Advice for Data Loss Prevention for Small Business Owners
In our two previous articles, we have discussed:
You should now be in no doubt as to the importance of taking all the precautions you can to prevent data loss in your business. Doing so could be the difference between your business thriving and failing in our digitally connected world.
Many of the strategies and tactics we outline below can be implemented very quickly and within even the most restrictive IT security budget: the perfect solution for data loss prevention for small businesses.
How to prevent data loss: Our top tips
There are many ways to prevent data loss. Some require human intervention, while others utilize technological tactics.
Data loss tip #1: Backup your data
Back up your data on a regular basis, ideally every day. This way, if you suffer a power outage or hardware failure, you’ll have a copy of your latest data available. This will allow your business to recover quickly.
To be effective, keep at least one copy of your data on a separate disk or external hard drive. Better still, store it at a different site (this will prevent a disaster such as a fire wiping out your original and copy data). The best solutions for this include at a disaster recovery site, or in the cloud.
One final tip here is to ensure that you verify your backup is usable, and that it isn’t corrupted, invalid, or incorrect.
Data loss tip #2: Be prepared in case of hardware failure
It is not uncommon for businesses to lose important data due to a computer crash or other hardware failure. Backing up your data will help mitigate the consequences of data loss, but there are other things that you can do.
These include partitioning your hard drive and performing regular disk defragmentation.
Data loss tip #3: Protect data from power surges and outages
Although rare, power surges and outages can happen. Therefore, you should also use a surge protector or uninterruptable power supply (UPS) to protect your devices from power surges. Also, make sure that computers are turned off when not in use.
Data loss tip #4: Develop a security policy for devices
Developing a security policy for devices will help you take control of your data. The first step is to identify what kind of information you want to protect and those devices that can access it. Once you have identified the information, you need to create a list of security measures that will protect this information from being accessed by unauthorized people or lost due to device failure, inappropriate use, or malicious cyberattack.
Data loss tip #5: Encrypt sensitive data
Encryption is a process by which a message or file is encoded so that only those who have the key to decrypt it can read the contents. This means that even if someone else gets their hands on your encrypted data, they won’t be able to understand what it says without first obtaining your key.
There are many types of encryption methods, such as symmetric key encryption, asymmetric key encryption, and hashing algorithms. It is important to choose the right one for your situation based on its strength and ease of use. (See our article ‘The Benefits of Encrypting Data in Use’ for more information.)
Data loss tip #6: Use the right file types
One of the most common ways that data is lost is when people use the wrong file type. Some file types come with password protection. Lose the password, lose the data. Converting files to PDF can reduce document tampering, whether deliberate or accidental.
Data loss tip #7: Use only trusted software
One of the most common forms of cyberattack is initiated by encouraging employees to download untrustworthy software. It’s essential that your employees never download software that hasn’t been checked rigorously for trustworthiness, and only download from trusted companies — and you should install (trusted) malware detection and removal software.
Data loss tip #8: Use anti-virus and firewall software
Anti-virus software can scan your computer for viruses and malware. It will also scan any files you download from the internet before they are saved on your computer.
Firewall software will help protect your computer by monitoring any incoming and outgoing traffic for malicious software, therefore preventing it from accessing and affecting your system/network.
Data loss tip #9: Ensure you have a strong password policy (and multi-factor ID)
A strong password policy is key to protecting your data. Passwords are the first line of defense against unauthorized access to your company’s data. A strong password policy will make it hard for hackers to access your data. It is recommended that you use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols in your passwords and that you change them regularly.
Incorporating strong passwords with multi-factor authentication can make it virtually impossible for hackers to access your system via this route.
Data loss tip #10: Train your team
Human error is the most common way in which data is lost. To combat this, it is crucial to educate your employees on cybersecurity issues and ensure they understand how their actions can cause data loss — and how they can help prevent it.
Data loss tip #11: Control and restrict employee access
Employee threats to your data security are very real, and loss through employee actions (malicious or otherwise) is also common. To avoid this type of data loss, companies should limit who has access to sensitive information and how they can use it. This includes giving employees the minimum level of access they need to do their jobs.
Data loss tip #12: Keep computers clean and dry
Keeping computers clean and dry will help prevent a lot of issues. It’s easy to forget that the computer is a collection of delicate parts, and things like dust can make it difficult for those parts to function properly. Should you spill water or coffee on your keyboard, it can cause a short circuit and damage the internal electronics.
The bottom line is that dirt and dust are not good for computers, and what isn’t good for computers puts your data at risk.
Data loss tip #13: Keep computers in a safe location
There are many risks associated with computers that are kept in unsafe locations. They can be tampered with, accessed, or stolen. Computers, laptops, and mobile devices should be protected with passwords and multi-factor identification — but they should also be kept in safe, secure places. Lock offices when they are not in use!
Data loss tip #14: Update equipment
Invest a little time and money in updating your networks, servers, computers, other hardware, and software. This will ensure that you are using the latest security features and have a more up-to-date operating system that may have better data protection features.
In addition, ensure that you always transfer data to current technology. This will protect you against digital obsolescence — when your digital storage medium becomes obsolete and cannot be accessed with current technology.
Data loss tip #15: Develop a data loss prevention strategy
Data loss prevention is a proactive strategy that helps to protect data from being leaked, lost, or stolen. It is a process of identifying threats, vulnerabilities, and risks to the data before it happens. It includes the following steps:
Identify the data at risk
Establish policies and procedures for protecting the data
Implement controls and safeguards to protect the data from any potential threats
Monitor and test controls
Perform incident response in case of a data breach
A data loss prevention strategy should be developed by taking into consideration the size and complexity of the company, the sensitivity of data, and the regulatory environment.
Data loss tip #16: Have a disaster recovery plan
A disaster recovery plan is a set of procedures that are designed to help an organization recover from a catastrophe or major disruption. It includes the identification and protection of critical information, preparation for natural disasters, and plans for recovering from incidents such as data loss, data breaches, and cyberattacks.
You should include:
What are some ways that this could happen and how would you recover from it?
What are the risks of not restoring your data?
Who will be involved in the recovery process?
How will you restore the data?
What other backup plans do you have in place for your business if this happens again?
Are you doing enough to reduce the risk of data loss in your company?
The 16 tips that we have shared in this article will help you to protect against and prevent data loss, and recover quickly should you suffer a data loss for whatever reason.
How many of these tips have you put into action in your business?
What are the weak points in your company?
When was the last time you conducted a risk analysis on your network and systems?
We specialize in helping small and medium businesses (locally and nationally), as well as government contractors, implement effective data loss prevention. Contact us today to ensure your company is fully protected.