Individuals are taught to diligently protect their personal information–to never share passwords, to never give out credit card information over the phone, to guard their social security numbers like prized possessions. But is their personal information really secure?
Almost daily, there are news reports of Company X and Company Y suffering from data breaches, putting consumers’ personal information at risk of falling into the wrong hands. It’s scary for the consumer whose personal information is compromised; it’s scary for the business owners who are trying to instill confidence and security in their brands and companies. In this digital age where computers are used to conduct the majority of business transactions, it’s imperative that all companies develop data security plans to not only deal with breaches, but to also prevent them.
In developing a data security plan, there are 6 important considerations:
1. Safety First
Because of the climate of distrust surrounding so many companies today, consumers and clients are searching for businesses with secure websites. Consumers want to know that the safety of their personal information comes first. If your small business or larger company has a data security plan and security features in place, your clients will feel that their personal information is safe in your hands.
Become aware of the security features available for you to include on your website. Adding some essential elements of data security will help encourage trust in your site and increase web traffic as well. With these features in place, develop a data security plan to stay on top of any issues that might still arise, and let your customers know that their cyber safety is important to you by providing information on the policies that are in place.
2. Know Where Data is Stored
All businesses should be aware of where their data is stored. Smaller companies may store their data on a couple of business computers, possibly backing up information onto external hard drives or onto smaller cloud services; larger companies often network their computers and maintain large databases in house, in data storage facilities, in the cloud through cloud storage companies, or any combination of these places. If business owners maintain their own data storage locations or personal business computers, it is fairly simple to know where the data is stored. If the information is uploaded to a cloud server, it gets a little trickier to stay fully informed on the actual physical location of data. Knowing where the data is stored is vital in determining the best plan for securing it.
3. Know Who has Access to Confidential Information
How many people can access confidential information–all employees or only certain departments or department heads? For those who do have access to customer accounts, how much information is actually visible to the employee? And when someone leaves the company or is fired, are any special security measures taken to protect customer accounts?
Contemplate these questions when developing data security plans, and develop plans and policies that address providing the best customer service with the least amount of access to personal customer information. The fewer individuals with access the better!
4. Think Preventative
Data security plans should also address preventative measures such as monitoring unusual network activity and transmissions to unknown hosts, changing passwords frequently, physically securing rooms containing sensitive data, and installing–and keeping updated–anti-virus software and firewalls.
When data security plans include preventative measures, there is less chance of being blindsided by an attack.
5. Prepare for More Than Data Breaches
Not all data losses are incurred by hackers with malicious intents; therefore, data
security plans need to address more than data breaches. Other data losses occur through not backing up data consistently, blackouts at storage facilities, human error, and natural disasters. Your data security plan needs to consider the possibility that these types of losses can occur. Develop a disaster recovery plan with data backup policies to include in your security plan. When followed consistently, strong backup policies will help eliminate these unnecessary threats to secure data.
6. Test your Security
When developing data security plans, it is extremely important to set processes in place to test the security of the data levels at regular intervals. Some companies hire professional security testers or hackers to determine if their security plans are effective; some companies train their own employees in security procedures and teach them how to look internally for signs of breaches or weaknesses. Whatever the preferred method to assess security, consistency and regular testing is key.
Now that you’ve considered cyber safety measures for your websites, the location of your company’s data, the individuals who have access to that confidential information, preventative measures you can put in place, how to prepare for data losses not due to breaches, and how to test your security once it’s in place, you’re ready to draft your data security plan.