As a small business, you know the importance of data security and how overwhelming it can feel to keep up with the latest data protection regulations. It’s hard enough for a big company to stay on top of these rules, so, unsurprisingly, smaller companies also have difficulty doing so. Data security solution of your choice, but it’s tough to find the right solution that meets all your business needs. The good news is that there are some basic steps that every small business can employ to keep most of their data secure and encrypted.
This post will explore some data security challenges that any small business might face and the workarounds that can help make your business compliant with these new regulations without breaking your budget or your customers.
Let’s start with the most obvious one. Every small business is a potential victim. Your company could be the victim of an attack, a cybercrime, or even a customer with malicious intent. Hackers are out there looking for vulnerabilities in your network; if they find one, it doesn’t take much to cause an industrial-sized problem.
One of the most recent stories has been the Target data breach. It was discovered that Target’s information systems had been compromised by a sophisticated attack that allowed access to the data of millions of customers. Target responded quickly and made available credit monitoring (among other steps) to those whose information was stolen in the breach.
But this sort of thing is just one possibility when it comes to data breaches, and companies are often unsure what their “probability” is for such an event happening. Estimates vary, but the best estimates are that anywhere from 40-50% of companies in the US will have some data breach within their first year. So it’s not surprising that many small businesses assume they are highly likely to be attacked.
The best way to almost eliminate the risk is to hire a security consultant that can do periodic security checks (and who will find and fix vulnerabilities). Even then, it’s estimated that only 30% of breaches could be prevented using this method.
Along the same lines as data breaches are data leakage. If a hacker gains access to your system or your system has a defect that allows information to escape, it leaves you in a precarious position. You don’t want this information found by the wrong people or falling into the hands of hackers.
The first step to defeating data leakage is to keep the information you’re sending out of your systems secure. This means that it needs to be encrypted before transmission so that only the receiver can open it, and it cannot be stolen or exfiltrated by unauthorized people. These two measures will significantly decrease your risk of leakage, but we still want to ensure our systems are protected from hackers.
Lack of Security Testing on Mobile Apps Stored on Servers
One thing that many small businesses don’t take into consideration when preparing for new regulations is the security risk presented by mobile apps. If you have a mobile app and store data on servers that aren’t in your direct control, you need to have the proper measures to protect both the data and the servers.
New regulations require that third-party applications be tested regularly on their security, but small businesses don’t always take this step. You can run automated tests on your mobile apps or hire a firm or consultant to do so as well. You don’t need to have an InfoSec team unless you have significant security needs, but it helps if at least somebody has put together some of these tools beforehand.
Another way to test your mobile apps is by using what’s known as a penetration test. They give you a list of essential features and see if they can break into the server (or servers) where they’re stored. This means that professionals who know how to do these kinds of tests will attempt to find weaknesses and vulnerabilities in your system. It’s an excellent way to test for potential problems before you have them.
Lack of Outside Counsel from a Professional Firm
As mentioned above, most small businesses don’t have the budget for an InfoSec team unless necessary. But even when there is state or federal regulation on data protection, it helps to hire outside counsel (a professional law firm) who can keep up with the latest information and ensure your company is compliant. Several hundred pages of regulations cover data security; one mistake or oversight can cause significant trouble later.
This type of counsel will also help you navigate the process of notifying customers in case of a breach. This is now a requirement for any business that experiences a breach of more than 500 people. It’s not a small undertaking, and you want to ensure you’re doing it right, even if it isn’t required by law.
Lack of Secure Network Configuration
Keeping an eye on your network security is another way to protect against data breaches. Getting your network configured correctly before installing any systems or working on the web can save you time and money. In addition, most systems come with default settings that are insecure and easy to change, so this step is crucial as well.
The first thing you can look at is changing the passwords on all of your admin accounts (if they aren’t already using secure passwords). If you’re worried about forgetting them, write the passwords and store them in a safe place. Then change the default passwords on your network devices too.
Another good way to secure your network is to watch for suspicious activity. Keep an eye on firewall and router logs as they can provide valuable information if you see any unusual activity. You can also install intrusion detection software that will send alerts when it detects any issues. This helps a lot for ongoing security monitoring of your network.
The biggest thing to remember is that there are a lot of ways for hackers to get into your network, and you can’t live in fear. You have to be proactive. With the right actions, you can eliminate most of the risks presented by new regulations, but you’ll always have a certain amount of trouble no matter what precautions you take.
As long as you take the time to ensure your systems are secure, there’s nothing wrong with periodic checks on them yourself or hiring a firm specializing in such work. It’s hard work and time-consuming, so it should only be done when necessary or when money is an issue, but it doesn’t hurt to do all that much.