As businesses increasingly move online, new threats to their information security have emerged. Hacker attacks and other security breaches are on the rise, and 70 percent of organizations report having been victims of a successful cyberattack in 2014. With the average cost of a corporate data breach hovering around $3.5 million, protecting critical business information is essential to the bottom line of any business. Retreating back to the analog era is not an option, but protecting business information is far from impossible. By understanding the digital threat landscape and implementing security best practices, business managers can drastically reduce the risk of a serious data breach.
Looming Threats to Business Information
Developing and implementing a successful information security strategy requires that business managers have a thorough understanding of the most common attack vectors. While no comprehensive list of threats can be compiled, most businesses suffer data breaches through one of a handful of vectors. Most importantly, the single greatest threat to any company's sensitive information is from accidental or malicious disclosure from employees or contractors. While human error or gossip may seem mundane compared to a coordinated hacker attack, the damage it can do to a business is very real. Furthermore, many successful cybercriminals will use social engineering techniques to gain access to your company's information, and it is vital that all employees with access to sensitive information are well-trained in security best practices.
Hackers and malware also pose a serious threat to business information security. Hackers can target customer information or intellectual property, and the costs of a serious data breach are devastating. More malware is produced every year, and viruses are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Businesses should also consider traditional security threats to their information. Lost or stolen documents, phones or laptops with sensitive information on them can easily fall into the wrong hands, and disgruntled employees can act in bad faith to hand critical information over to the competition.
Mitigating Your Business' Risks
While perfect security is impossible, developing an information security strategy for your company and monitoring your systems for new threats can go a long way to insulating your firm from serious risk. Understanding where your sensitive data is located and restricting access to it is an important first step. Savvy managers will ensure that root or other highly privileged levels of access to sensitive systems is held by as few people as possible, and limited to IT professionals. Using unbroken encryption systems to protect your servers, like RSA or AES-256, can help protect against man-in-the-middle attacks or other methods hackers use to intercept information.
Other steps to keep your information safe may seem more mundane, but are still essential to maintaining the security of your critical systems. Ensure that all of your software, especially operating systems and malware and virus protections, are up to date and functioning properly. When hiring employees who will have access to sensitive systems, conduct background checks and check references to ensure they have a history of behaving ethically. It is worthwhile to consider using VPNs or other private network services to isolate sensitive data, like customer records, from the Internet entirely. While it may seem elementary, unlocked doors or open file cabinets are a major source of information breaches with a simple solution.
While there is no magic bullet for information security, businesses that take the time to understand how to keep their information safe can dramatically reduce the risks posed by hackers or other bad actors. There is a wealth of information available on security best practices, and effective, low-cost tools are available to address most security concerns. By taking the time to understand the threats posed to sensitive data and implementing policies to address them, business managers can take major steps to keep their companies safe.
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