How to Protect Data: 5 Tips for Small Businesses

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The digital world today is filled with vulnerabilities and a lot of them are getting fixed. But at the same time, new ones are being created. By learning how to protect data, you are making sure that your place in the digital world isn’t at risk. But can you fully negate that risk?

No, you probably know that you can’t. No matter how secure the software you’re using, there’s still a chance for a hacker to find a vulnerability. Even huge companies like Facebook and Google have suffered data breaches.

Figure 1: The number of data breaches keeps growing over the years.

Small business data might be the most affected by this because small businesses sometimes don’t invest in backing up their data. But for some of them, loss of data might mean they’re going out of business.

How to Protect Your Small Business Data?
There are many security measures to protect data. Most of them are easy to implement, but still, have a high influence on your security.
Before you learn how to protect data, you need to learn the most powerful way to protect yourself.

The most powerful way to protect yourself is to use a different hard-to-hack password anywhere you log in. This can easily be accomplished by using LastPass or a similar tool to generate a long password every time you register somewhere.

1. Use Secure Web Hosting

Website hosting might seem like no big deal at certain times, but it sure does play a huge role in security. Reliable website hosting providers often add additional security features for free. These security features include email anti-spam tools, anti-theft tools, virus scanning tools and more.
More often than not, the best hosting providers come out cheaper than most others. Even if you don’t see it in the price, the added security is priceless.

If you have the money, it’s best to get managed web or managed WordPress hosting (if your site is running on WordPress), these offer even more security, as they’re not managed by you, but by an expert technician. You also get excellent tech support.

2. Secure Your Emails

Your emails most likely play a vital part in your business. This is why you should at least use email encryption to make sure they are only read by the intended recipient.

In the worst-case scenario, an email hacker can access your account, use it to spy on people you’re messaging with and sometimes even use it to plant malware into a computer and then hack that computer.

These services can also include continuous spam and threat scanning, which will definitely secure your small business data. You can use an open-source email service like Tutanota. It encrypts and protects your emails from spam attacks, and it comes completely free.

3. Update Everything

Your main backdoor is the system you use on a daily basis. That’s most likely to be Android, iOS, and Windows. A lot of people tend to disable updates on their OS as to not get bugged by it every day. But that creates security vulnerabilities.

You might want to hire a professional IT manager to take care of the technology that is used inside the business.

This to be the most important part of learning how to protect data. It’s usually very easy to do with the click of a button. If your website is built on a platform like WordPress, make sure to also update WordPress itself, theme and all the plugins. They could all be creating vulnerabilities in your website.

Figure 2: Percentage of vulnerabilities created by WordPress, Themes, and Plugins

A good rule of thumbs would be to regularly check or scan your website for vulnerabilities. There are both commercial and open-source scanners available to choose from. While commercial scanners have a broader range, open-source ones are free and moderated by the community itself. There are several of these you could use like Arachni, Wapiti, and Nikto.

4. Back-Up Your Data

This might seem obvious, but many businesses forget to do this. This is the only 100% sure way to secure your data. It is recommended to back up your data to a remote location. Cloud storage such as Google Drive and One Drive will work, but if you have a lot of data and want to back it all up, there are companies that specialize in this.

There are quite a few open-source solutions you can use. Some of them, like CloudBerry Backup, backups your data to the cloud, and others, like Syncthing and luckyBackup, help you make and secure local backups.

Small business data might be important to you, so you should back up your data in multiple ways. Backing up to the cloud and locally to an external hard drive or NAS (Network Attached Storage).
Be careful though, if a computer in your network is hacked, the hacker might have access to the NAS and even the external hard drive, if it’s connected to a computer. It’s best to keep the external hard drives disconnected from the computers or the network and only connect them when you want to back up your data.

5. Create Security Guidelines and Stick to Them

The last step in learning how to protect data is to create security guidelines and stick to them. It’s a fact that no matter how good your password or defenses are, inserting that password in the wrong place could still give the hacker access to a lot of stuff.

Educate your team or employees to use a different password everywhere, especially for work. It’s especially important to teach them about the social engineering tactics that hackers use to persuade people to tell them their password.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if some team members or employees didn’t want to stick to these rules because it adds up to the work, but it’s important to check up on them and make sure they do stick to them.

Here are rules I’d set in my work environment to make sure we don’t lose any vital data:

  1. Use strong passwords – Use LastPass or a similar tool to generate long secure passwords
  2. Don’t use the work email and password at other places
  3. Change the password at least once per month
  4. Don’t tell the password to anyone, even work employees or higher management

It’s especially easy to implement this in data protection for small businesses because they don’t have a lot of employees or team members so they’re easily manageable.

How to Protect Data: Pay Attention and Seek Professional Help

It might seem unproductive to dedicate so much attention to improving security because the chances of you being targeted by hackers are small. But the thing is, you and your team are using services that are targeted every day, services like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and more.

If someone hacks your social account and you have the same or similar password on your work emails, they can easily use that to steal your work data. So, there are risks everywhere and you should take care of both your work and social passwords.

Even though your team or employees might at first be intimidated by these security measures, they’ll soon fall in line and some will even begin to do this for their personal accounts.

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