Your corporate data is incredibly valuable – not only to your business but to cyber criminals too. This information (which might contain private customer or employee details, financial details, product plans or passwords) can be used by these criminals to inflict harm upon your brand, be sold to malicious third parties, or be used to elicit money directly.
Furthermore, it isn’t only cyber criminals who pose a significant risk to your business’s sensitive data. A company’s own employees can be a common cause of data loss and often prove to be just as harmful as cyber hackers. This is often unintentional and is the result of someone losing a corporate device, accidentally granting cybercriminals permission to private accounts, or having their accounts hacked.
However, data theft or loss can also occur because a former employee, contractor or business partner is disgruntled and wishes to cause you harm or has been bribed by a cybercriminal to hand over your private details.
Either way, the results can be devastating to the future success of your company.
If you lose sensitive data, then you could lose the respect and trust of your customers just as quickly – which is notoriously difficult to get back. You may also lose a great deal of time and money rectifying the situation, which could threaten your business’s very existence
Therefore, you need to ensure that you are always following data protection best practices, including making sure your permission settings are regularly checked and keeping your data in the safest place possible.
This is how to keep your corporate data safe:
Make sure your permission settings are optimized
Arguably the most common mistake a business can make when trying to protect its private data is to assume that once you have stored it in a safe place, you no longer need to worry about its security.
This is a misnomer because the greatest weakness of any ‘safe place’ is the person being granted access to it.
In the same way that a bank vault would traditionally be compromised by a bank robber threatening the manager with a gun, an online data storage account will need someone who has full access to it.
This person (or persons) can prove the weak link, as they could have their devices stolen, be bribed into handing over the account, or even change the permissions settings for other users, who may then steal or leak the information.
You should know what are the common permissions pitfalls, and simply try to avoid them – making it a habit to regularly check the permissions of anyone granted access to the account is a good start.
You could also integrate specialist software which will help always give you full visibility over your IT estate, therefore minimizing the risk of a threat occurring under your nose.
Only grant data access to those who have clearance
Following on from the previous point, it is vital that you only grant access to your private data to those who genuinely need it at any one time and have the necessary authority and security clearances to justify the risk.
Many insider threat incidents occur when the person in charge of the account loses track of who else has full access to the data, thereby leaving open the door to a malicious third party from inside or outside the company.
If you have given a certain person access to the account for a team project, for example, then you need to remember to rescind their access once it is no longer necessary.
Moreover, if more than one person requires constant permission to access the account, then remember to check if they have the necessary security clearance within the company to justify granting access.
You can reduce the chances of anyone having unauthorized access to your private data by regularly changing your passwords and permission settings, therefore wrong-footing anyone who has secretly maintained control over your data storage accounts.
Keep your data in a secure location
It sounds obvious, but you can massively reduce the chances of data loss or theft by keeping it stored in a safe place.
The trouble is that many businesses don’t know what these safe places are.
Practically speaking, keeping your sensitive data in a physical location is now a flawed approach. It was the only option before computers, but the risk of having your only filed copies of the information stored in a building that could be vulnerable to fires, floods or burglary makes it a dangerous strategy.
Instead, you could store it on external hard drives, USB sticks or on individual devices, but while arguably safer than a filing cabinet, this method still has its drawbacks. You could lose these devices, for example, they could be corrupted or even stolen outright.
A tried and tested solution to this single storage location problem is cloud computing. By keeping your sensitive data locked away in a cloud account, you are not storing it in an identifiable location. Cloud storage solutions use multiple servers, so if one goes down, you won’t lose your information.
They also employ incredibly impenetrable firewalls, making it virtually impossible for cyber hackers to break in directly.
If you keep a tight grip on your permissions settings, a cloud account is probably the safest data storage solution.
Beware of insider threats
As already referenced, insider threats are a notoriously common issue for many businesses. This is because the ‘threat’ themselves might not even know they are a potential security risk.
All it takes is for one of your employees, contractors, investors or anyone else with access to sensitive data to lose a device on a train or in a taxi, or for them to be hacked by a phishing scammer to severely compromise the internal security of your company.
Therefore, you should educate your staff members on the importance of cyber security, and ensure that they are following data protection best practices at all times.
Of course, not all insider threats are accidental and can be triggered by a disgruntled former employee looking to make a quick buck or exact revenge on your brand.
To safeguard yourself against this, improve your password protection, change your passwords regularly and make it a habit of storing your data in different accounts.