Top 10 data security tips for small business

Every year for USA TODAY, I write an annual top trends in business column to start the year. For the past few years, there has been one issue that has made my Top 5 consistently, and it wasn’t mobile, social media, or technology.

It was data security.

data security

Yes, the issue is that big and the stakes are that high. According to Security Magazine, “It is estimated that 60 percent of hacked SMBs go out of business only after six months.”

There are two things to keep in mind as you noodlle on that last statistic: 1) not all security breaches are necessarily cyber-related, and 2) whatever the case, there is a lot you can do to protect your small business from a security breach. Most often, data breaches stem from the following causes:

  • Hacking/malware
  • Credit/debit card fraud
  • Bad employees
  • Lost paper documents
  • Lost mobile devices, or
  • Accidental disclosure by someone within the company.

Being aware of these top common causes can help you prevent problems. Here, then, are the top 10 ways you can protect your business from a security breach:

1. Background check all new employees. It is important not only to get at least two references from previous employers, and to call both references, but it is also advised that you do a background criminal record check on all employees.

2. Physically protect papers and laptops. Safeguard important physical documents. Remember that bad employees are one of the top causes of security breaches. Similarly, make sure all company-issued laptops and tablets are password protected and are kept in a safe place when not in use.

3. Shred old documents. Along the same lines, keep in mind that discarded or stolen papers are one of the top causes of security breaches. Improperly disposed-of physical documents can be a prime source for Identity theft and credit card fraud.

4. Use a secure wireless connection. On the wreless front, be sure to password-protect your wireless network; you are an easy target without this simple level of security.

5. Update your software. This is an easy way to stay protected. A lot of small businesses neglect their software updates, which make them vulnerable to some of the most severe security attacks, like ransomware. Anti-virus software is a must, and also, check out Windows 10, which has tons of security protocols built in.

6. Download from reliable sources. One of the bad guys’ top tricks is to make you download infected software from their scam sites. Be super careful about where you download from.

7. Use strong passwords and/or change passwords regularly. You know this, but do you do it? Changing passwords may be annoying, but it truly is one of the best things you can do to protect your business.

8. Use a secure connection for receiving/transmitting sensitive financial data. Your e-commerce and other vital financial transactions should be done over sites that use either SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security.)

9. Institute a privacy policy. Make sure that everybody in the company understands the importance of strong security and what your specific protocols are.

10. Back-up. Should the worst occur, you will be very happy if you have a current remote backup of your system and data.

Though the risk of a security breach is quite real, there is a lot you can do in terms of prevention. Remember that preventing a security problem is a whole lot cheaper than actually fixing one.

There is one other important thing you can do to protect yourself in case of a data breach, and that is to get the right insurance. For example, our friends here at Allstate have a great cybersecurity product called CyberOne.

CyberOne helps protect businesses against damage to electronic data and computer systems from a virus or other computer attack. This coverage also helps protects against third-party liabilities as a result of a system security failure. Not only that, but CyberOne protection helps pay for costs associated with data restoration and re-creation, system restoration, public relations and business interruptions.  It’s the kind of protection a savvy small business gets. To learn more, you can contact an Allstate agent.

The bottom line is that data security needs to be at the top of your list and be given the attention it merits. By taking the right precautions, and getting coverage like CyberOne, you greatly reduce the risk of catastrophic business interruption due to a security breach.

This article originally appeared on Small Business Connection.

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