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How to secure confidential information in your business

Portia Linao
March 18, 2022, Post a comment

The business world today is a tough one. You not only fight against competitors for sales, but you also go against cybercriminals to secure the confidential information in your business.

Your data is a business asset. Since it is a critical component in business success and continuity, it is only fair to protect it from exploitation.

Data can range from customer and employee data to sales and marketing strategies. You need to manage and protect it appropriately to reduce the risk of a security breach that will lead to complications such as lawsuits, reputation damage, and profit loss.

Cyber security is a critical business component, typically if you’re relying on technology to operate smoothly. The more you prioritise security, the more you’re keeping your confidential business information secured from cyber disasters. Luckily, there are ways to do that.

Below, we will share the ten best ways to secure confidential information in your business.

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1. Do a data inventory

Creating a comprehensive inventory of the data assets in your business will help you know:

  • where your data is coming from
  • the type of data you collect
  • where it is stored
  • the people who have access to it
  • how your staff uses it
  • which data to prioritise

Performing data inventory (or data mapping) goes all-around your business. Consider all departments that contain and work with data. This process will give you insights into the status of your overall data and help you decide on the best options for protecting it.

Keep in mind that every business process is unique. So your data inventory approach may differ from the standard guideline. Start taking notes of what you want to achieve in your data inventory, then start building from there.

If this process is too much work, you can always reach out to a managed IT service provider known for conducting data inventories. This way, you'll see where your data stands in terms of organisation, usage, and security.

2. Only keep what you need

As much as you would like to store all the data that comes into your business forever, it’s just not technologically possible for a couple of reasons.

First, it will become a liability in your data storage. The bigger the data you store, the higher your data storage costs and the harder it is to manage. The key to making the most out of our data storage is to keep the essential ones. Then digitally shred the ones you don’t.

Second, you’ll end up violating data privacy laws by holding on to it longer than necessary. The key is always to consider compliance policies when retaining customer data. Take note of the required minimum retention periods and other requirements first.

3. Only use private networks

Ever since there was a sudden increase in remote work setups, cyber-attacks increased along with it. Businesses had little to no control over the networks their employees are connected to since they could either be working on their home network or in a coffee shop. This situation is dangerous to your security since bad actors connected to the same network can monitor your online activity.

You can eliminate this risk by implementing VPNs that will undoubtedly hide your identity and encrypt your connection from the shared network. If a VPN is not available, you can opt for a password-protected personal hotspot instead to reduce the risk of hackers looking into your activity, especially if you’re working on a confidential file.

4. Conduct security awareness training for your employees

Your employees are usually the weakest link to securing confidential information in your business. According to IBM, 95% of cyber security breaches are from human error. One of the best ways to prevent being a part of that statistic is to conduct bi-yearly security awareness training for your employees so they’re aware of what to do and what to look out for.

5. Implement control access

A business that limits access to its confidential information has higher chances of reducing its risk of a data breach than those that don’t. To maintain the security and confidentiality of your business data, only share them with employees on a “need to know” basis. This access control protocol applies to hard and soft copies of documents. Keep hard copies in a locked safe and put password protection on soft copies. File encryption can also be an option if you store files on a removable hard drive.

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6. Encrypt stored data

Encryption is your best friend when it comes to maintaining information confidentiality. It works by adding another layer of security to a file to protect it from unauthorised access. Businesses that encrypt sensitive files before sending them have one less cyber security problem to worry about.

But don’t just stop there.

You should also encrypt files, especially restricted ones, even if they’re only sitting in your storage network. Implement this policy with your staff and ensure they’re comfortable with this process.

7. Encrypt files before sending them

File encryption is your best friend when sending confidential files online. This trick helps keep your files secure, especially if an unauthorised entity intercepts your email. You should also only use trusted service providers when sharing your emails but ensure to encrypt them beforehand.

It’s the same thing when dealing with physical confidential files. Only use courier services you trust. Better yet, get someone from your organisation to deliver it themselves to ensure its safety.

8. Shred outdated data

Paperwork still plays a crucial role in a business's day-to-day operations in the digital era. Usually, when businesses need to dispose hard copies of their confidential data, they run it through the shredder or chuck it in a classified trash bin. But deleting digital copies for good is a lot more complicated than that.

We recently did an article about whether your files are gone for good after you delete them from the Recycle Bin here. And the short answer is no.

Your files are not gone after permanently deleting them from the Recycle Bin. A copy of it is still on your hard drive and still very much accessible by someone with high-level tech skills. One way to prevent that from happening is to digitally shred your files or use a third-party application that will overwrite your hard drive with random data to replace the old files stored there.

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9. Implement a cyber security policy

A business without a cyber security policy is one step away from a digital disaster. When you’re handling sensitive data such as customer information and inventory records, you should have a clear guideline about how to handle them and keep them secure. A cyber security policy plays an integral role now more than ever since more employees prefer to work remotely now than in the office. If implemented successfully, your team will be more efficient in keeping confidential information secure wherever.

Your cyber security policy should coincide with how your business operates. Be specific about the security measures in your policy. For instance, only using strong (unique, long, and complex) passwords for corporate accounts and enabling two-factor authentication.

Refer to this cyber security policy template to learn more about what you should and shouldn't include in your policy.

10. Be religious with your backup

Backing up your data will protect your business if you fall victim to a cyberattack like ransomware. When you no longer have access to your data, your business comes at a standstill. This problem can result to profit loss, reputation damage, and even business closure. To prevent that, always keep physical and cloud backups of your data that you can access anytime in case of emergency. But to fully appreciate this solution, you must keep your backups up to date.

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