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How to Protect Your Business From a Data Breach

Megan Totka
Megan Totka

Staying one step ahead of hackers

Every day you hear about data breaches. Stolen information causes irreparable harm to businesses and their clients. No matter what size of business you have, you need to protect your information and prevent data breaches before they even happen. Here are some strategies proven to work that you can use to keep your files safe.

Evaluate your security procedures

The first step involves looking at your current security protocols. Layering your security capabilities is the best approach, because hackers will have to infiltrate multiple safeguards before accessing any sensitive data. Tools such as firewalls, encryption, secure file sharing and antivirus software all protect sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands. If your cloud-based data storage service offers security tools, you should still configure your own safety measures. Limit cloud access to employees and use an extra layer of protection, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) or single sign-on (SSO). 

Always back up data frequently so that when a violation occurs, your system restores quickly and easily with the most current data. Also, conduct screening and background checks on new hires and mandate security training. Make sure all virus scanning software stays current, and delete any suspicious files at once.

Protect your cloud and data

To develop a more comprehensive cloud security strategy, consider using a cloud access security broker, or CASB. These software platforms offer continuous visibility, data security, monitoring and governance for all cloud-based file storage. The CASB data protection feature uses machine learning and user behavior to discover unauthorized users and events. The organization can then use the CASB to respond in real time, preventing hackers from gaining access to sensitive information. Take comfort in knowing that the software will block any unauthorized access attempts to reach your data, even when you are not watching the system.

Another crucial element of cloud security is visibility. CASBs alleviate visibility issues by auditing a company's cloud services and sanctioning useful products while blocking risky ones. CASBs also provide data security capabilities such as encryption and tokenization.

Improper configuration and weak security procedures are a growing cause of cloud data breaches. These types of leaks are often overlooked because they usually occur because of insiders and because companies assume the cloud service providers (CSPs) will protect their data. In fact, based on the shared responsibility model, the user is responsible for the security in the cloud, not the CSPs.

Prevent this by enforcing strict password policies and user access controls. Make sure your cloud data storage is private and only available to required users. A CASB can also help with this by monitoring and configuring your cloud services so that security is maximized. This can be applied to large cloud platforms such as AWS, Salesforce and Office 365.

Electronic information not stored in the cloud is still at risk. An internal breach of security is the most dangerous type of breach and the hardest to spot. The more layers of security you can add, the more you can secure your data. As with cloud technology, limit employee access with special codes and biometrics. Only essential employees should have access to sensitive company data.

Train your employees to follow security procedures

Your data security depends on employees understanding your policies and procedures. Clearly define password requirements, user access rules and any other security measures. Give examples of different scenarios people use to gain information. Alert employees about telephone callers requesting personal or business information.

Although many people can spot email scams when they read them, teach employees to recognize less obvious ones, like phishing, where emails look like they came from official companies but contain malware. View any request for sensitive information as suspicious and warn employees not to click on email attachments or links. In other words, if you did not ask for the document, don't open it. Hackers and thieves are quite inventive, so alert your staff of any new schemes you hear about.

One of the most common uses for information obtained through data breaches is identity theft. You must protect yourself, your employees and your customers from being victims. Medical clinics are an especially high risk because of the confidential information stored on patients. Plus, you need protection from liability if that information gets out. Make sure all employees, and anyone else with permission to access your data, know the security procedures and follow them to the letter. Failure to enforce these rules leads to costly mistakes.

Data breaches take many forms, and hard copy files are susceptible to theft too. Institute a clean-desk policy so that no one leaves files visible at the end of the day. Make sure all employees know retention guidelines and shredding procedures. Don't allow documents to stack up while waiting for shredding. If you cannot destroy documents quickly, hire a service to come at scheduled times to shred your unneeded files.

Respond when a mistake happens

Despite your best prevention techniques, companies can still experience data breaches. Learn from data security mistakes by examining what happened. Ask yourself how the company can better protect its information and, if necessary, win back customer trust. If a breach occurs, act within the first 24 hours. Designate a team of key leaders, and assign roles and responsibilities. A quick response helps employees and clients regain a feeling of security.

Keep up to date on laws and regulations about the proper disposal techniques for sensitive files and data. Although technology allows more convenience and mobile capabilities for our lives, the dangers grow alongside it. Connecting more devices like smartphones, tablets and even smartwatches gives hackers and others more things to break into in order to obtain personal and proprietary data.

Keeping your company information secure, and preventing a media firestorm, involves more than one step. The days are over when a username and password offered enough protection. Make sure your company uses the latest in software technology to safeguard data, and don't forget to secure paper documents as well. Safety protocols for all types of information are a necessary part of today's business world

Image Credit: deepadesigns/Shutterstock
Megan Totka
Megan Totka Member
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.