By David Lukić
Too many businesses fail to take data breaches seriously. However, in the modern age, there is an argument that this is one of the biggest threats to any business. A data breach is when data is stolen from your company. This may be the data of your employees, but it could be your customer data. In the worst-case scenarios, peoples’ financial details may get stolen. Companies can be liable, and it can be catastrophic or even terminal for some small businesses.
There have been some high-profile cases of big companies losing peoples’ data and being targeted by sophisticated attacks from scammers. According to SmallBizTrends, 28% of data breaches in 2020 were within small businesses
So, are you at risk? If you run a small business it isn’t time to panic, but there is the possibility of losing customer data, and scammers are getting more sophisticated, so it is a good idea to put some steps in place to try and protect your business or your customers. Some estimates say that each person’s data lost costs a company around $150, money no business can afford to lose.
Common Risks of Data Breaches – How They Happen
There are a few types of data breach that are the most common, but it is important to always be vigilant of new methods that try and catch you out.
Malware is software that can infiltrate a computer or server system, and there are a few ways that malware can find its way in and cause a threat to your business. Malware might even work its way in organically. Some software like this masquerades online as a useful piece of software or a web tool, or even another file type.
Web browsers have become quite good at warning people about potential malware, but this is not a totally foolproof system. Always verify software before installing it, and if you are running a big network of computers within your workplace, it’s a good idea to prevent people from being able to install things without an administrator’s permission.
Some forms of malware allow people to watch data that is being inputted, and this can allow people to access servers, passwords, or email accounts. This can lead to huge data breaches.
Ransomware attacks are similar, and this is technically a form of malware. When ransomware is installed on a computer it encrypts files. To decrypt and regain access to these files you will be asked to provide a payment, often in an untraceable method like a cryptocurrency.
Phishing attacks often come in the form of spam. Most of us get spam emails daily, but hopefully, these go into a spam filter! Some sneak through, and malicious links or files within may steal data or cause account takeovers for your employees. This can compromise your whole business.
You might think that you would always be able to easily spot a spam email or message, but like other forms of data breach, it just takes one lapse in concentration from one member of staff.
Phishing has become more sophisticated, too. Scammers are becoming better at making their emails look legitimate and bypass spam filters. Be on guard for any email that asks for payment or for you to reenter a password.
How to Prevent a Data Breach – Steps to Boost Your Cyber Security
Implementing a few simple steps can go a long way to protecting your company data. Cybersecurity should be on every company’s list of priorities.
Limit Access to Data
The more people within your company that can access data, the more chances there are of a data breach that can be harmful. For example, if you have a database of customer information, limit the number of computers that can access the database so that even if one of these is subject to an account takeover, it might not impact your whole business.
Use Antivirus Software
Antivirus software is not a catchall solution that means you can’t possibly fall foul of data breaches. Some companies think that this is all you need to be secure but in reality, far more steps are required. A good antivirus software on every computer accessing your data is still essential.
Running regular events to raise awareness of cybercrime, phishing, and scams, is a good way to ensure that everyone knows how to spot a potential crime, and the individual steps they should take to stay secure. One of the benefits of having cybersecurity experts involved with your business can be the fact that they can educate other employees, but for small businesses, full-time IT and cybersecurity staff might not be realistic. Instead, consultancy can be a good solution.
Practice Good Password Habits
This can be a difficult message to drill into people. It’s so tempting to keep the same passwords for all of your accounts, but this can make it incredibly easy for a scammer to take over your account and steal data. Plus, a data breach on one website can mean someone can access all of your accounts.
Encourage the use of special characters and complex passwords within your business, and change these regularly.
Update Software Regularly
All of the apps and software on your computer or devices can be a potential security risk. Operating system and app updates are regularly offered, and one of the key reasons for this is to patch bugs that could allow for data to be stolen.
The risks of data breaches are very real, whether you run a large business or a small business. Individuals are at risk, too. This can be the sort of thing that can stop a small business from growing and even leave you liable to legal action, so it makes sense to put the proper precautions in place to stop hackers from targeting your business and leaving your data, and your customers’ data, at risk.
About the Author
David Lukić is an information privacy, security and compliance consultant at IDstrong.com. The passion to make cyber security accessible and interesting has led David to share all the knowledge he has.