As the benefits of collecting data on clients and customers becomes more and more apparent, companies are collecting more data than ever before. Data is one of the most important assets your organisation can possess. Information stored can include not only your customer database, but also your marketing materials, financial records, staff details and more. With all of this data collection comes great responsibility. Losing this information could be extremely harmful to your organisation and could even result in the demise of your company.
Unfortunately, data is susceptible to damage, viruses, natural disasters such as fire or flood and theft. Digital thieves are constantly on the lookout for data in which they can steal and valuable data is always under their threat. Some thieves look to steal information to retrieve money from bank accounts or to set up credit cards, while others may sell the information to a third party.
Australian companies are the second-most likely organisations to experience a malicious or criminal data breach. On average, 34,249 records are compromised during a breach and if information is leaked, the reputation of a company can quickly come crashing down. For this reason, adequate data security is essential and will be a key step in securing your organisation’s success.
Securing your organisation’s data
Step 1: Identify security risks
The number of security risks associated with your company data will depend on the data you store. It’s extremely important that all risks are covered by some sort of protection. A good way to start this is by ensuring your security policy complies with data protection and privacy laws. You should also appoint a trained data protection officer with good knowledge of recent threats to manage your security.
Knowing your security risks will allow you to carry out data landscaping and estimate the value of your data should it be lost or compromised. This will give you a better understanding of the impact on your organisation following misrepresentation or unauthorised entities accessing valuable information.
Step 2: Analyse the information
Ensure you have a good understanding of the information accessed across the business, who accesses it and what it is used for. A gap analysis provides a point of reference and will help you determine security areas that need improvement. It’s important to remember that data security is not just digital, but physical too. Review where your data is stored, screen visibility and the vetting of new staff.
Step 3: Employ an army
Many organisations make the mistake of keeping staff in the dark about known security risks, but if staff are made aware of the value of data and the importance of protecting it, they can play a part in safeguarding it. The more security education you deploy on your staff, the better. It’s also important to encourage employees to report potential data loss or breaches by dispelling fear of being reprimanded.
Step 4: Invest in management information systems
A good management information system (MIS) allows data to be created, collected, filtered and distributed using set patterns. It provides information that organisations require to manage themselves efficiently and effectively and in turn, makes compliance regulation much easier to monitor.
The six primary components of an MIS are hardware, software, firmware, data, procedures and people. Regular scheduled reports allow organisations to track strengths and weaknesses.
Step 5: Enforce strong passwords
Weak passwords can be a hacker’s best friend and can be the key to cracking a system. Ensuring your staff all have strong and secure passwords can help protect your organisation.
A strong password should be one that is difficult to guess either through human guessing or specialised software. A strong password should:
- Be at least 8 characters in length
- Contain both upper and lowercase letters (A-Z)
- Have at least one numeric character (1,2,3)
- Have at least one special character (@#%)
Passwords should not be shared with anyone and in situations where someone requires access to another individual’s protected data, other permission options should be explored.
Step 6: Create an action plan
Preparing for disaster will help you greatly should any data become lost or compromised. A fast reaction to a breach can make a huge difference to legal ramifications, costs and your organisation’s reputation.
Step 7: Encrypt everything
All confidential information should be encrypted to keep information inaccessible without authority. It also helps if you can remote wipe devices that are accidentally left in a taxi or public place.
Step 8: Secure data on multifunction devices
Documents printed in the workplace can often contain sensitive data, so built in functions such as disc encryption and image overwriting are in place to protect data stored on a device’s hard disk. Using the ‘secure print’ option will allow staff to set a password on their file when printing, which will need to be entered to release the document at the device.