Cybercrime is on the rise. According to a 2021 Annual Data Breach Report, the overall number of data compromises (1,862) is up more than 68 percent compared to 2020.
Businesses that want to avoid a data breach or leak need to do all they can to actively protect their information from cyber threats. So here are twelve ways you can do just that:
- Train employees on best cybersecurity practices
Employees handle most of your company’s data. So you need to train them on best cybersecurity practices.
You can do this during onboarding for new hires and regular training throughout an employee’s career.
Cybersecurity training should go over things like how to set a strong password, how to detect phishing scams, and what the company’s specific cybersecurity policies are (including the consequences for violating them).
- Use a firewall
A firewall monitors and controls what data comes in and out of your business’s private network. It’s designed to keep harmful cyber threats out.
Installing a firewall is standard practice for any company that conducts business online, but it’s especially important for companies that employ remote workers. Firewalls ensure a certain level of network security, no matter where employees access it from.
For a hands-off approach to firewalls, consider investing in managed firewall services. They’ll take care of all your firewall needs for you and let you scale them up or down as your business needs change.
- Perform regular data backups
To protect your business against data loss, perform regular backups of documents, spreadsheets, databases, HR files, financial documents—everything.
This way, you can experience greater peace of mind: If you ever experience a data leak, you can retrieve your data with little effort.
Back up your data to places in the cloud and local servers for multiple layers of redundancy. Automate the backups so that you don’t have to think about them. The best time to schedule them is when they will be least disruptive (e.g. at night).
Also, be sure to regularly test your backup copies to make sure they actually work.
- Limit employee user access based on need
Create user accounts for every employee in the company and grant them different levels of authorization based on need. Only give access to what an employee actually needs to do their job.
This limits the amount of exposure sensitive data gets and keeps unauthorized individuals from accessing it and accidentally (or intentionally) leaking it.
- Set strong passwords
Creating strong passwords is part of data security 101. Your employees’ passwords should:
- Be at least eight characters long
- Include a good mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols
- Not include predictable phrases like “password,” “123456,” or “qwerty”
In addition, employees should never use the same password twice. This can get tricky across multiple accounts. So to help keep track of all of your passwords, consider using a password manager like LastPass or 1Password, which securely store all your passwords in one place so you only need to remember one master password.
Lastly, consider changing company passwords regularly (e.g. every three months), so that potential hackers have less time to crack them.
- Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA)
On top of strong passwords, implement multi-factor authentication (MFA), sometimes known as two-factor authentication (2FA).
MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide another piece of identifying information on top of their password. This could be a fingerprint, eye scan, voice verification, or a one-time passcode sent to your phone.
This way, even if your password is cracked, your data will be secure because the hacker (most likely) won’t have the other piece of identifying information.
To maximize data security, require employees to implement MFA on all their accounts.
- Secure Wi-Fi networks
Your company Wi-Fi network can be hacked if you’re not careful. To prevent this, use a virtual private network (VPN) to hide its IP address and never broadcast the network name, aka the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Obviously, you should also create a strong password for the Wi-Fi network.
Also, to reduce the chance of guests trying to get onto the company Wi-Fi, create a separate guest network for them to use. That way, the official company Wi-Fi isn’t slowed down and exposed to unnecessary risk.
- Use encryption
Encryption encodes sensitive data so that it can only be read by the intended recipient who holds the required encryption key.
Encrypting company data is a smart move all around, but it’s especially critical if your website collects private data from its users (e.g. credit card information or login credentials). If you are worried about liabiltiy issues, you can also use a private third-party payment system.
Implementing end-to-end encryption is also important for protecting company messages sent over the internet. These can include emails and chats as well as audio and video messages.
- Run cybersecurity audits
Cybersecurity audits can help you detect any network vulnerabilities and potential threats. For example, you can conduct penetration tests (fake infiltrations) to actively see where your system is weak and needs further protection.
Run cybersecurity audits regularly (e.g. once a month). If you don’t have an in-house IT team that can handle it, outsource the job to a professional third-party cybersecurity auditor.
The key is to know your network inside and out, including what authorized devices and users are on it. That way, when there’s suspicious activity, you’ll notice it faster and more easily.
- Keep up with software updates and patches
Software providers roll out regular updates and patches to fix bugs that could (among other things) jeopardize your cybersecurity. This goes for web browsers, operating systems, and other company software.
That’s why it’s important to keep up with software updates when they’re released. Have them installed automatically, ideally when they’ll be least disruptive (e.g. at night when most employees are gone for the day).
The sooner you get company programs up to date, the safer your data will be.
- Use anti-virus software
Anti-virus software (aka anti-malware software) can help detect suspicious links, malware, and other cyberthreats to company data. Use it to add an extra layer of protection to your business.
These days, there are many different anti-virus software solutions. Shop around online and compare reviews to get one that fits your budget and best meets your business’s needs.
- Establish a security incident response plan
Finally, establish a security incident response plan. If all else fails, you need to have a plan in place for how to deal with a cyberattack.
Then you can respond swiftly to minimize the damage. The faster your reaction time, the better you’ll be able to contain the attack.
Delegate different responsibilities, define courses of action, and make sure everyone in the company is on the same page.
A little planning can go a long way in reducing the overall impact of a security incident.
Adding it all up
According to Nasdaq, studies show that by 2040, 95% of purchases will be facilitated by e-commerce. As more and more business moves online, there will be more opportunities for hackers to steal valuable data (and money).
This means cybersecurity will only become more important for businesses over time. To protect yours, start by implementing the cybersecurity tips above. You’ll be able to sleep better at night knowing your company’s data is as safe as it can be.