Avoiding Data Cybersecurity Breaches as a Company
Cybercrime is a growing threat, and it feels like each day there's news of yet another data breach. Perhaps the most famous hack so far this year was when criminals shut down the Colonial Pipeline, cutting off oil supplies around the United States' East Coast. But did you know that numerous large companies like Facebook, LinkedIn and Geico have also been hit?
Small businesses are even more vulnerable owing to their lack of preparation and infrastructure to defend against a cyberattack. In fact, a Verizon report found that 43% of cybersecurity breaches happen at small businesses.
As a result, preventing cybersecurity breaches should be a priority for any company of any size.
The cost of a company data breach
A data breach gets expensive quickly, costing American businesses an average of $200,000 per incident. First, there are the upfront costs and the hassle of settling the breach itself. Your IT specialists must work quickly to secure your systems against further data theft and then figure out what information was stolen. Next, you need to reach out to everyone who lost data and explain what they need to do to protect themselves, as well as let regulators know what happened.
Your business could also face fines and lawsuits for allowing a company data breach—not to mention lost sales down the road due to reputation damage. According to a Ping Identity survey, 36% of customers said they would stop working with a brand that exposed their private data.
Given the high real cost of a company data breach, it makes much more sense to prevent one in the first place.
How to prevent a data breach
There are several steps you can take to help secure your business and prevent a data breach.
Set up proper cybersecurity systems
At the very least, all your workplace devices should have antivirus and anti-malware software. Secure devices with multi-factor authentication as well, and consider using a virtual private network, or VPN, for more network encryption. Depending on the size of your company and budget, you could also install more advanced systems like network monitoring to detect unusual activity.
Maintain security software updates
Malware and antivirus software can prevent cybersecurity breaches, but only if you stay on top of updates to protect against the latest threats.
Restrict data to only what you need
The more data you have, the more that could leak during a breach. Ask yourself whether all the private information is essential to store, or if your business could consider deleting some. You should also reduce the number of devices storing private data to as few as possible.
Protect physical data and devices
Breaches can also happen if someone steals a laptop, computer or mobile device. Make sure everything is password protected and consider physical security measures, like locks on workplace computers. Be sure to shred paperwork with private data before disposal.
Encrypt data for transfers
Whenever employees send confidential data to each other, make sure they encrypt the information so it's harder to steal. They should also avoid sending data using public Wi-Fi and only use your secured network.
Limit computer and data access
Don't let third-party vendors access systems with private data unless it's essential. The same applies to employees. Limit data access wherever possible.
Hire a security consultant
For more support, consider hiring a cybersecurity consultant for advice on how to prevent a breach, especially if you don't have your own in-house IT team.
The importance of employee cybersecurity training
Your employees play a crucial role in protecting your company against attacks. Let them know about the seriousness of the threat of data breaches, and teach them cybersecurity best practices like:
- Why they must avoid sharing passwords and private data
- How to spot phishing emails searching for this data
- How to design strong passwords
- The need to avoid suspicious websites, especially using company devices
- Why they shouldn't download attachments unless they're from a trusted source
Hold training sessions regularly, at least once a year, so the message sticks. All it takes is one mistake to cause serious problems.
Last, consider how you and your staff would react in the event of a breach. How would you identify the problem? What steps would you take to keep the problem from getting worse? Who would oversee contacting the damaged parties?
Think through this process and protect your company now, so you don't have a costly headache later.
Financial insights for your business
This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal or tax advice. First Citizens Bank (or its affiliates) neither endorses nor guarantees this information, and encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.