Data security pitfalls: Five things you need to know

By Anthony Caruana

Protecting your business data is a key element to running your business. Not all of your data is equally important, but if a competitor had access to your price list or a stranger accessed your bank account then you might have cause for concern. So what can you do about it?

1. Passwords

It seems obvious, but a strong password is an important first line of defence in your data security. Make sure that your passwords aren't easily guessed - don't use words from the dictionary or things like pet names. Mix up the use of numbers, upper and lower case letters and symbols so that your password isn't easily predicted.

A good way to create a secure but easy-to-remember password is to use a short phrase rather than a word. For example "Rob3rt1sGre@t" is a better password than "Robert 123".

Also, don't use the same password for every service. Mix things up.

2. Two-factor authentication

Many banks and other institutions that are concerned with security now use two-factor authentication. This is where you need to provide the system with two pieces of information in order to gain access. One is a traditional password, while the other is passcode that changes to a random sequence periodically. This works by having a device that generates random passwords that are synchronised with a server.

As well as banks, both Apple and Google provide an option for using two-factor authentication to access their services. They work by sending a one-time passcode to your mobile phone by SMS that you need to enter when you log in.

If you're concerned about protecting data that is stored online, look at services that offer two-factor authentication.

3. Get smart about where you store data

When you want to keep your valuables safe at home, you typically give some thought to finding a safe place. The same should be done for your business's data.

If you plan to use online services to store your data, do some research and look into where the data is actually stored, what guarantees are given with regards to security and backups and how you can create your own backup of data stored there.

With local storage such as USB drives and network-attached storage now widely available, it can be tempting to buy the cheapest drives on the market. However, it's important to look into reliability reports - there's little point saving $20 on a hard drive if it fails after a year, taking your precious data with it.

4. Backups

There's a sound theory that states the only time people get serious about backups is after they've suffered a disaster. Securing your data means taking regular backups, storing them away from the office and regularly testing them to ensure the data they hold can be easily retrieved.

5. Limit access

As your business grows and you add more staff, it will become increasingly important to plan your systems so access to data is limited only to those who need it. This ensures only those who are properly trained and authorised personnel can access and alter data.

Do you have a data security plan? Losing data or having it fall into the wrong hands can be a business disaster - be sure to take these simple steps to avoid getting burned.


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