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Data security - why it’s important and what to do about it

Businesses constantly engage with, manage and leverage data. But it’s the ones that take a holistic approach to data strategy – from the point of creation to organisation, storage and including analysis – that are able to optimise their technology investment, productivity and efficiency, and lower their costs.

A good data security risk strategy will ensure all data initiatives follow a standard method with a structure that is uniform and repeatable. This consistency facilitates effective communication throughout the organisation across all solution designs that leverage data in some way.

However, with data comes risk, and Australian SMEs are losing an average of $1.9 million due to cyber attacks. With millions of dollars at stake, data security is an important aspect of any data-centric organisation. 

Securing data in your business is an important part of your data strategy. There are a number of security considerations which should be included. Read on to find out more about the key management practices your organisation should be employing to protect data.

Data Security risks you need to consider in your data strategy

1. Your employees

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that one of your biggest data security risks is on the inside, it's your organisation's employees. Put simply, those employees who have access to data are the best placed to abuse it. There are two ways in which your data is at risk regarding your employees – those employees who accidentally misuse data (ie. losing sensitive information stored on a USB during their commute) and those who are maliciously abusing data (ie. a disgruntled employee leaking company data to a competitor). 

Uninformed or careless employees, though not malicious, pose a risk to your data security. Errors as simple as leaving their computer unlocked or sending a sensitive email to the wrong person can hurt your business – both the bottom line and your reputation. Mitigate these risks by including clear policies, as well as a training schedule, in your data strategy. Back up policy and training by implementing system boundaries like automatic computer locking and the inability to email sensitive documents to further moderate risks. 

A recently terminated and disgruntled employee also poses a risk to your data security. Ensure there are policies and processes in your data strategy to have user accounts disabled quickly on the termination of an employee. Be on the lookout for suspicious behaviour among current employees by mapping out a monitoring process. As an aside, ensuring your company culture holds honesty, accountability and trustworthiness in high esteem is also a smart approach to data security.

2. Unsecure portable devices

Before the advent of smartphones, tablets and laptops, data security was a whole lot simpler. Now businesses are decidedly mobile, and with that comes additional risk, especially if your organisation includes a BYOD (bring your own device) policy. Even without a BYOD policy in place, it's more than likely that employees will use their personal devices for work tasks and they'll certainly bring them into the workplace at some point. 

Whether or not your business "officially" welcomes BYOD in the workplace, the current culture of mobile devices means you have less control over data security, passwords, downloads and file sharing. Written policies, staff training requirements and mobile security solutions should all be a part of a robust data security plan.

3. The cloud

The cloud has become synonymous with efficiency and convenience but also data risk. While supremely helpful, the cloud opens up a data risk gold mine with multiple devices accessing information from multiple locations. 

Ways to reduce the risk:

  • Choose to only work with reputable and trusted cloud storage solution companies that encrypt data.
  • Restrict access with dual-factor authentication.
  • Disable third-party cloud storage accounts which are no longer in use.
  • Implement solutions where cloud data centres are physically secure - think 24-hour monitoring, fingerprint access and security guards. 
  • Limit cloud access through internal firewalls to boost security.
  • Action event logging to record users' network actions to both log and predict security breaches.

4. Cyberattacks

A data breach can come as the result of a cyberattack where an unauthorised individual or group gains unapproved access to a computer system or network. The cybercriminal then has the ability to steal sensitive, private or confidential information from the system or network. What they use this information for depends on the data stolen, but it is often held to ransom. 

Cyberattacks can occur in a number of ways including criminals exploiting software weaknesses, phishing, malware installation and misusing broken or misconfigured access controls. Using outdated systems in your business increases your risk as they often give hackers more opportunity to exploit weaknesses. 

A robust data strategy will include timelines for keeping systems updated including the latest in security software. A policy should also be in place as to who to, and when and how an attack is reported. Employees should also be trained in spotting suspicious activity, like emails containing dubious links. 

Quick tips for keeping your data secure

  • Establish governance including business rules and guidelines for managing systems across levels, departments and locations.
  • Ensure authentication methods are strong - two-factor authentication, automated tokens, facial recognition etc. 
  • Encrypt sensitive data when it is being used and while it is being stored. 
  • Assure data security by including an MDM (mobile device management) policy and process in your data security plan. 
  • Include plans for secure backups, archiving and storage of data.
  • Do your due diligence and research, test and use the right tools for the job.
  • Educate employees as a part of your data strategy. They are on the 'front lines' so make sure everyone is equipped with the necessary knowledge to keep data secure. 

Securing your data strategy is key to the success of your business. By beginning with high-level security objectives and adding in the details like policies, processes and training milestones you will be building a more robust business for the future.

Ransomware attacks and phishing scams are on the rise, meaning it's more important than ever to ensure that your print and document environment is protected against cyber attacks. Book a free security audit today to find out exactly where your vulnerabilities are and how to mitigate them.