10 Ways Small Businesses and Consumers Can Protect Critical Data

10 Ways Small Businesses and Consumers Can Protect Critical Data

Cyber-crime has become an increasing threat to consumers and businesses. You might be wondering how you as a small business owner or individual can protect data and critical information in the connected world we live in. If you are, then your in the right place to learn how to do so.

Digital thieves are constantly on the lookout to steal data such as personal information, financial records, intellectual property, or whatever valuable data they can get there hands on. They may then use this data to commit identity theft, to steal money from bank accounts or they may simply sell this information to a third party or back to you. Here are some ideas to help you keep your data better protected.

1. Conduct a Security Audit

If you don’t know what parts of your business are vulnerable or what data you have that needs to be protected then you can’t properly secure it, so first you must be clear on what you are protecting. Next it is critical that you work with a professional to audit your desktops, servers, network, and mobile devices in order to determine what you need to do to prevent hackers from accessing your network. If you feel your up to the task then below are some of the items that you must look further into. Having a layered security approach will make it extremely difficult for a hacker to be successful.

2. Establish a Security Policy

Take the time to have clear and simple policies in place for employees to follow to ensure that they are working in a secure environment and protect data. Policies and procedures will help ensure that your staff are doing their part to be security aware.

3. Install a good Antivirus

Make sure you have antivirus and anti-spyware software running on every computer. This will detect and protect from viruses and malware. Always be sure to scan all Computers, USB sticks and mobile devices before they are attached to your network.

4. Employ a strong Network Firewall

Employing a good firewall will help keep your staff away from harmful websites and filter out bad network traffic. In turn, the less bad traffic gets through the safer your local network and data will be.

5. Back Up your Critical Data

Security is important, but if your data is not backed up, you may eventually loose it because of a virus, ransomware or hardware failure. Ensure that your data is properly backed up, and test the backup to ensure that your data can be recovered. Store both a local copy as well as a cloud copy. For more information see Computer Backup Strategies for Small Businesses and Individuals.

6. Keep all Computers Updated

Security patches and updates protect your system from malware by closing known exploited software holes. These updates can decrease your likelihood of becoming the victim of an attack. When your computer or mobile device tells you there’s an update, don’t ignore it. Always keep your operating system, 3rd party software and antivirus software programs are up-to-date. Microsoft Windows 7 support and updates will be ending as of January 2020. In most cases we would advise upgrading to the latest version of Windows 10. See our article: Microsoft Windows 7 End of Support coming in less than 1 Year.

7. Train your Employees

Regularly hold learning sessions to make staff aware of the important role they play in security. They are your front line of defense. Employees, consultants and partners can ensure that human error is minimized. Employees are often the handlers of customer data. They therefore need to be kept up-to-date on how to protect that information and best practices. They should be educated about the newest fraud schemes and best practices such as not responding to or opening attachments or clicking suspicious links in email messages. Many data breaches come down to the simple fact that companies do not train their employees on security and unknowingly help hackers. For example, what do they do if they get a call from Microsoft saying they need to log on to their computer? Keep in mind an Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure.

8. Use strong passwords

Don’t use simple passwords that are easy for hackers to guess using automation. Use different passwords for different accounts and keep track of them securely. If a hacker gets there hands on one of them then they won’t have them all. Changing your passwords often will make it even more difficult.

9. Use an Email Security and Encryption

Consider using a email service like Microsoft Exchange that also continually scans for suspicious phishing emails and stops them before landing in your inbox. This prevents you from inadvertently opening and clicking on anything potentially harmful. It is recommended to use Email encryption when sending ultra sensitive information like your your social security number, driver license, etc. Do not just scan and send these items without protecting them.

10. Protect mobile devices

With the proliferation of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops) more of your staff are working away from the office with important company data. If they are connecting and using free public and private networks this can pose additional risk. It is important to ensure that these mobile devices are protected correctly prior to connecting to other networks. Impress upon employees the importance of keeping these devices secure from loss or theft and reporting if they are immediately. Encrypt laptops, external hard drives and USB thumb drives so that if lost or stolen whoever tries to accesses the data won’t be able to read it.

Securing your business’s data is not easy, and it takes expertise. However, you can implement very practical and simple solutions to in order to keep your data well protected.

Pro-Tech can assist you with data protection. If you have any questions please feel free to call our office at (732) 702-5400.  Pro-Tech can come to your business or home and assist you with planning, implementation, and other services. Please see our website homepage for other services we offer.

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