Protecting your top asset: 3 steps to safeguarding your data

Michael Wines
Data Protections
Disaster Recovery

· Data is one of the most valuable assets for businesses, so protecting it is critical for success
· Cyber security incidents account for most data breaches, however human error remains a major source of leaks
· Knowing your data allows you to put security measures in place that help protect customer information, and monitor and remediate breaches when they occur

In the digital age, data has become one of the most valuable assets for businesses. As such, protecting it is critical. But with remote working on the rise and cybercriminals becoming highly sophisticated, safeguarding your data is becoming more challenging than ever.

Data leaks can be costly

When data from inside your business is transferred, accessed or disclosed outside of its secured network without authorisation, it’s called a data leak or breach. And it can cause significant challenges and complications for your business and your customers.

Hackers usually steal company data in order to sell personal information on the dark web – or use it to hold a business to ransom. With access to your personal information, such as names, email addresses, birthdays, locations and the like, cyber criminals can steal your identity, transfer money out of your bank account and perform other fraudulent transactions.

And for businesses, the costs coupled with the reputational damage can be devastating. In fact 35% of small businesses go out of business or file for bankruptcy following a breach.

But cyber criminals aren’t the only cause of leaks.

Common causes of data leaks

The majority of data breaches are caused by cyber security incidents and malicious attacks, with phishing, ransomware and compromised or stolen credentials at the top of the list in the first half of 2021.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not), human error, such as personal information sent to the wrong recipient or accidentally releasing or publishing information accounted for a whopping 30% of the source of data breaches.

Highlight the need for a robust security system is essential, that is supported by staff education in order to truly protect your clients’ information.

Here are three steps you can take to get there.

1. Know your data

Knowing the importance and sensitivity of your data can help you protect it.

Define classifications for your data and create clear guidelines around what data should fall under each. For example, your classifications could be:

Public: non-personal information, readily available to anyone in your business that can be used and shared internally freely.

· Job descriptions
· Company brochures
· Press releases

Private: data that is only available to people within your business that have been granted access and cannot be shared freely.

· Internal updates
· Business plans, policies and procedures
· Unpublished intellectual property

Sensitive: confidential or personal data that requires specific clearance and cannot be shared.

· Cardholder information
· HR data, such as CVs
· Business financial data and updates

Highly sensitive: restricted data that could have serious consequences if leaked, including criminal charges or significant fines.

· Proprietary information
· Credit card or bank account numbers
· Identification details or documents, such as Driver Licenses or passports

Classifying your data helps you understand it. This allows you to put security and access controls in place to protect it – managing levels of access depending on classification.

2. Protect and educate

In an increasingly remote workforce with BYOD policies, security can become a challenge. Remote workers’ devices are not protected by your internal firewall, so make sure they have the right security controls in place, such as business-grade VPN service and antivirus protection.

You can have all the right systems and tech in place, but it your staff are not aware of the importance of ethical and safe data practices, your business is still vulnerable.

Make data education part of your on-boarding process and hold regular workshops to update staff on the latest threats and data protection practices – and the potential consequences of not following these.

3. Prepare, monitor and remediate

When you realise your data has been compromised, it can be hard to know what to do. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead.

Developing a data breach response plan will allow you to respond to a breach quickly and effectively to reduce any negative consequences. You can read The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) comprehensive guide on how to prepare for and respond to a data breach to understand what you need to consider and include.

Make sure you monitor for any breaches regularly. There are a number of tools available to make monitoring easier, or you can get outside help from a trusted organisation like Byte to do the grunt work.

If you find a data leak, you need to respond immediately by:
·  containing the leak to prevent any further losses
·  assessing the extent and whether it falls under the Notifiable Data Breach (NDB) scheme
·  notifying your customers and those affected, and report it under the NDB if required
·  reviewing your existing practices and systems to prevent breaches in the future.

At Byte, we work with businesses of all sizes to protect one of their most valuable assets – data. Our Security Operations Centre (SOC) brings together our deep technical knowledge and business consulting capabilities to proactively monitor, detect and manage your cyber threats.

Start today with our free security audit that identifies where your gaps are and how you can better protect your business. Book your free audit now.

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