It goes without saying that keeping data secure is one of the major concerns for any business. Information is power. Hackers looking to steal financial information, unscrupulous competitors wanting to steal corporate secrets, or even state-sponsored cyber espionage are all threats that businesses face every day. The human behind the keyboard has been and will always be the weakest link. It’s a fact of modern life that hits on two main fronts.
First, it’s almost impossible to keep our professional and personal lives totally separate, electronically speaking. Both aspects of our lives are often entertained in all the devices we use every day. Even when companies issue cellphones, tablets, and laptops, many users will occasionally use them for personal reasons. It could be checking a personal email account or even a little bit of online window shopping. Most employees will keep these activities limited and exercise caution, but some will actively engage in risky online behavior that could leave a company’s data vulnerable.
The second is good, old-fashioned human error. No one is immune to this, not even the most careful and observant power user. Every day, our inboxes get filled with all sorts of phishing scams or emails loaded with links that would ruin a computer with malware and viruses if clicked on. It isn’t even a sophisticated bit of hacking to spoof an email and make it look like it was sent from someone on the email client’s contact list. All it takes is a momentary lapse in vigilance for a data breach to occur.
Until about a year ago, when it shut down, Wuala was one of the main providers of secure cloud storage for business. One of the things that made it so popular was that it offered client-side encryption, which provided a high degree of security. The end result was that only users themselves could access it. Of course, if anyone ever forgot their credentials, that data was lost for good. Wuala was also user friendly and had a way to share files with unregistered users via a keyed hyperlink. It backed up files and had its own versioning system. Any other service that can do this will make an excellent alternative to Wuala.
There are some steps companies can take to better secure their data in the meantime.
Hire the Right IT People
This is one area that can be costly for a company to skimp on. A business’s IT department, particularly its security experts, are the front line soldiers for defending against cyber threats like data theft. Impressive degrees are almost meaningless in this field. If you are able to hire IT staff, look at what candidates can actually do—education should be second. Some of the best computer security professionals are white hat hackers who are completely self-taught from years spent binge watching YouTube videos and trying what they saw. If you don’t have the resources to hire IT staff, consider outsourcing.
Password Basics and Two-Step Authentication
Passwords are, in truth, some of the weakest security measures out there. They are also the most-used method. That said, there are some basic steps that can help you keep data protected by password more secure. Make strong passwords at least eight characters long, using a capital letter, a number and a symbol. Most websites require stronger passwords these days, but do this even if it isn’t a requirement. Also, never use the same password twice, even if it’s a junk or throw-away account.
Two-step authentication should also be used for signing into any account. How it works is a password has to first be entered, then the user receives a text message that he or she has to enter on a site as a way to confirm that the user is legitimate.
The more people with access to data, the more vulnerable it is. Period. So keep access to sensitive data on a strictly need-to-know basis. Not every employee has to know everything. This isn’t so much a matter of trust as it is limiting the number of potential targets. If hackers want data, they will target everyone they think is a user of the server or data access point they want to hit. You can protect yourself by taking sensible measures that don’t over-restrict access or shut out employees that need to be kept in the loop.
Many popular online cloud services, such as Dropbox, are fine and secure enough for backing up family photos, but when you need to store files that affect people’s jobs, as well as the viability of a business, a truly secure platform is essential. Maintaining security is also harder than ever. Every expert out there has solid advice to keep data safe and ways to protect files; however, that’s often more easily said than done—make sure you do your homework and take every precaution to secure your files.