Data protection is a huge concern for businesses these days. When you’re handling a lot of personal customer data and information about your own finances etc. you need to be incredibly careful about protecting it. If there are breaches, it could cause you a lot of trouble. Losing customer data will land you in hot water because it will breach trust. Trust is important for customers and if you have a very public data breach, you’re likely to lose a lot of customers. People aren’t going to want to entrust you with their credit card details if they’re worried about you losing them.
Losing data about the business itself can also be dangerous because it makes you vulnerable. If criminals are attempting to defraud you, knowing as much as possible about the company and its inner workings will make it a lot easier for them. Information about the office itself and the security systems you’ve got there can also open you up to physical theft as well.
Corporate espionage is another thing to consider because if your competitors know what products you’re planning to release or the details of your up and coming marketing campaigns, they can get in there before you and steal customers out from under you.
There are also a lot of laws around data protection so if you’re found to be breaching it, you’ll get in a lot of legal trouble as well as damaging your business. It can be hard to come back from the hefty fines that you’re likely to get if you breach data protection laws.
Even the pieces of information that might not seem that important need to be kept safe, these are the things you need to be doing to make sure you don’t breach data protection laws.
Don’t Forget Paper Records
When people think about protecting data, their main focus is on digital information. While it’s important to protect yourself from the dangers of cyber attacks and online data breaches, don’t forget about the good old fashioned paper records that you’ve got. The best way to do this is to use an online records management service. They’ll take the paper records and store them in a secure location away from the office. Then if you need to access any of that information, you can contact them and they’ll give you what you need over the phone or via email. You can decide who has access to the records and who doesn’t which reduces the chance of any breaches. Destroying old records that you don’t need anymore is also important, the more information that’s lying around, the more likely it is to get misplaced or stolen. If you limit yourself to the stuff that you actually need and shred the rest.
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Even though you can keep most of your paper records off site, you’ll still have some stuff in the office. If anybody breaks into the office, they’ll take all of the computers etc. which might have sensitive information on but they might also take a load of paper records as well. That’s why it’s important to make sure that the office is always secure. Fit it out with reinforced doors and windows on the ground floor so it’s difficult for people to break in. Get some security cameras to act as a deterrent and to help you recover any stolen property and information if the worst does happen and somebody breaks in. Security lights are great as well because they’re cheap and easy to install and would be burglars are likely to run a mile if the building lights up when they get close. If you’re particularly worried about office security, it might be worth investing in a security guard to patrol the area at night.
Limit Transfer Of Data
When employees are sending data back and forth, you increase the risk of somebody intercepting it and stealing it. That’s why you should limit the transfer of data as much as possible. Only allow certain employees access to the data that they need to do their job, and make sure that they know they should only share it with other people in the company that need to see it. Nobody should be getting anywhere near that information unless it’s vital to their job.
It’s also important to keep track of the devices that data is being shared to. People are increasingly spending time working at home after hours which is great, but it also causes some issues as well. If they’re sending information to their personal computer, you have no control over how well protected it is. Personal computers are easier for hackers to get into than your systems so every time an employee sends sensitive information to their own devices, they’re putting you at risk. Set out some guidelines and let employees know that they shouldn’t be accessing any of that data outside of the office. Even connecting unsecured devices to the office wifi could open up a backdoor for hackers so make sure that no employees are using their phones etc. on your office wifi.
If you track the transfer of data around the office you can make sure that it’s only going where it should be and not being sent to people that shouldn’t be accessing it. That’s the easiest way to avoid any accidental breaches around the office.
Malware is the most common way that people will get into your computer system and steal information. In order to get this malware onto your computer, you or one of your employees needs to download something. Often, those downloads come in the form of a scam email asking you to view an attachment. The first thing to do is make your employees aware of any email scams so they can spot the tell tale signs of malicious software. Beyond that, you should put a blanket ban on any downloads unless they’re coming from somebody affiliated with the company and employees actually need to download something for work. You should also put policies in place so all employees have to check with the IT department before downloading something so they can make sure that it’s safe.
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The easiest way to open yourself up to data breaches is with a weak password, it just makes it easy for hackers to get in. If you’re letting your employees choose all of their own passwords, you can’t be sure that they’re choosing something sensible that is hard to crack. Instead, you should generate strong passwords with a combination of upper and lower case letters and numbers. Changing passwords regularly is important as well so, even though it might be a bit of a pain having to remember new passwords all the time, you should generate new ones every couple of months.
Update Security Regularly
If you haven’t got any cyber security measures in place already, you’re in big trouble. But even if you have, they might not be effective. The biggest mistake that people make is not updating their security measures often enough. Cyber criminals are constantly changing their methods to get around new security measures so the system that you put in place a year ago is probably
obsolete already. You should be updating it constantly to stay ahead of the criminals and don’t neglect it to try to save money because you’ll lose out in the long run if there is a breach.
Be Aware Of Changing Laws
Data protection laws are changing to keep up with new innovations and if you aren’t up to date with the new laws, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law without even realizing it. The latest update was in 2017 but the government is planning more new changes. In the face of revelations about the way that social media sites handle people’s personal data, it’s likely that new laws will be drafted that make data protection more strict. You’ve also got to consider the impact of leaving the EU because a lot of the data protection laws we have are based on EU legislation. All of that turmoil means that data protection is going to change a lot over the next couple of years so keep your ear to the ground and make sure that you’re not accidentally breaking any regulations.
Making sure you keep on top of all of the information that your company holds is important, not only because of the legal considerations but also because it can lose you a lot of business if you’re involved in a public data protection scandal. You need to be regularly updating your security software and the security around the office. Employees also need to be aware of all the rules and regulations around data protection and they need to follow all of the procedures you’ve put in place to limit the opportunities for losing data or having it stolen. It’s going to cost you a lot of money to do all of that but it’s just something you can’t avoid.
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