Data security and privacy are tremendous concerns in the business world. Nearly three-quarters of CEOs in the United States reported in 2021 that they are “extremely concerned” about cyber threats. This concern ranked higher than health crises and the pandemic – and for a good reason. The digital landscape is going through massive transformation on a global scale. Some of the top challenges that businesses face when addressing data protection include:
- Data Growth: The growth of data is faster than ever before and exponential. Because of the rapid acceleration of data to process, security practices often lag behind the times. Yet outdated security equipment and practices are one of the biggest risks that many organizations must address.
- Financial Constraints: Businesses are constantly under financial pressure and must consistently reevaluate how they allocate the available funds. Unfortunately, this process usually means that IT departments and security equipment needs are underfunded. However, savvy business leaders must recognize that the costs of proactive prevention are worth the investment. Consider that the US’s average cost of a data breach is $8.19 million, or $242 per breached record. Most companies simply cannot afford to suffer a data loss and must prioritize security – both in actions and with the required funding.
- Evolving Vulnerabilities: The sheer amount of security vulnerabilities at any given time is staggering. It is not uncommon for enterprise IT security professionals to manage thousands of patches released each year. But prioritizing these patches is crucial in maintaining the latest technology for preventing or mitigating a cyberthreat.
- Changing Network Architecture: With the pandemic, many organizations shifted from an on-site network to one that is now comprised of a patchwork of different networks distributed across a vast geographical area. Many employees are also using their home Wi-Fi and routers. These changes present new data protection challenges that must be addressed.
- Employee Education: Employee negligence – whether intentional or unintentional – has historically been the biggest factor in data breaches. This fact remains true even amid the changing network architecture. One recent study found that 97% of It leaders say that insider breach risks are a significant concern.
To say these challenges are formidable would be an understatement. They are tremendous challenges for all companies, from small businesses to enterprises. It would be very easy for many CEOs, business leaders, and owners to become overwhelmed by the challenge that adequate data protection presents.
But rather than becoming overwhelmed, it is vital that these business leaders work with their IT team – whether internal or outsourced – to ensure that security practices are developed and maintained to prevent additional risk. Fortunately, there are several practices that can be quickly adopted that will boost data protection and pay off by protecting the company.
- Increase Employee Education: Since many data breaches originate from employees, one of the easiest ways to enhance security is by conducting regular employee education. Even spending a few minutes every week helping employees understand common social engineering strategies, phishing techniques, and the threat of viruses and malware can reduce your risk and protect your data better. Employee education that results in behavior changes can reduce the risk of a security breach by 45% to 70%. This one action alone can immediately result in less risk and better-protected data.
- Strong Passwords & Multi-Factor Authentication: Even though most people understand the importance of strong passwords, most organizations have very relaxed rules regarding password policies. The result is often simple, generic, and easy-to-hack passwords. When IT professionals implement password policies that require complex passwords that must be changed regularly, the data, network, and connected devices remain more secure. Additionally, two-factor or multi-factor authentication requires users to submit more than one piece of identifying information. In addition to the password, the individual trying to access the device or platform must also provide another element, which could be the answer to security questions, a permission from a different device, or biometric data. This protocol ensures that even if someone gains access to a username and password, they still won’t get into protected applications or access sensitive information.
- Update Your Software: Nothing in the digital world functions as set-it-and-forget-it. Cybercriminals are constantly evolving, developing new threats, and identifying new vulnerabilities to be exploited. And while many security professionals are able to identify new and emerging threats quickly to develop a solution that addresses vulnerabilities, these efforts are futile unless the security updates are installed. Regularly installing and updating security patches is one of the easiest ways to protect your network and data.
- Encrypt Your Data and Devices: Data encryption is an incredibly robust tool. By encrypting all data that is sent and stored, you can prevent someone with access to your network and devices from actually seeing and using that data for nefarious purposes. With the evolving network architecture, VPNs are another great tool that ensures that all internet traffic is encrypted. If your workforce spans different locations, a VPN is another way to protect data.
- Lock Down Endpoints: With the shift to a changing workplace environment, it may be tempting for many employers to allow employees to use their personal devices. After all, it could save the company money and increase productivity. But, these policies come with a tremendous security risk. The employer can no longer control what security measures are in place – or not in place – meaning that unaddressed vulnerabilities are often present. Devices for work should be issued by the employer with strict policies that they only be used for work purposes. Personal devices should be restricted from accessing the company network and any documents.
Protecting data is not an easy task, especially for companies with many employees and an abundance of data needs. But it is also not impossible to minimize the threat of a data breach. While advanced platforms and protocols can offer additional protection, these easy-to-implement strategies offer ways to quickly boost your protection with minimal effort. For additional information about data protection, contact Sagacent Technologies, a managed IT service provider for the San Jose area.