Best Practices to Avoid Online Data Breaches

data-breachIT and cyber security are growing fields for one main reason: the prevalence of data breaches. Even large companies aren’t immune – you need only look at mega-corporations like Sony and Target, health insurance providers like Anthem Blue Cross, and even the U.S. government to see that data security is a universal issue. For small businesses the problem is even worse. Although larger, more prestigious companies are more likely to have a target on their back for data breaches, malicious mischief, and identity theft, smaller businesses definitely make for easier pickings because they don’t have the same level of security that larger corporations can afford. In addition, many small businesses are woefully uninformed about how to protect their online interests. Fortunately, there is no shortage of resources available to help business owners learn about cyber security and find the best means of securing their online operations. Considering a data breach could result in any number of undesirable outcomes, including theft of sensitive employee or client data, destruction or corruption of data, government penalties, and ultimately, loss of reputation and clientele, you want to do all you can to protect your company from outside attacks. Here are some of the best practices to enact if you want to avoid online data breaches.

Properly Destroy Hard Copies

When it comes to protecting your company in the online arena, your first thoughts may not be of the data on paper copies floating around your office. However, it’s not uncommon for industrious thieves to go dumpster diving in search of that very information. After all, your paper waste can be a lot easier to access than a well-protected network. Even if you shred your documents in-office, thieves could still grab the leftovers and piece them back together. Your best bet here is to hire a mobile shredding service that offers locking bins for your office, on-site shredding while you watch, and removal and recycling of paper waste. This will provide you with the most secure means of hard copy destruction.

Web Application Firewall

Just like you have a firewall and antivirus/anti-spyware programs in place to protect your internal network, you need to take steps to protect your website as well. This is most easily accomplished by starting with a web application firewall designed to identify and block attacks on your website. There are several ways to implement this system, such as through dedicated hardware, server plugins, and so on. But these days many businesses are electing to use a cloud hosted service for the task in order to save time, money, and space.

Password Protection

Whether you’re creating a system of passwords for consumers to use when accessing your website and their online accounts or you’re working to protect your internal network and database, unique username and password combinations are a great way to prevent data breaches. Of course, you need to make sure that you exercise due diligence when it comes to creating the most effective system. For example, passwords need to be strong enough to withstand attack, and they may need to be changed frequently. In addition, you need to institute rules for employees concerning penalties for sharing passwords, as well as guidelines for customers about not using the same username and passwords that they’ve used for other websites.

Employee Training

Believe it or not, some of the biggest threats to your organization could come from within if you fail to train employees to behave appropriately when operating online. Training courses should include standard policies related to avoiding dangerous websites and suspicious emails and links, as well as sharing private information like passwords. However, you might want to take additional precautions, like utilizing web-filtering software to limit access to websites that are known threats.

Monitoring and Maintenance

These two activities are becoming more and more important. Not only do businesses need to make sure that hardware and software are updated regularly to feature the latest security measures, but they should also track usage, down time, and other aspects of online operations in order to spot potential threats and stop them before they result in disaster. While a dedicated IT staff can manage such tasks, small businesses might be more inclined to hire third-party service providers. This can actually cut costs and increase productivity because of the expertise and cutting-edge equipment and programs these vendors can provide.