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Hackernoon logoData Breach Prevention 101 for Small Business Owners by@sandeep15r

Data Breach Prevention 101 for Small Business Owners

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@sandeep15rSandeep Rathore

Sandeep Rathore is a freelance tech journalist and cybersecurity enthusiast.

Small business owners often think that they are not on hackers’ radars because they are "small players."

This is a misconception.

According to Verizon’s Data Breach Investigation Report 2019,

43% of cyberattacks target small businesses.

My friend, small businesses are increasingly becoming the favorite targets of hackers for they have more data than individuals and less security than big companies.

Despite more and more businesses adopting essential security measures, data breach continues to make headlines. You can easily search for data breach news online.

Even big corporations like eBay and Adobe have been victims of data breaches.

Don’t worry if you have just got your business online and you are wondering what exactly a data breach is.

What Is a Data Breach?

Techopedia defines a data breach as,

A data breach is an incident that involves the unauthorized or illegal viewing, access or retrieval of data by an individual, application or service. It is a type of security breach specifically designed to steal and/or publish data to an unsecured or illegal location.

In simple words, a data breach is a cybersecurity issue when your data falls in the wrong hands.

These days, most small businesses depend on the web to run their businesses successfully. So, they are always susceptible to data breaches in the absence of good cybersecurity measures.

Data breaches often affect businesses badly. Not only businesses can lose brand reputation, intellectual property, and revenue instantly after a data breach, businesses may also have to spend huge money later on legal fees, regulatory fines, PR campaigns, etc.

Who Causes Data Breaches?

Though it is a common belief that a data breach is caused by a hacker or an outsider, it is not always the case.

Here are some common causes of data breaches:

Accidental Insiders - Anyone looking at coworkers' computers without having proper authorization can know critical information he/she is not supposed to know.

Malicious insiders - Anyone in your company who makes critical data public to harm any coworker or the company.

Lost/stolen devices - Any unencrypted or unprotected device goes missing.

Malicious outsiders - Hackers who try to steal data.

What methods do malicious outsides employ to cause data breaches?

They often try to breach data by using stolen credentials, exploiting compromised assets and third-party vendors.

How Small Businesses Can Prevent Data Breaches

Now, you must be wondering what you should do to keep your data safe.

Here is how you can protect your small business from a data breach:

1- Educate Yourself and Your Employees

Your employees are your first line of defense against a data breach.

If they are not equipped with the essential knowledge to keep them digitally secure, your business is vulnerable to cyberattacks, which can result into a data breach.

Therefore, you should not only educate yourself but also educate your employees in cybersecurity best practices to keep malicious outsiders at bay. And encourage your employees to use difficult passwords to login.

You should keep on organizing workshops from time to time and creating real-life scenarios to check how prepared your employees are to handle any cyberthreat.

Also, hiring a third party to facilitate breach exercises is a good way to check how effective your security policies and awareness programs are.

You should understand that you and all of your employees should be well aware of cybersecurity best practices. Any employee’s casual approach to cybersecurity puts your entire business’s security in line.

2- Keep All Software Updated

Cybercriminals look for vulnerabilities in software applications to steal data or encrypt files to demand money. And software updates fix vulnerabilities. Therefore, it is imperative that you should keep your software application updated.

You should not only update software applications in your office but also ensure that your remote employees (if you have any) do the same.

Keeping your software applications updated is a good cybersecurity practice to prevent a data breach. And you should follow it religiously.

3- Improve Access Control

Access control, in simple words, is the process to identify who is trying to access your data and then subsequently grant access.

Access control is key component of data security.

Here are some tips to improve access control:

  • Educate your employees about social engineering attacks
  • Delete the accounts of employees who exited
  • Limit/monitor third-party access to internal systems
  • Implement role-based access

You should not only secure your office but also secure your remote access.

So, don’t forget to regularly review server logs to monitor remote access for any unusual activity.

Also, you should limit remote access to the minimum functions required.

Access control plays an important role in preventing a data breach. Therefore, leave no stone unturned to secure it.

4- Ensure Third-Party Vendors Must Comply

Most small business owners rely on third-party vendors to grow. And it goes without saying that the third-party vendors many a time have access to companies’ data and internal systems, posing risks for data breaches.

Nearly half of the firms suffer data breaches at the hands of vendors.

Therefore, you should ensure that third-party vendors must comply with your data security policy.

You can also invest in third-party vendor risk assessment solutions to safeguard your data.

5- Encrypt Critical Data

Data encryption is the most powerful, effective way to safeguard your data. This is because hackers cannot read your encrypted data that they stole unless they stole the encryption keys as well.

It is better to encrypt both types of data, the data at rest (hard drives) and the data in transit (data in browsers or emails) to maximize data security.

6- Invest in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is not a passive practice anymore. Like your marketing budget, you need to put aside a budget to invest in cybersecurity.

Buy reputed antivirus and Internet protection programs to protect your data. A virtual private network (VPN) that enables you and your employees to browse the web anonymously can add an extra layer to your security.

Also, you should take the help of a cybersecurity experts to secure your data.

Final thoughts

They say the world's most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.

Being hackers’ favorite targets, SMBs should employ the best data protection and cybersecurity practices to mitigate risks of data breaches.

Educating yourself and your employees, keeping all of your software applications updated, improving access control, doing effective third-part risk management, encrypting critical data, and investing in cybersecurity can help you build a strong defense against data breaches.


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