Why Data Security Has Become a Critical Factor in Business
Since computers have become more integral to business operations, regulators data requirements have been imposed on a business, which is why spending time, effort and money on data security has become a critical factor to meet customer expectations, being compliant with regulatory requirements, minimizing financial loss and maintaining high levels of productivity. It is now expected that data be available 24 /7, and without any data security in place, this is not possible. The demands of 21st-century businesses are such that customers expect the business to operate at all times.
In an increasingly global economy, downtime is not tolerated by customers, who can readily take their business elsewhere. Demands on businesses are such that customers expect e-businesses to operate around the clock. The most critical factor for implementing data security strategies is fear of financial losses. An important corporate asset is recognizing that data needs to be safeguarded.
Loss of information can lead to loss of sales, monetary judgements or fines as well as direct and indirect financial losses. Altered or stolen data is the most critical that can result in a company not finding out until much later, of which little can be done to rectify the problem that can in turn create a huge negative impact on the company. Governments worldwide have implemented a spate of regulations on stored data and e-communications. Businesses that do not comply stand to face dire consequences.
In some countries businesses that fail to comply with these regulations can be held criminally liable. Such regulations determine the type of info that must be retained, the circumstances and for how long. Other regulations determine the privacy of information contained in databases, files and documents. If these regulations are violated and critical data is lost in any way, businesses and their managers may be subject to legal action and corporation fines.
Essential Data Security Measures All Businesses Should Implement
Breach of high profile data has brought data security concerns to the forefront. This is particularly a concern for small business and new start-up businesses that do not have a proper data security infrastructure in place which make such companies easier targets. Global analyses have revealed that the average size data breach can cost companies around 3.5 million, in spite of these stats there are still many companies that still don’t prioritize data security. Companies that work with sensitive customer data must prioritize data security in their day to day strategy. Following a few basic steps companies can prevent themselves from becoming another statistic:
- Establish Strong Passwords – the easiest thing you can do to strengthen your security is implement a strong password. A combination of lower case and capital letters, numbers, symbols should be used and comprise of 8 to 12 characters. Avoid using birthdates, spelling common words backwards, sequence of numbers or characters, numbers and alphabet that are close together on your keyboard.
Usually a password checker will indicate how strong your password is. You should also change the password every 3 months or more frequently if you store highly sensitive data. All your individual login systems from CMS to your desktops should have their own username and password. It is not wise to share one password nor should passwords be written down.
- Strong Firewall – a firewall is a must to protect your network properly. Firewalls controls incoming and outgoing internet traffic. You can use any of the major brands as firewall protection as they are pretty much standard across the board.
- Well Established Data Security Plan –implement a plan that outlines actions to be taken should a security breach occur. Your plan should include policies that include which employees have access to certain data and must be strictly enforced for all employees to follow. Personal devices used by employees must be protected by a password which includes managers and bosses. As your company grows and expands, your plans for data security also need to be changed and become an evolving protocol.
- Training and Educating Employees – security risks must be part of your plan and regular training provided on data backup, managing and dealing with suspicious emails, good password practices and when there are potential threats to alert your IT department. If your employees experience something unexpected or unusual, they should know exactly who to contact.
- Create a Data Storage Policy – all employees should have a data storage policy to follow, which outlines the data that should be kept and which should be deleted. By storing unnecessary data you increase a security breach and storing data that is critical will minimize threats.
- Secure Mobile Workforces – the endpoints internet devices across your network include tablets, laptops, desktops, bar code readers, point of sale devices and even smartphones. With so many devices being used, your data becomes extremely vulnerable. Studies have shown that around 67 percent of employees download non vetted mobile apps that in turn create a pathway for hackers to steal data. Make sure your security plan includes mobile threat management and employees not having access to your network, which will help prevent any malware infiltrating your mobile or other devices.
- Create High Levels of Encryption – when collecting and storing personal or customer information such as credit card info, security numbers, names, email addresses etc., it is critical that you create a strong encryption. A breach of data and information will not only damage your reputation and company image, but you may face potentially crippling lawsuits and heavy penalties.
- Multi Layered Approach to Data Security – due to a lack of resources small businesses are unable to employ the necessary IT staffs which means a comprehensive data security solution is critical to protect sensitive data. Due to their being so many data security options available, consider these tips before making a final choice:
- Data security must include tools that target internal and external threats, malicious intent and attacks before it happens as network, servers, mobile devices and endpoints are critical for the survival of your business. Search for options that provide a multi layered solution that is easy to install, manage and maintain.
- The option you choose should allow you to add new devices and users, make updates and changes quickly and you should be able to manage all your security options from a single console. For example a cloud based product provides you with anywhere and anytime access. Companies that offer a host of options for a low price are usually fly-by-night companies, it is well worth your while to search for reputable company that will save you time and money long term.
Without data security in place, data loss will result in system problems and application failures. After a failure, data may be recoverable but may take considerable time to restore meaning a reduction in productivity and sales. Data that is not on backup tapes will be lost for ever. Not only e-commerce experience data loss, all types of businesses that computer systems operate 24/7 do. With today’s technology computers are available to take orders, place and send orders to warehouses as well as manage the financial transactions. With this said, the data security option you choose should be able to handle these 24/7 expectations to minimize any harm to your businesses assets and profitability.
Emma Douglas is a consultant at Australian IT firm MXITS. She works with businesses of all sizes to make sure their data and IP is secure and helping them utilize the latest software and technologies to grow their businesses.