Remote work is now a part and parcel of our lives. With communication and collaboration on portable devices becoming the backbone of our work lives, the potential for business data to get leaked has skyrocketed. While the Internet is rife with startling data breach statistics, the fact remains that most of the data that's exposed happened as a result of human error.
A data leak can be understood as a potential oversight that results in data exposure either through electronic or physical mediums. If your information is stored on a physical asset such as hard drives or laptops, the data leak can happen from there. If your information is stored digitally, and is shared using unsafe mediums such as public Wi-Fi or social media messages, that could lead to a data leak, as well. Categories of data leaks include customer information, company information, trade secrets, and analytics.
Here are 8 ways to protect your business from data leaks:
Limit access to your most valuable data
With most companies turning to zero trust security architectures out of necessity, it makes sense to at least limit access to your most valuable data. A recent IBM study finds that inadvertent breaches from human error and system glitches were the root cause for nearly half (49 percent) of data breaches. You should implement an architecture of information sharing wherein the only people who can access sensitive data are the ones who really need it in the performance of their duties. Make sure that critical and sensitive information is strictly shared on a need to know basis.
Evaluate the risk of third-parties
Even as you take all the necessary precautions to safeguard your company against potential data leaks, you might still be exposed to considerable risk from the potential inadequate IT security practices of your vendors and business partners.
You can float your own standards for vendor risk assessments or you can ensure third-party compliance with regulatory standards, such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, or GDPR. If your third-party cloud service network is vast, it can be a daunting task to adhere to risk management demands.
To prevent accidental loss of data, always have a policy of software-enforced encryption in place. Your business should not suffer if your employees happen to misplace a removable physical storage asset, such as a hard drive or a pen drive with sensitive information on it. Any time that sensitive data leaves the confines of your network, it should be automatically encrypted.
Third-party vendors must comply
You need to establish a clear security framework for third-party vendors. Ignorance can’t be an excuse when you face a lawsuit through no discernible fault of your organization. Additionally, you should also limit access on a need-to-know basis with vendors. Ensure that companies that you absolutely need to share information with are complying with all relevant privacy laws and data regulation. You should also insist on thorough background checks for regular third-party vendors.
Encourage the use of difficult-to-decipher passwords
Password hygiene is something that needs to be both technically enforced and culturally mandated. You need to enable security awareness training programs frequently so employees (regardless of their technical capacity) are aware of the importance of changing passwords and always keeping passwords difficult to guess or memorize.
Secure back-ups on regular basis
In case of a data breach, having a fully functional and accessible backup on hand can literally save your bacon. But always remember that backups are vulnerable to intrusions as well, and it’s always advisable to have multiple backups for this reason. Encryption of backups is necessary to safeguard your valuable data and IP. You should also make it a point to test the efficacy of your backups on a regular basis. Additionally, you should also ensure that your backup servers don’t remain visible to the public via the Internet. This discourages hackers from making an attempt at gaining access on the sly.
Conduct employee security awareness training
As always, humans remain the weakest links on the data security chain. Employees are subject to manipulation through sophisticated social engineering techniques, and they also can just be careless. For the best results, you need to make cybersecurity a part of the DNA of your organization. This involves regular security awareness training. Also, make sure that in the case of a breach, your teams are ready to respond and each team member has a designated role in ensuring business continuity.
Evaluate all permissions
As already outlined above, the best way to mitigate data loss is to pivot your organization towards a zero trust environment. This involves evaluating all your permissions to make sure that your sensitive data is not open for access to users outside of those who actually need it for work. All permissions must only be granted to authorized parties, and sensitive data that needs to be classified should be grouped into tiers to control access as per the sensitivity. Access to highly sensitive data should be limited to a handful of unquestionably trustworthy employees with the requisite security clearances.
Nora Erspamer is the Director of Digital Marketing at New Charter Technologies, a group of companies specializing in IT consulting services. She is an experienced marketer and sales strategist with a demonstrated history of working in various technology industries. Skilled in strategic campaign development, lead generation, and marketing automation software. Her blog can be found at https://newchartertech.com/blog/.