In today’s fast-paced digital environment, companies of all sizes in every industry have to worry about data security. In 2014 alone, there were a number of highly publicized data breaches at large corporations, from retail stores to banks and hospitals costing millions of dollars in actual damage — and in some cases, incalculable damage to the reputation of the businesses involved.
USA Today reported that in 2014, 43 percent of U.S. businesses experienced a data breach. And according to the Online Trust Alliance, 90 percent of breaches in the first half of the year alone were preventable. Are you doing everything you can to protect your sensitive business data?
Here are four ways you can improve data security and prevent costly breaches that damage your company’s reputation — and your bottom line.
Invest in encryption software
File encrypting is among the most powerful ways to protect both your business and your customers’ sensitive information. With encryption in place, even if your network or device is breached and a hacker manages to access your files, the data will appear as strings of encoded, unintelligible characters. The latest encryption software uses government-grade security measures to protect your data from prying eyes.
Some Windows editions feature built-in full disk encryption, including Windows 7 Ultimate and Enterprise, Windows 8 and 8.1 Pro and Enterprise, and Windows Server 2008 and later. If you don’t use these platforms and need to invest in separate encryption software, look for a program that offers:
- At least a 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption algorithm
- Cloud backup for safes and/or vaults, with keylogger protection for entering passwords
- “On-the-fly” encryption that lets you work with encrypted files
Keep meticulous backups
Backing up your data is absolutely critical for any business, and even for personal users. If you don’t have a backup and disaster recovery plan in place, your company is virtually guaranteed to fail in the event of a data loss — Gartner reported that only 6 percent of companies survive for longer than two years after losing data.
The method for keeping backup files also matters. If you’re backing up to external drives, a physical theft or natural disaster could wipe out all of your data, especially if all of your backup drives are on site. A better backup strategy is to use a cloud backup service with high security and encryption. Cloud backups are not only more secure, but also allow you to retrieve files instantly. Some cloud-based backup services will also save deleted files to guard against file corruption or accidental deletion.
Before signing on with a cloud provider, be sure to screen the company and make sure they have a solid reputation for security, reliability and uptime. Top10Reviews.com provides a list of the 10 best, most reliable online storage and backup services here.
Use a password manager
Password managers, which are often included with encryption software, help you keep usernames and passwords safe and accessible. A password manager is a program that automatically generates strong, unique passwords for new accounts — which prevents hackers from gaining access through weak or repeated passwords — and saves them so you don’t have to remember complex passphrases or strings of random characters.
The password manager itself is protected by a password, and many of these programs use two-factor authentication — a password in addition to another security access point, such as a PIN, fingerprint reader, or card reader.
Practice secure file deletion
Deleting files from a computer or device doesn’t actually remove the data — not even when you empty the recycle bin. The files are still there, and they can be recovered with commercially available tools. Of course, hackers know about these tools and often use them to recover sensitive data that has been “deleted” from hard drives.
Deleting files securely is especially important when removing customer information, emails or passwords, and financial or tax-related information, as well as when you’re retiring, donating, or selling hardware. It can also be used to fully clear Internet browsing history in order to protect sensitive business information.
How can you securely delete confidential or sensitive data? Modern data erasure software allows you to wipe selected data completely by overwriting deleted files with random character strings — ensuring that the information is truly gone. This software is generally user friendly, and employs government-grade algorithms for data wiping to ensure that the information can’t be recovered, even with computer forensics.
Invest in the future of your business by ensuring that your data is secure. These simple steps will help you avoid potential disasters, and keep both your company and customer data safe from malicious attacks, hardware malfunctions, and other data disasters.