In today’s age, a data breach has emerged as one of the most prominent loopholes for businesses worldwide.
According to Clark School Study at the University of Maryland, the frequency with which hackers attack computers with internet access is calculated to be 39 seconds on an average.
These breaches don’t apply to big organizations alone.
Studies show that 43% of data breaches involve small and medium-sized businesses.
Since hackers frequently target small businesses to steal sensitive information, startups need to take extra measures. After all, their reputation is yet to be established.
A bad word in the market can spoil your startup dreams before they take off. This makes the data protection policy a must-have for emerging startups in 2022.
6 Ways to Protect Your Business and Clients as a Startup in 2022
Data protection refers to the strategic mechanisms designed to protect the data of an organization and its clients from theft, loss, compromise, and corruption.
You can protect your company and clients against phishing scams and identity theft. This would save you legal trouble while protecting and maintaining your business in the most effective way possible. In addition, risk management workshops may help tackle large-scale catastrophes.
Thus, you’ll gain a lot in terms of excellent reputation, data security, avoidance of operational downtime, and a clean track record. Strategic planning for startups is considered incomplete without considering data protection policies.
Let’s look at some strategies you should consider as an employer if you’re looking for ways to protect data in your startup.
Perils of social media
Perils of the most unexpected kind often accompany the perks of social media.
Sure, social media has grown immensely. But, unfortunately, so have the data security threats.
Often, hackers latch on to tit bits of information placed in social media posts and piece them all together to complete the whole picture.
Be careful regarding what you share and how much you share on popular social media platforms.
Although Facebook boasts a staggering 1.86 billion active monthly users, it faces intense scrutiny because of various security threats and data breaches.
Social media is rife with fake profiles that gather your information to use them against you.
Worse, they may impersonate your business and trick people into believing they are authentic. This way, hackers can seamlessly target your company’s unsuspecting employees and customers to get their credentials.
Examine the following points before letting your business engage in social media interactions:
- Critical examination of your followers
- Curating your followers at regular intervals
- Create different passwords for different social media accounts
- Train your employees to identify data security threats
- Conduct periodic audits to assess the situation and reevaluate efforts
Custom software for better protection
Most companies rely on consumer off-the-shelf software (COTS) since they’re considered trustworthy, secure programs capable of warding off malicious attacks.
However, even the most “secure” software has its share of fault lines. Expert hackers can exploit this to gain access to a large chunk of data of those businesses using this software.
A widely used software solution is believed to become a delicious target for hackers.
Try to invest in custom software for your organization. This may not offer a more robust mechanism than the COTS ones, but it will shield the system from the ever-watchful eyes of hackers.
Why will these bad guys try to hack your data when they can access data of several companies using COTS software with the same time and effort?
Employee access & training
Data leakage often originates from within the company. Each employee with data access adds a layer of data threat.
For example, if more than 100 people log into a system, your system will be exposed to 100 vulnerabilities.
Even if one person commits a mistake, it could severely cascade the whole system. Therefore, it would be prudent to limit data access to your employees.
When a limited number of people have accessibility, the chances of a data breach falls.
Assign roles to each employee so that each role will enable a different level of data access for the company’s internal operations.
Studies indicate that 88% of data breaches result from human error. Most phishing attacks target untrained employees who don’t think twice before opening malware-ridden links and files.
If the current policies and protocols recognize cybersecurity-related mistakes and help employees deal with them, most data breaches could be avoided.
We all know data practices and regulations are constantly evolving. For example, in the US, the leading set of rules and regulations, CPRA (California Privacy Rights Act) of 2020, strengthens the privacy rights of all Californians, and the changes are naturally extended to all consumers and businesses who want to create comprehensive data policies which adhere to all their state laws and regulations.
However, mere policies won’t be enough. Employees may find a way to avoid security guidelines in favor of more convenient options. The policies need to be backed up by robust employee security awareness training.
All you have to do is develop a plan to train employees on best data protection practices.
Besides highlighting the best practices, such training helps your staff understand the stakes. They now realize how slight negligence on their part can spiral into big security incidents.
Segmentation of business network
Data segmentation is often considered one of the most formidable strategies for protecting internal data.
Such practices are prevalent across many industries dealing with sensitive information.
Here, data is saved and stored in segments. Furthermore, each segment is subjected to stringent security parameters and authentication measures.
This ensures that even if one segment is cracked down, the system doesn’t collapse since each segment is walled off from other segments.
Imagine your network isn’t equipped with the data segmentation process. Now, if a hacker manages to evade your network’s traditional firewall, the bad guy will have access to everything instead of just a small portion of segmented data.
Data compartmentalization becomes crucial in the case of remote working facilities.
Data leakage happens since employees use company servers from their phones or laptops.
Some of the benefits of data segmentation are listed hereunder:
- Separates the most sensitive data from the rest
- Minimizes data loss as the networks are separated into segments
- Protects from both internal and external attacks
- Ensures you’re able to buy more time if hackers attempt to steal data
Prevent financial frauds
The golden rule is, “If you don’t need it, don’t collect it.” This is especially relevant for your customer’s private data.
Collect only the must-have information. The secondary information ought to be trashed once it’s no longer needed.
Companies that unnecessarily store information end up giving hackers more data to access and misuse.
More data entails greater vulnerability and, thus, more security checks.
Companies dealing with their customer’s financial information should be doubly careful. As customers struggle to find out how to avoid loan fraud and other financial threats, your proactiveness in discarding customer information can make a lot of difference.
Do not have the data on the server altogether. Then, even if there is a security breach and you’re confronted with the worst-case scenario, the damage can be minimized to a large extent.
If companies expose sensitive, customer-related information without considering data security, questions will arise.
Data backup comes in handy.
If you perceive data as a valuable corporate asset, you’ll try your best to protect it from all sorts of adversities, be it ransomware, viruses, user error, flood, or fire.
Data protection doesn’t work without a reliable data recovery mechanism.
A study by Small Business Trends shows that 58% of businesses operate without a backup plan for data loss.
In the event of lost data, especially about customer information, your brand reputation would take a beating.
Set up proactive data backup processes to add an extra security layer to your business. Moreover, it will be easier to tackle unforeseen circumstances while keeping your brand value and productivity intact.
Keep an eye on the much-recommended 3-2-1 rule for maintaining backups. It essentially means keeping three copies of data in two different mediums and storing one copy offsite.
Even if you use cloud storage, it is advisable to maintain physical backups.
Besides the traditional backup practices, consider a holistic data protection approach that will include mobile devices, SaaS applications, and many more.
Consult with experienced cybersecurity experts and come up with automated remote backup services.
To establish a relationship of trust and transparency with your client, you must learn to respect their data’s privacy and security.
If data protection is not taken seriously, you may expose your organization and customers to tremendous risks.
Customers want to place their data in safe hands.
No wonder if two companies offer the same quality of services within competitive budgets, customers are most likely to opt for the one with a better data security reputation.
The strategies mentioned here can prevent data breaches to a great extent, thereby making your startup stand out among its competitors.
Ensure you cover up the security fault lines as much as possible and witness how your startup grows by leaps and bounds.
Atreyee Chowdhury works full-time as a Content Manager with a Fortune 1 retail giant. She is passionate about writing and helped many small and medium-scale businesses achieve their content marketing goals with her carefully crafted and compelling content. In addition, she loves to read, travel, and experiment with different cuisines in her free time. You can follow her on LinkedIn.