Data plays an important role in the knowledge economy. And its loss – whether due to a careless employee or a malicious cybercriminal – can be truly devastating for any organization. Equifax discovered this a few years ago. In 2017, the credit reporting agency was the victim of a massive data breach. In January 2020, the FTC confirmed that Equifax would pay out $425 million to help those affected by cybercrime.

Unfortunately, such events are becoming all too commonplace. So how can you protect your company data? Here are five effective strategies compiled by the Packetlabs’ security experts.

1. Update your cyber defences

The Equifax breach affected 140+ million customers and cost the company $1.4 billion in security upgrades because of serious internal lapses that allowed the hackers to access sensitive databases and steal massive amounts of data. Don’t make this mistake.

Protect your network and devices with solid cybersecurity programs. Implement firewalls to block malicious external programs from infiltrating your network and accessing your data. Regularly run anti-virus, anti-spam, and anti-malware programs on all devices, and keep them updated with the right patches. Finally, mandate periodic scans and pen tests to proactively look for any weaknesses before they can be found and exploited by bad actors.

2. Encrypt all sensitive data

Encryption is the practice of scrambling data so that it cannot be accessed, modified or stolen by unauthorized users, internal or external. Encrypt all private, sensitive and classified information, so even if a malicious entity can access, duplicate or steal it, they won’t be able to read it. This will minimize damage.

Make sure you encrypt:

  • All Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
  • Confidential business data and intellectual property
  • All devices, including mobile devices
  • Entire disks, not just a few files
  • Wireless networks and devices like routers

3. Implement strong passwords and safeguard them

To protect your company data, always use strong, complex passwords. Upgrade your enterprise password policy with clear instructions about how employees should create, change, and store passwords securely. The policy should also clarify what is not acceptable, such as:

  • Reusing passwords on multiple accounts
  • Saving them in browsers
  • Sharing them
  • Storing them in any unsecured program, document, spreadsheet, or text file

At Packetlabs, we take password security very seriously. That’s why we have implemented a secure password management program. This encrypted digital vault securely stores password login information and generates unique passwords. It also secures the identity and credentials of all our employees and protects our sensitive data. In addition, we implement Two-factor Authentication (2FA) on all of our devices for added data security.

4. Protect all personal devices

Many organizations allow employees to use their own devices for work. A BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy lowers operating costs and improves user engagement and morale. However, it also creates significant risks to the organization’s data since personal devices are rarely protected by strong security measures. The pen testers at Packetlabs have found that personal devices used at work are among the most common attack vectors used by bad actors to steal data.

To minimize such risks, set clear rules about the security measures all employees must implement on their devices. Secure devices with strong passwords and privacy settings, plus updated anti-malware and anti-virus software. Back up all company data on such devices. Enable remote device wiping in case a device is stolen or lost. 

5. Dispose of data properly

Clever criminals can find ways to retrieve data from devices and documents that are no longer in use. That’s why your data security program should include processes for safe data disposal.

Store all paper documents in a safe place only accessible to authorized personnel. Shred or incinerate old records instead of simply dumping them in the trash. Never throw away old devices like hard drives and portable storage media without removing their contents first. Use a tool to overwrite all data – ideally, multiple times – to ensure that your data is unrecoverable. Don’t just format hard drives or delete files because this doesn’t altogether remove all data. If possible, destroy physical hard drives. Also, delete all old files from cloud backups.

Conclusion

Data is the lifeblood of your business, and you must protect it from both internal and external threats. Implement the five strategies highlighted above to protect your company data.

Strengthen your enterprise network even further with an annual or half-yearly penetration test conducted by the experts at Packetlabs. With a pen test, you can find the vulnerabilities in your network and take proactive action to secure your data – before data thieves can get to it. For more information on our next-gen pen testing services, click here.