We now run businesses in a digital space. Even if you still have a brick-and-mortar location, you’re likely running a bevy of social media profiles and a website, possibly with its own digital storefront. And many modern businesses operate wholly digitally. While there’s many exciting advantages to the broader access to your target market a digital presence brings, it also means a smart approach to cybercrime and risk is necessary.
From abandoning poor password practices to conducting employee training, there’s a lot businesses can do to ensure they’re staying safe in digital space. Today, we look at some solid basics.
How Cyber Crime Can Affect Business
Every day, businesses handle a vast volume of sensitive data. As it becomes the norm to work from non-centralized sites, we have more devices accessing this data, and if there’s a weakness at any one point in this system, cybercriminals can access it all.
Perhaps the most notorious and well-known way in which cybercrime affects businesses are data breaches, and the selling of the illicit data these breaches unearth. It’s a massively lucrative industry for criminals. For the companies that become their targets, not only do you have the immediate loss of sensitive data, but also an immense knock to the trust the public has in you. With this data in hand, criminals can not only breach accounts and intrude into systems, but also carry out financial fraud and even identity theft.
But that’s not the only risk companies with poor security protocols face. DDoS attacks, or distributed denial of service attacks, are used to bog down your digital access points so legitimate entities can’t access them. You’re often held hostage to extortion to get these to stop. And, of course, let’s not forget the looming specter of ransomware – a malicious piece of software that, once installed on a PC, encrypts or deletes the data on it. While hackers will often claim to return your data if you meet their ransom demands, are we really trusting criminals to behave ethically? And who knows what else they’ve done with your data, either.
Becoming the victim of cybercrime can shut down entire key systems in your business, infect PCs with malicious software, open up back doors for illicit activities and even crypto mining, affect the trustworthiness of your IP and ability to interact digitally. It can publish sensitive data from your company, its employees, or clients, and even hijack accounts and destroy your reputation. This means solid security protocols are an absolute must.
It Starts With Employees
One of the simplest, but most effective, ways to keep your corporate data safe is ongoing, regular employee training on security matters. Your protection is only as solid as its weakest link, and even a low-level employee with poor password hygiene, or who can’t spot a phishing mail, could quickly become the reason for a security incident.
Good security practices must be enacted throughout the company, not just at higher levels. Everyone should understand how to identify common scams and phishing attempts, why meticulous and regular data backups are important, and why basic security protocols like the use of VPNs and solid passwords are necessary. When everyone works together towards the same security goals, you’ve immediately reduced your security threat.
Control Data Access
While weak data control is typically a feature of smaller companies, enterprise-level operations are certainly not exempt from it either. It’s frighteningly common for employees who do not need access to specific data sets to be able to easily gain that access.
Perhaps you’ve failed to remove access credentials for exiting staff. Or someone is using someone else’s old account because it’s more convenient at that moment to have them do so. Or you simply passed a corporate laptop over without resetting their data access.
Often, companies simply offer blanket login credentials to all staff, even though they don’t need access to half of what you’ve blithely just handed them to do their jobs.
Ensuring that only people who need access to sensitive data have that access is key to keeping your business accounts safe.
Passwords and Protocols
For many institutions, passwords are your frontline defense against data breaches and unsolicited access to company information. Yet poor password habits – from using common passwords to not regularly changing passwords – are common in almost every corporate entity. Strong, multi-phasic passwords are one of the simplest and most effective security tools, and its essential to ensure you have good password habits and smart protocols arround them.
Talking about security, it’s become common for businesses to expect staff members to work on their own devices. Now we have the additional issue of remote teams working from a variety of global locations. This means you are working with various unsecured devices, all using unknown connections, to access your sensitive data. It is essential that any business, no matter how large or small, closes these loopholes. Ensure that staff can only access company data over encrypted channels, so cybercriminals cannot intercept your data in traffic. Using tools like VPNs to mask IP addresses and encrypt data should be a given in any corporate environment.
When you ensure basics are in place to protect your company against cyber threats, you’re ensuring a safer workplace and a better client experience. Many companies are guilty of taking an ‘it works’ approach to how staff use their devices to access company data, placing themselves at immense risk to cybercriminals in the process. With some simple, clear security protocols in place, and a continuing focus on staff education on cyber threats, you can keep your company data private and safe – and your company focused on what it does best instead of managing the dumpster fire of a critical data breach.