Stepping into a virtual world lulls us all into a false sense of security.
We check email using public WiFi connections. We review our finances while waiting in line for a coffee. We rely on smartphones and portable devices to conduct nearly every activity without ever really considering the security implications of our actions.
Yet these same behaviors help cyber-criminals steal hundreds-of-millions of data records every year. As an IT consultant, we feel obliged to tell you: you need to get better at protecting your financial and customer records. Because if you don’t, you could suffer unprecedented financial and reputational damage.
Fortunately, there are ten simple actions you can take today to ensure both your company and customer data remain secure — let’s look at what they are.
1. Secure All Your Devices
Every device is a point of weakness for sensitive data. Meaning you need to be careful with where you leave your phones, laptops, and tablets as well as always securing them with a password. It can be tedious to enter the same few digits every time you want to use your phone.
But a small inconvenience today could be the difference between a minor annoyance and a major security risk if you lose a device tomorrow.
2. Use Unique Passwords
Passwords are your first line of defense against data theft. But if you (or your employees) use the same password on more than one service, a single hack can compromise your entire network.
As a result, everyone in your organization must not only use strong passwords. They must make them unique, then save them in a secure location, like a password manager. Because cybercriminals are smart: they only need one weakness to be able to steal every piece of data you have.
3. Install Antivirus Software
While passwords give you frontline defense, cyber security services, including antivirus software, work in the background to eliminate invisible threats. And as an organization gets bigger, so does the risk of a breach as any employee can unwittingly click a link and download malware.
But provided you’ve installed the right antivirus software, you can rest a little easier knowing your systems are protected from most malicious activity.
4. Implement Data Backup Services
Data backup services ensure that even if you suffer a malware attack, you can always recover your data and keep your business running. You can use hardware (hard drives, secondary servers) or software (cloud-based services) as your backup. In truth, the data backup solution you choose is less important.
The critical aspect is having something to fall back on should a disaster strike.
5. Update Privacy Settings
Privacy settings exist for a reason: to let users establish a layer of security befitting of the context. Whether you’re using an app or a VPN, check the kind of information the service shares, then adjust the settings to suit your needs.
If you’re ever unsure what level of sharing is appropriate, we always suggest keeping your data as private as possible.
6. Limit Bluetooth Visibility
Bluetooth technology is an incredibly convenient way to transfer information or hold a hands-free call. However, it’s also a significant source of vulnerability for any device because Bluetooth can open the door to any number of weaknesses, which cyber-criminals know all too well.
So… what should you do? The answer is easy.
Just remember to switch off Bluetooth whenever you’re not using it. And by off, we really mean ‘off’ — as malware can change Bluetooth from ‘invisible’ or ‘undetectable’ to a gateway into your device.
7. Keep Your Systems Up-to-date
There really is a reason Microsoft, Apple, and Google release updates so often (and it’s not to annoy you). It’s because new threats emerge every day. And service providers need to protect users against them.
What does that mean for you? The biggest threat to your data could be simply ignoring an update. Because doing so could leave you with an outdated operating system that criminals can hack, so please: never hit ‘ignore’ — install updates as often as asked (and check for new updates now!).
8. Avoid Public WiFi Connections
Public WiFi seems to be the ultimate convenience. But, in truth, it’s more of a poisoned chalice. These connections are mostly unsecured and unencrypted, gifting hackers a way into your IT network. Cyber security services can stop someone from monitoring your browsing on public WiFi by channeling your activity through a virtual private network.
However, the best advice is to avoid connecting to these services altogether.
9. Delete Redundant Accounts
We all have online accounts we no longer use. They harbor information like usernames, emails, and phone numbers: the details we’d rather keep private (and that a cyber-criminal would just love to get their hands on). It’s unlikely you’ll hear of a hack on a service you don’t use (at least, not until it’s too late).
So — find redundant accounts and delete them. That way, you remove the risk of said service ever exposing your data.
10. ‘Anti-theft’ Your Devices
Let’s end where we started: the risks of a lost device.
Should this nightmare ever come to pass, be prepared by installing software that allows you to perform a factory reset remotely. The function erases data like contact lists, messages, call history, and bookmarks. And it’s the most effective way to stop confidential data from entering the public domain via a misplaced smartphone.
How To Keep Your Data 100% Secure
We’ll let you in on a secret: there is no failsafe way to keep data 100% secure.
Even as businesses spend upwards of 90% of their security budget on firewall technology, bad actors are still finding ways around such safeguards. That said, there is plenty you can do to keep your data as secure as possible. It starts with educating your people about the latest cyber security risks; then extends to using the right techniques, all backed up by software.
Get this part right: and your data should stay in the right hands.
If you’d like specialist support on how to keep your data secure, feel free to reach out to a Mid-coast Tech IT consultant at 207-223-7594 — we’d be delighted to share some free, no-obligation advice.