With fluctuating IT budgets and a growing reliance on technology, the threat of data breaches to SMBs is more imminent than ever before.
These breaches put your company’s confidential data at risk, and leads many to wonder; how safe is my private data?
A 2014 risk study shows that a company’s IT security is more important than they realize. With 1,500 Canadian participants, 83% of the respondents indicated they would switch over to a competitor if a company experienced a data breach.
A data breach can result in a company losing customers, compromising customer data, experiencing reputational and brand erosion, and lose of stakeholder trust. So it’s more important than ever to ensure you network and data is safe from intruders.
Data breaches can be categorized as security incidents in which sensitive, protected or confidential data is copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen or used. They typically involve the financial information, personal health records, trades, and intellectual properties of organizations and are usually done out of malice or ill-intent.
Although easily avoidable once your company’s data is breached it’s hard to undo the damage. To prevent this the best strategy is to be proactive and installing measures so a breach doesn’t happen, or if it does that the risks are mitigated.
Taking a proactive stance is important because it ensures you’re diligent. This includes making sure all your computers, tablets and smartphones are updated to the newest software or operating system, you have installed and updated the latest anti-virus software and have strong passwords in place.
Regardless of how top notch and secured your system is, your employees are always going to be the weakest link.
According to IBM’s 2015 Data Breach Survey, 17% of all data breaches in US from 2005 to 2014, were caused by unintentional by careless insiders of companies. This could mean that an employee posted sensitive information on a public website, mishandled or sent the wrong email to someone or clicked on suspicious link.
Would your employees recognize a phishing email? The simple fact remains, that the majority of employees don’t have the technical background or knowledge to avoid being exploited by social engineers.
Social engineering works by exploiting and tricking the users themselves, bypassing the fancy and sophisticated security systems in place and getting their hands on confidential data, such as passwords, corporate information, and industry secrets.
According to Verizon’s 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report, 58% of government data breaches were caused by employees. This is an alarming statistic and shows that unless mitigated your employees are the biggest threat to the security of your network and data.
So it’s essential that every SMB makes sure they are aware of the potential risk and take steps to mitigate and remove those risks. This can be done with proper training and security measures. Such as quarterly training sessions for employees on the dangers and potential risks of being exploited, how to manage and notice suspicious emails and links, how to spot malicious attachments and inquiries.
Additionally conducting phishing, social engineering test and mock attempts, will ensure your employees know how to adequately deal with any attempts on your network, while also letting them know about the newest ways social engineers use to gain access to networks.
Although your weakest link, with the proper training and your employees can be the greatest defense against social engineering attacks and the first line of defense against attacks.
When trying to prevent and mitigate data breaches, companies can’t ignore the BYOD trend. Allowing employees to use their own devices at work and store company data, puts the company at additional risk of their information falling into the wrong hands.
The problem is primarily one of ownership. If an employee uses their own device, they have more control over the features and how they use it, but this puts the company at greater risk as they have no power to enforce security measures to protect their own data.
Not to mention introduces a host of other problems, such as exposing family members to corporate information, losing or misplacing your device or having tech issues. In every scenario the company is exposed to greater risk, then if they had a corporate device plan.
Although BYOD introduces additional risk for companies, they shouldn’t ignore this trend. According to a recent BT survey, only 10% of IT managers believe BYOD users understand the IT risks involved in using their own devices. Therefore with due diligence and the right attitude, you can avoid risks and mitigate any data breaches.
It’s important for companies to ensure that if they embrace a BYOD trend, they train and educate their staff on manually securing their devices. This will allow them the ability to figure out how to patch, encrypt and have up to date anti-virus software on their devices.
Companies could also use mobile-device management software that reduces the risk of their data falling into the wrong hands. Mobile-device management software would ensure that company data remains safe and in the case of an emergency or when an employee leaves the organization, their data can be remotely wiped, without deleting any of the user’s personal data.
Additionally introducing proper BYOD policies can ensure that any SMBs data remains safe and sound in the case of emergencies. This means ensuring work data can’t be merged with employee’s personal information, non-employees can’t access company data, and certain precautions when the device is lost, stolen or when they resign.
Another option available to companies who are using a BYOD policy is to use a sandbox or ring-fencing approach to their data, in which they keep their data contained within a specific application, thus ensuring if the device is lost, their data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. This can prove benefit to both parties.
In developing a proper BYOD solution, it’s important to consider the problems and implement solutions to mitigate risk, while taking into account security, audit and data protection requirements.
Not to mention speaking to your employees about the potential risks of using their own devices and what this means for their data and phone use in relation to their privacy and company’s ability to secure their own corporate data.
Once you have proactive measures in place, this will allow you to focus on higher order security precaution such as detecting cybersecurity and performing risk assessment strategies of your network.
Having the ability to test and detect any weak points in your network can prove to be the best asset in protecting it. It’s counterintuitive, but running a diagnosis of where potential intrusions can occur will allow you to beef up your weak points and with constant testing and application, you can continually run this process to make sure you’re always on the frontline of defense and aware of any holes in your metaphorical defense game.
According to statistics, the highest per capita data breaches occurred in the following industries; financial, services, technology and energy. With the public sector, education and consumer organizations showed the least.
Part of the problem of many risk assessment strategies is that they don’t identify and implement specific strategies tailored towards to a company’s threats. An ideal security strategy for a hospital would differ greatly for a finance company. Being able to identify and implement a comprehensive security measure, expertise, analysis and management that fits your company is key in ensuring its safety.
We have seen from experience that one of the best ways of assessing your system’s security is to use an external expert. This gives you a second set of eyes and perspectives in accessing the security of your network. Not to mention using their experience as a leverage to spot and address any concerns that you’ve previously missed or were unaware of.
After ensuring you have a proper risk assessment strategy in place, we strongly recommend you have a security plan you can turn to in the case of emergency. This includes having backups of data, having your data stored on multiple servers, multiple level encryptions, and that your cloud solutions are safe. During an emergency it can be hard to act decisively when things are up in the air. That’s why it’s vital to have a security plan in place that is clear and easy to follow if something does occur.
Take a look at our blog post for more information about developing a risk assessment strategy.
Over the years we have seen one of the most problematic things threatening security is that organizations don’t have an adequate IT department. Not having one could lead to multiple hole and vulnerabilities in your system. If SMBs can’t afford to have an in-house IT department, their best bet is to outsource it. This ensures you have experts monitoring and making sure your data and network is safe and not open to threats, intruders or vulnerabilities.
With the moving trend of growing connectivity, it leaves your security system vulnerable to threats that you might not be aware of. This is primarily due to the fact that technology today is more connected than, and although this connectivity makes life easier it does introduce new security risks. Such as being exploited, rooted or having someone break into your network because they gained access through one of your devices. Make sure your network doesn’t have any vulnerabilities or open ports that are easy to get into to avoid this.
Another seemingly innocent way of mitigating data breaches is to use a cloud based service to back up your data instead of using physical hard drives. This removes the possibility of theft or damage to your data, and with proper encryption and safeguards is a lot safer than using physical hard drives.
Additionally with using a cloud based service you can remotely back up your data and set it to back up on specific dates and times. You can also store specific amounts of data, which means you can save and store only segments of your data, which will act as a safeguard in case it is hacked or exploited.
Following these measures can ensure you’re taking the right step forward in keeping your company’s data safe and avoiding a data breach.