5 Practical Data Loss Prevention Tips for Small Businesses


Data is an invaluable asset for any organization.

If you mismanage or lose data, you could experience hefty financial losses, lawsuits, ruined customer relationships—or even permanent shutdown.

That’s why you should protect your company against data loss. Doing so brings tremendous benefits to your team’s productivity, bottomline, and brand image.

Data loss prevention: An overview

First, what is data loss prevention (DLP)? DLP is a security strategy that protects you from accidentally leaking sensitive data outside your business network.

It’s also a set of methods and tools preventing business-critical information from getting lost, stolen, and exploited by unauthorized internal and external users.

Data loss prevention tips

Follow these tips to protect your small business data:

1. Establish a data loss prevention policy.

Creating a DLP policy leads to building a culture where employees seriously uphold cybersecurity. This then makes applying best security practices much simpler.

Here are some ways to establish your DLP policy:

  • Define your basic parameters, e.g., which information needs protection, your present data modes and storage locations, conditions for accessing different data types, and when and where to archive which information. Identify the cybersecurity threats you are most vulnerable to and the measures to take in case of breaches.

  • Evaluate your DLP policy’s possible legal implications. For instance, tracking employees’ digital activities (e.g., websites visited) without their permission can violate their privacy rights. False alerts on employees’ legitimate actions can also damage their reputations. Find safer policy provisions, orient your staff about them, and include these in your employee agreements.

  • Determine disciplinary actions for violations and apply them to all organizational levels. Set up reward-and-recognition schemes as desired.

  • Create rules for bring-your-own-device, software installations, and company internet use. These include checking personal emails and social media accounts, streaming movies, visiting unrelated sites, unauthorized downloads, etc., during work hours and within your business network.

2. Implement regular data backups.

Backing up your data is among the best ways to maintain your cybersecurity. It helps ensure your business can bounce back immediately should you lose your information assets.

Data types you should duplicate include software code (if you build apps), private customer data, financial statements, etc.

Back up your data with the 3-2-1 rule:

  • Create three (3) copies of any business-critical file: 1 primary duplicate and 2 backup copies

  • Keep your duplicates in at least two (2) storage media types, e.g., network-attached storage (NAS), local drive, tape drive, etc.

  • Store one (1) of the copies offsite, such as the cloud.

You must also invest in automated code backup tools if you create software products. Storing your code in repositories isn’t enough since they also contain vulnerabilities. They have even experienced several cyber-attacks where developers lost thousands of dollars worth of software code.

Perform frequent data and code backups -- daily or 24/7, if possible. Automate this process to make it quicker and prevent it from destroying your efficiency. Using robust backup tools with encrypted data transfer protocols, secure storage, and round-the-clock automatic operations can help you do that.

3. Safeguard physical assets.

Physical damages to information-storing devices are another frequent cause of data loss. If you depend heavily on this external storage equipment, you must safeguard them as much as you do your electronic data assets.

Protect your computers and local servers by placing them in dry, well-ventilated areas. This lessens the chances of overheating. Look also for ways to minimize the risk of water and electrical damage caused by leaks, floods, thunderstorms, and others.

Additionally, enhance the devices’ physical security with these tips:

  • Keep your equipment low-key. Avoid putting up signages indicating that they are server rooms or data centers. Labels, if any, should be as non-descriptive as possible.

  • Restrict people’s access to data storage offices and equipment. Only allow those with directly related responsibilities to enter and use them. Install high-quality surveillance systems such as CCTV cameras, biometric scans, tokens, and others. Have a single-entry point for the rooms where you keep your data storage facilities.

  • Invest in rack-mount servers, which you bolt to the floor. This prevents criminals from stealing and moving your equipment.

  • Lock possible entry points such as doors and windows. Seal air vents exposing your data room’s floor and make your windows shatter-resistant and double-glazed.

4. Install and update your network protection tools.

Set up and frequently update your firewalls, antivirus software, anti-malware tools, and software patches. Do this for all company-owned computers, networks, and systems. Inform your staff to do the same on the devices that they use.

Neglecting to update your network protection mechanisms can inflict more harm. Outdated, they can fail to detect new and potentially more dangerous viruses and permit them to enter your IT landscape.

If the viruses remain undetected, they can give cybercriminals deeper access to your systems and corrupt your files. The hijackers can even lock them with malware and demand hefty ransoms (without the guarantee of data recovery).

If you develop apps with serverless computing or use serverless business platforms, leverage serverless security tools to safeguard your data and code.

You can also perform regular penetration testing to assess your networks’ cyber defenses against common or modern cybersecurity threats.

5. Train your employees.

Educate your employees with the best cybersecurity practices. Doing so empowers them for proactive data loss prevention efforts and bolsters your internal information security. It also decreases the chances of accidental file deletions and corruption.

Here are some things to include in your employees’ cybersecurity training:

  • MITRE Adversarial Tactics, Techniques, and Common Knowledge (MITRE ATT&CK) framework
  • Recognizing phishing, whaling, and other social engineering tactics
  • Document organization procedures
  • Proper creation and storage of account credentials
  • Detecting illegal software
  • Reporting mechanisms in case of suspicious activities and breaches, etc.

Hold ongoing cybersecurity training sessions, especially for new hires. Stay updated with the industry trends and threats and share them with your employees.

Plan your small business’ data loss prevention strategy

Keep in mind that your small business can be susceptible to data loss as much as any established enterprise. So, waste no time and plan your prevention strategies.

Invest in highly reliable tools and modify your processes, if needed, to bolster your data protection.

The sooner you act on it, the faster you can secure your information assets and prevent avoidable data and business losses.

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