Steps Your Organization Can Take to Prevent Data Leakage
By Dan Matthews
Nearly 15 billion data records have been lost or stolen since 2013. That equates to more than 4,000 corporate records and client profiles vanishing every minute. These numbers should strike fear in the heart of any organization that creates and maintains employee and customer files.
Over the past several years, there have been several companies that have become the victim of data leaks, and the results have been catastrophic:
- In 2013, the search engine Yahoo had three billion email accounts hacked, leading to one of the most significant Internet breaches in history.
- During the infamous 2013 hack of retailer Target’s files, 40 million credit and debit cards were stolen when hackers compromised the point of sale (POS) system.
- A cyberattack on Uber in 2017 led to the release of at least 57 million drivers’ names and license plate numbers. Uber paid the hackers $100,000 to keep the situation hidden, which obviously failed).
Although these large numbers make it seem as if data leaks are inevitable, the risk can actually be minimized if the proper strategies are put in place. These strategies include the use of backup servers and well-documented IT protocols paired with comprehensive employee education.
The Importance of Protecting Data
With our most important information saved on vulnerable computers and servers, it is more important than ever that businesses keep their data safe and secure. When you have a data breach, you are not only losing confidential corporate documents; in many cases, you could also lose your customers’ personal information.
Catastrophic events like these hurt the very customers that made these businesses the powerhouses that they are. And the result of these hacking events is years of money wasted on fixes and rebranding to convince customers that they can trust the company again.
Even more alarming is that just about every business is vulnerable to data theft. A study by Maryville University of hacking incidents found that 24% were banks, 15% were in the healthcare and retail industries, and 12% of breaches occurred within government agencies. Such data behooves every organization to take data leakage seriously. This begins with employee education and understanding the potential holes in your company’s data security so you can plug them and stay secure.
Common Mistakes That Lead to Data Loss
Although hackers will always try to find new loopholes to exploit in hopes of stealing valuable data, data leakage often occurs due to common mistakes by employees and corporate IT departments.
One of the biggest mistakes is not taking the time to plan for backups and procedures for proper data protection. These procedures must be in writing and discussed with all employees so they are used correctly. It is imperative to document where data is stored so you know where to find it if necessary.
Another major mistake is a failure to maintain servers and backup systems. Servers should be constantly monitored. As soon as there is an indication that a server has been compromised or that data has been deleted, the server should be locked and no longer used until the issue is resolved. Granted, shutting down a server may mean that business must cease temporarily, but a tiny warning blip on a customer’s account is better than a full-scale data breach.
Often data leakage occurs because companies become complacent and assume that an emergency will never happen to them. But in truth, backup servers should always be on hand should anything go wrong with the primary server. This applies especially to because they could result in the failure to retain the data. Every company needs to have data security as its top priority with fail-safes built on top of fail-safes.
Protecting Your Data on the Cloud
As technology continues to improve, fewer companies are relying on large physical servers to store their data. Instead, they are looking to cloud-based backup methods. When companies use the cloud, they are backing up their data on offsite servers. Cloud technology is very reliable, but it also falls on the employees and IT departments to ensure that they taking the right steps to upload and secure their data properly.
As with any private information, cloud data must be secured with strong passwords of at least eight characters including letters, numbers, and special symbols. Passwords should be updated on a monthly basis, if not more frequently. Every account should have a different password, and these passwords should be stored properly within a secure password management system.
The best hackers can figure out even the most complex of passwords, so to properly secure your cloud data use two-factor authentication. In most cases, that will mean entering your password and then entering a code sent to your phone, which provides the second security wall.
Always complete data transfers over a secure Wi-Fi network. When you use a public Wi-Fi, hackers can often easily access your data. Finally, take advantage of your cloud upload settings. Many cloud servers allow users to have their data uploaded automatically at the same time each day. It’s another way to ensure that your data is always being saved.
In our increasingly expanding use of electronic data storage, a single data breach can be the death of a successful company. Data security is not just an option; it’s a necessity. Take the threat of data leaks seriously.
About the Author
Dan Matthews is a writer who specializes in well-researched, informative articles at the intersection of technology and business. He has published on sites such as Social Media Today, CloudTweaks, and Business2Community.