Online threats to data wreak havoc both personally and professionally. Small businesses mistakenly believe that don’t have anything worth stealing and are therefore not vulnerable to attack. Protection against identity or intellectual property theft takes more than security software. And, all devices need protection. System vulnerability quickly becomes a financial issue when financial records are part of the breach.
Individuals and companies should take the following basic steps to help protect data:
- Use encryption software to protect sensitive data
Tax returns and other sensitive financial data get an extra layer of protection from encryption software. Passwords protect and safeguard individual documents.
- Create strong passwords
Strong passwords have 10 or more digits that include letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t use the same password for all accounts, especially financial accounts. It’s also a good idea to schedule dates to change passwords every few months.
- Avoid phishing emails
Cyber criminals often have realistic disguises as banks, credit card companies, or the IRS. Never reply to emails, texts or pop-up messages asking for your personal, tax or financial information. Reputable companies will not request sensitive data over unsecured channels.
- Back up data
Make sure that data has back up either via protected cloud storage or a separate disk. If your data gets stolen or you suffer a disk failure, recovery is easier with back up.
- Protect your wireless network
If you use a residential wireless network connection, make sure you have a strong password protection for it. And, if you use public Wi-Fi, never share sensitive data. Public Wi-Fi hotspots that don’t require a password are probably not secure.
Small Business Data Security
Criminals prey on small businesses (annual revenues less than $100 million) because they are easy targets for customer contact information, credit card data, and intellectual property.
Small and medium businesses are often victims of an automated attack on many businesses at once with viruses or ransomware. And if one small or medium business is interconnected with other businesses, it makes the target larger and more attractive for the criminal.
Every company needs at least a basic data security plan that includes a security policy, data protection and a plan of what to do in case of a breach. Security policies contain information about data storage: who has access to what data, audit trails for date and type of data accessed, when to delete old data or data that is no longer needed.
Ways to Make Business Data Less Vulnerable
- Move/outsource data to the cloud
- Use different hard drives or operating systems for various departments
- Make it a priority to train staff and have a qualified IT resource
- Keep data security updated
- Ensure that business mobile devices have the same protection as company systems
Your Salmon Sims Thomas advisor is a resource for information about cloud storage for financial information and ways to safeguard sensitive data assets.