social manipulation.
By changing all passwords across the organisation frequently, you reduce the risks of unauthorised access. Best practice is to change passwords every 2-3 months, and those passwords which provide access to more sensitive data should be changed most frequently.
3. Create data protection policies
Though the technological efforts of cyber intruders present a considerable risk, the actions (and inaction) of your employees should not be overlooked when considering how data might be lost or stolen.
Make sure everyone’s on the same page with regards data security by creating formal policy documents for protecting your data, and provide training where appropriate.
4. Secure document workflows
Your data is only ever as secure as the documents it’s contained within, whether it’s text or numerical data. PDF files can be a particularly secure way of storing and sharing documents, as they can be encrypted and password-protected to prevent unauthorised access, copying and printing.
By using professional PDF software, such as Power PDF, solutions you can integrate these capabilities into your existing document management system, as well as enabling the digital signatures and redacting confidential information for additional security.
5. Secure your print network and practices
It’s not just information stored digitally which can be compromised. Once your data is printed out what happens to it? There are several possible data loss risks associated with printing, namely
- Sensitive printouts being forgotten about and left at the printer
- Printouts being lost or misplaced within the office or outside of it
- Unauthorised printing of confidential information
To protect against these risks, your business should consider utilising software-based print management solutions which make it possible for you to control who is printing, require that they be at the printer itself to release the print job, and keep track of who is printing what.
Finally, in a world where employees are increasingly working from home or another external location, be sure to take steps to ensure that all of the devices that they use are as secure as in the office itself.