The need to protect company data is growing ever more urgent in order to protect your business from falling victim of a data breach. This urgency is even more apparent as new data protection regulations, under the banner of the GDPR, are set to come into place next year. However, with so much information and advice available, it can be difficult to know what you should actually listen to and follow. These 5 steps are some of the best ways you can ensure the protection of your company data throughout its lifecycle.
How To Protect Company Data – Our Top 5 Methods
- Define Your Data Security Policy
The first step in protecting your data is having a clear policy on how you are going to do so. Your data security policy will provide your employees with the guidance and rules they should follow on how they should deal with data throughout the totality of its lifecycle, from storage to disposal. The policy should cover who is responsible for certain data, who can access this data and how the data is to be managed, shared and disposed of.
- Train and Educate Your Staff
Just because you have a data security policy for your staff to follow doesn’t mean that they will understand how exactly they should be protecting data, or why it is important that they take it seriously. Offer staff a survey or quiz to gauge how much they already know about data protection, then design your training programme around the results. You should provide short, regular training classes – regular hour-long sessions are more effective than one single class.
- Encrypt Sensitive Information
Whether you are transmitting your data, backing it up, or simply improving the security of your stored data, encryption is a sure way of protecting it. Not only should you encrypt any data stored on your computer, you should also encrypt any hard drives, USB drives, or any other device on which you store your data to prevent hackers from simply plugging the device into another computer. Microsoft has its own built-in full data encryption software (BitLocker) and Apple devices have FileVault, it is simply a matter of making use of these.
- Use Strong Passwords
Encrypting your information is only useful if it is protected with a strong password. This means a password that it at least 10 characters, and contains a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Microsoft has a free password checker, and you should never use a password that is rated anything other than ‘strong’. Store these passwords securely (using LastPass, for example), so that they cannot accidentally be shared.
- Protect Against Social Engineering
This is perhaps one of the biggest risks to your company data, and it is where hackers take advantage of your individual employees to exploit your company data in a number of ways- such as through phishing emails and appropriating identities over the phone. There are a number of things you can do to prevent these kinds of attacks from happening:
Question every email – you should encourage your staff to question every email before they open it, and especially before clicking any links in a message, only responding to legitimate sources. Ensure they are aware never to pass on confidential personal or company information via email and increase the authentication process for access to any sensitive sites- such as banking.
Encourage employees to protect their own identities – this is especially important for employees that work from home, who hackers might try to impersonate for remote access login. You should actively check that, if working from home, they are working on a secure network, on password protected devices, with two (or more) factor authentication to log onto company networks and email.
Your company data is one of your most valuable assets, which means it is vital that you and your employees understand how you can protect it and work hard at doing so. You should always be aware of your company’s own weaknesses and take steps to correct these in order to protect your company data throughout its lifecycle.
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