Information is undeniably one of the biggest assets of most businesses today, and a small business is no exception to this rule. Every day, the sheer amount of data involved with running a business grows dramatically, and managing this data in the most effective way possible is key to business success.
Without question, one of the most important elements of data management is security. The complexity of the business world has increased significantly, most notably through the introduction of a completely new range of communications channels. It is now common for employees to use personal devices such as smartphones and tablets to carry out their day-to-day roles, and they therefore require an interface with business systems. This complexity leads to greater scope for vulnerability and it is essential that businesses of all sizes prioritise information security and employ a range of digital protection measures to ensure they have sufficient coverage.
Preventing breaches and leaks
Sensitive information in the wrong hands, such as a competitor or other party who stands to benefit from a negative impact on a business can be disastrous, and such scenarios have been the cause of a number of businesses ceasing altogether. Small businesses can be particularly vulnerable to such an outcome.
Here are some ideas for how small businesses can lock down sensitive data.
- Understand assets. Knowing what data requires protection is critical; therefore, the first step should be to compile a comprehensive list of all categories of information along with the levels of sensitivity of each one. Personal information about employees, clients, customers and financial records are usually a good place to start.
- Hardware and software. It is also important to know exactly where this information is stored. Once this is understood, protective IT measures, such as shell shock protection, can be properly researched. Shell shock (Bash bug) is a potential risk for any organisation or user that is using Bash. Remote code injection of arbitrary commands (without authentication) is enabled by the bug. Malicious code execution that could be used to take over a complete operating system or to access confidential data, or to facilitate an attack at some point in the future is the bug’s purpose.
- Manage access. People who use data often provide some of the most vulnerable access points with regard to data security. It is critical that nobody, even an IT administrator, has complete access to all the data within a business without any degree of oversight. Detailed records of who has exactly what access to what data and for what purpose are essential in maintaining information security.
- Personal device policies. Businesses are increasingly allowing, even encouraging, employees to adopt a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) approach to their work. This trend means there are more mobile devices than ever in the majority of workplaces. It also means potentially sensitive business data can be found on personal devices, which typically have far less stringent security measures. To help manage this, it is essential to have robust policies in place that define and dictate appropriate use of personal devices, and also that these policies are properly communicated to all staff and training given where required.
- Manage passwords. Perhaps the simplest measure—regularly changing passwords—is still one of the most effective means to maintaining information security. Astonishing numbers of individuals and organisations still use simple passwords, such as “password”, and put themselves at enormous risk of security breaches by doing so. Small business owners should regularly, at least every few months, review all passwords and change them to mitigate this risk. They should also apply policies and communications to ensure that all employees do the same.
Precautionary steps and expert support
The rapid pace with which the world of technology is evolving can be extremely daunting, particularly as it does not show any signs of slowing down any time soon. It seems as if a new piece of hardware or software enters the market almost every day and brings with it a whole new range of security risks with regard to the protection of sensitive data. This is hard enough for an individual to keep up with, but even more difficult for a business that is, by definition, many times more complex.
However, while it is tempting to admit defeat and resign oneself to never being able to keep up with the pace of change, in reality, success in this area is simply a case of taking a few precautionary steps and enlisting the most appropriate expert support.