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A Data Security Cheat Sheet for Small Businesses

A Data Security Cheat Sheet for Small Businesses


What’s the best way to protect your sensitive files?

Even if your company doesn’t store the type of data you’d find in a Hollywood spy thriller, those files still have to be secured. Private information— especially the kind included in your customer accounts—is gold to hackers.
In fact, as data security increases in big enterprises, small businesses have become a more attractive target for data theft.

Having to notify your vendors and customers that their information has been breached is the last thing you want to do. Once lost, trust is difficult to regain. Recovering lost files, if they can be recovered at all, takes valuable time and resources away from handling your current workload.

The good news is that you can keep your data secure with a few preventative measures.

Start with #PassWoRds!, Antivirus Software and Updates

Some of the easiest ways to secure data are complex passwords, antivirus software and software updates.

For passwords, the more complex the better, especially if they include capital letters and symbols. Choose obscure phrases over a pet’s name, and do not use the same password over and over. Set an alert every few months to update your passwords.

For antivirus software, make sure the latest version is installed because it is not a set-it-and-forget-it program.

Be sure to download any software updates because they contain fixes to newly discovered vulnerabilities.

Backups Beef Up Your Security

One of the best methods for securing your data is often the most overlooked and underutilized one—a good backup.

There are many applications that will back up your data to another device or to the cloud. Backups act like a time machine that takes you back to a time before your laptop was stolen or your data was infected and held for ransom. Most of these applications can be configured to run automatically, which is helpful should you forget to manually back up. Doing it daily is your best defense against data loss.

The massive rise in cryptolocking viruses puts your data at increasing levels of danger. The fastest and least expensive method to recover from this threat is restoring your data from an earlier backed-up copy. Oftentimes, it’s your only option. By keeping daily backups, you are out a day’s work at worst.

Most operating systems include an option that allows you to make hidden copies of your data. Check to make sure this option is active on your machine as it provides a backup form of backup. However, these shadow copies should not be your only backup source. They can be removed from the computer without your intervention, and lost if your laptop goes missing or is stolen.

Encrypt Your Drive

Did you know that your data isn’t protected just because you use a password to log in to your computer? If anything, a log-in password at boot-up gives users a false sense of security. Your drive can be removed and plugged into another computer. Because it’s not the primary boot drive, your drive will show up as if it’s a USB drive—one that contains all your data. The contents of your entire drive can be seen and copied without ever entering a password.

Encryption protects your data by making it unreadable. If your drive has been encrypted, then that data can never be read or copied without the encryption key. Most encryption software requires you to input a password when the computer boots up initially. That’s all it takes. But if your laptop is lost or stolen, no one can access the data on it without that key. (This is also why it’s important that you keep this password in a safe place.)

Data encryption used to be expensive. Plus, encrypted machines didn’t perform as well as their nonencrypted counterparts. In the last several years, encryption software has come way down in price. Many manufacturers include this software in their machines for free, only requiring you to activate it. And the addition of solid-state hard drives has all but eliminated the performance loss many older encrypted machines encountered.

Your Grandmother Was Right

As grandmothers and those who’ve been affected by a data breach can tell you, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. There are many ways you can lose your data, and the odds of it happening at some point are high for all small businesses.

Taking a couple of additional steps to back up and encrypt your data can ensure that information is secure against any of these vulnerabilities. Backups let you restore your data if it’s lost or taken hostage. Encryption will protect it if it falls into anyone else’s hands.

Tim Blakley

Written by

Tim Blakley co-founded Invision in 2001 to provide real-world IT solutions and consulting for Kansas City area enterprises. Invision’s approach emphasizes communication between their IT experts and clients. www.invisionkc.com (913) 962-6674 // tblakley@invisionkc.com


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