A data breach—the intentional or unintentional release of sensitive or protected information without the knowledge or authorization of the system owner—can be a devastating event for companies and organizations who aren’t prepared and haven’t taken the necessary security precautions to safeguard sensitive data. According to the 2017 Ponemon Cost of Data Breach Study, the global average cost of a data breach is $3.62 million. This remarkable statistic illustrates a demand to be vigilant in case of a data leak, whether planned or accidental. This article discusses four ways your company might be losing sensitive data that business owners and management might not be aware of or perhaps aren’t adequately prepared to prevent.  It will also discuss one major solution to help you address this prevalent problem in the face of quickly evolving security threats and carelessness in business practices.

In recent years, many security events have spurred an interest in data security for business owners. There has been exponential growth in data volume that will only continue to escalate, leaving companies more vulnerable to data breaches than ever. Losing sensitive company data can lead to financial loss and damage your reputation. While in the past, the trend has been to instill minimal IT protections and leave protection up to security professionals, hoping that you don’t become a target, a better understanding of how your company might be losing sensitive data can help you become more proactive in safeguarding your sensitive data. It’s necessary that data security reaches beyond the IT department and becomes the responsibility of every member of an organization to have an understanding of the potential security issues and how they can do their part to guard against them.

Let’s look at some of the critical ways your business could be losing sensitive data, often without your knowledge:

Employee Negligence

While your employee workforce is your greatest asset, the gears and cogs that make your company profitable, employee negligence is one of the leading cause of data leaks. While, unfortunately, there are plenty of company data breaches that result from employees with malicious intent, a large portion of data leaks also occur from employee negligence. Increased mobility and accessibility play essential parts in boosting productivity; however, human error and lack of knowledge can be huge problems within an organization and major weak points in your business protocol.

Offering proper knowledge about embedded links in spam or clicking on links in open attachments, visiting restricted sites, and password policies are all great places to begin reforming your staff. Some human errors are as simple as leaving computers and devices unattended. Insider risks are an extreme danger to organizations and put critical sensitive data at risk.

BYOD Culture

With increased mobility that has been enabling employees to connect with greater flexibility than ever before, BYOD culture can be a double-edged sword if you aren’t careful. The Bring Your Own Device movement leaves companies vulnerable to data loss through incidents of employees accessing sensitive data on devices that aren’t fully controlled by an IT administrator. Without implementing proper procedures and inspections to secure a device, it can be quite common for employees to store protected data on mobile devices, tablets, and laptops. This significantly increases the likelihood of critical information landing in the wrong hands should they lose their devices or become vulnerable to attacks.

Viruses and Malware

Being more connected than ever has great advantages and makes work life more efficient and effective day to day. However, in our increasingly mobile culture, devices are at serious risk for viruses and damaging malware. Dangerous attackers can steal and damage sensitive data, putting clients’ most protected information at serious risk. Without performing regular backups, educating your employees to spot suspicious email and internet content, and implementing sound antivirus software, you are sure to have employee incidents making you vulnerable to viruses and malware. Restricting downloads and using a firewall are also great protections; however, it’s critical that you take the time to implement a complete plan of action with your IT professional to keep your business adequately protected.

Inadequate Enforcement of Data Security Protocols

While you can’t always control employee negligence, as a business owner, you can affect the enforcement of company policies and protocols around data security. With an increase in data breaches, you run the risk of jeopardizing your reputation, company revenue, and workforce productivity. Enforcement begins first with company owners and management creating comprehensive data security policies, and second, communicating them clearly to employees with strict implementation. Managing and monitoring end-user privileges is arguably the most important measure you can take toward ensuring the protection of sensitive data. When you take the time to deploy strict guidelines, knowing who, what, how, and when sensitive company and personal data is accessed, you are in a more secure positon on the outset and can actively make changes with the evolving landscape and employee turn around. As part of your safety protocol, consider enforcing policies around the use of social media and personal email on company devices, as these are particularly vulnerable points of entry for malicious hackers.

Now that we’ve considered some of the main offenders of company data loss, what can you do to combat against it?

Employee Knowledge is Your First Line of Defense

Educating your workforce is a big one! For all of the causes of lost data, a large percentage can be prevented or at the very least identified by staff members who received proper training around data security. The responsibility of taking necessary security measures should not be up to your IT management professionals alone. The more your employees know about what to look out for and how to report the instance of error, the better chance you have of avoiding breaches.

Employee training isn’t yet as prevalent as it should be in the current landscape of cyber threats. Beyond initial cybersecurity training, as an employer you should also take the following steps to protect sensitive information:

  • Create separate administrative passwords and change them frequently
  • Protect information by limiting those who have access to a need-to-use basis
  • Create guidelines that limits who receives access to sensitive information
  • Reduce that chances of unauthorized access with multifactor authentication

It’s important to make sure your employees and any other insiders are informed of company security policies. Make an effort to stress the importance of protecting sensitive data company-wide and educate employees on the consequences of not properly protecting mobile devices, storage devices, and systems. Let your employees know that while losing data and improperly storing data on devices is extremely harmful for the company as well as their career, it is much worse to fail to report an incident they might become aware of. This not only puts themselves at great risk, but implicates their colleagues, clients, and the organization as a whole.

Incorporating a learning management system (LMS) is a great way to train and reinforce vital security information to help you avoid a breach. It’s important to create courses that pertain to your company’s targeted needs and to be able to create custom updates as frequently as needed to stay on top of employee education. Making your employees accountable for security in their jobs starts with a management team that facilitates proper training and tools for success. Learning management systems are becoming a fundamental way to delivery information and stay on top of current training among an organization—especially in a climate where evolving threats can lead to such catastrophic outcomes.

With proper education and comprehensive policies in place that effectively implement protocols to safeguard your business, you drastically reduce the likelihood of losing company data without your express knowledge.

Not sure if your company is losing sensitive data? Digital Forge offers cybersecurity assessments and packages that meet the individual needs of every business, no matter your size or industry. Contact us today for more information, call us at (877) 369-1831 or email info@dfcyber.com.