The importance of Data Security for Small Business
18th September 2018
We often hear about serious cyberattacks on large organisations such as the NHS, TalkTalk and Equifax exposing sensitive customer data, so the average small businesses may think they are not worth a hacker’s time.
But this common misconception can result in SME leaders not implementing robust data security strategies and plans - and businesses that fail to take steps to protect their data, information and digital infrastructure are far more likely to suffer a data breach, which may have a long-lasting impact on the company.
The Consequences of a Data Breach
Nearly half the businesses in the UK have fallen victim to cyberattacks or security breaches in the last year, costing them each thousands of pounds, recent data shows.
Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre was quoted as saying: “Cyberattacks can inflict serious commercial damage and reputational harm, but most campaigns are not highly sophisticated. Companies can significantly reduce their chances of falling victim by following simple cybersecurity steps to remove basic weaknesses.”
Any breach has the potential to do irreparable harm to a business’s brand, reputation or its customer and client relationships. And with the recent GDPR regulations brought in this year, serious financial penalties can be imposed if customer data is not managed and maintained within a secure environment.
And if a cyberattack brings down your entire operating systems, then the impact on your business can be terminal.
The financial costs of improving your security are relatively low considering the alternatives. Preventing a breach is often much easier and more cost-effective than dealing the consequences of one that has already occurred.
Protecting Your Networks
There will always be weak points within networks, and businesses that are in process of expanding or establishing their infrastructure may often find themselves at greater risk.
Implementing security applications and software that can automatically scan for potential security threats and monitor network traffic and data flow are crucial tools in protecting your systems.
It can prove beneficial from both a resources and costs point of view to look at outsourcing this function to an external IT specialist or contract out to an off-site service provider to give you confidence that any underlying vulnerabilities within your digital infrastructure are identified and resolved.
Safeguarding Your Devices
Mobile technology is now an essential part of modern business, with more data being stored on tablets and smartphones. They are now as powerful as traditional computers and, because they often leave the safety of the office, they need even more protection than desktop equipment.
When setting up devices within your business – whether that’s laptops, mobile phones, tablets etc – the manufacturers often set the default configurations of new software to be as open and multi-functional as possible. The default is usually ‘everything on’ to make them easily connectable and usable. These settings can provide cyber attackers with opportunities to gain unauthorised access to your data so they must be checked and, where possible, raised to the highest level of security.
Complex passwords are key too as, when implemented correctly, they are an easy and effective way to prevent unauthorised users accessing your devices. Many devices now include fingerprint recognition to lock the device, but again this feature is not always enabled immediately so it is crucial to check.
When utilising mobile devices as part of your business, it is important to make sure that, if lost, they can be tracked, locked and/or wiped remotely.
Many of them will have the first 2 functions set up already as a free app, but if employees have client details and sensitive data readily available, implementing mobile device management software to wipe the content is highly recommended.
Training Your Employees
Even the most secure digital networks can be compromised due to human error. As a business leader, it is important to train and educate your employees in data security and how to avoid putting the company at risk through uneducated or irresponsible behaviours.
Developing a Cyber Security training plan for all staff to undertake is the first step to protect your data. This should include:
- a Password policy with details on how to create non-predictable and secure passwords
- the dangers of downloading files and attachments from an unknown source as these actions have the potential to place a business’s entire network at risk
- how to spot the obvious signs of phishing and how to report it – in some large global organisations when security is paramount, fake phishing emails are sent internally test employees awareness and responses
- the process for reporting lost or stolen devices with an emphasis immediate action to protect any vulnerable data
As a small business, you may not have the budget to maintain an in-house IT specialist or department with the skills, talent and know-how needed to deal with every potential threat.
Working with a specialised IT service provider will give you access to the knowledge and resources needed and offer a wider range of options and solutions. They can advise on which equipment or software would best suit your company to improve cyber security and make sure that all applications and systems are set up correctly and maintained.
If you are worried about your Data Security, Cyberattacks or would just like to talk through your options then do call us today.