How to Prevent Data Breaches in the Workplace

As the owner or manager of an organization, it’s your responsibility to protect your customers and the data that they give you.

Clients typically always assume that you can be trusted, but if you experience a data breach, then not only could you break that trust but your business could also end up in hot water.

If you aren’t actively working to prevent data breaches and cybercrime, you are putting your company at risk. A breach can happen at any time, and the incident can sometimes be the result of a negligent employee.

As such, you need to take appropriate steps to protect your organization from a potential data breach. Let’s look at how you can do that.

Involve the IT team

Your company must the proper precautions to prevent a data breach because just about any piece of information that is leaked or stolen by criminal hackers can be used for malicious purposes.

While most people think about the dangers of leaked social security and credit card numbers, they fail to realize that even email addresses and phone numbers can be sold on the dark web or be used to send phishing emails.

On top of the reputational aspect, there is also the risk of financial damage. The average cost to a company after a breach is $175 for each piece of stolen information. With such high costs, large organizations could be in trouble if thousands of records are stolen, and small companies may not be able to recover at all.

When defending against data leakage, the first line of defense is your IT team. Their technical expertise puts them in a good position to educate staff on risks and to oversee learning materials such as staff awareness training.

The IT should also create a plan for immediate actions that will be taken if a data breach does occur.

That strategy should include the programs that must be recovered first, how you will patch vulnerabilities in your systems, who you need to contact, and which employees will be responsible for each task.

By having a plan of action, you can react swiftly without confusion or anxiety.

Protecting your devices

A major part of the IT training program should be instructing employees about actions they can take to protect their computers and mobile devices against a potential data breach.

For the best results, management should put in place policies so that they understand their responsibilities. One of the most important is a clean desk policy.

This document reminds employees that any information they leave around can be stolen and used improperly. So, when they get up from their desk, they should lock their computer and always secure all documents inside of their desk drawers.

It is important to remember that although an employee can lose track of data by accident, it’s not uncommon for employees to intentionally steal corporate data and sell it illegally.

In fact, 51% of small business owners have listed employee negligence as one of their biggest concerns when it comes to information security.

Again, your IT department can do their part by ensuring that employees only have access to data that correlates specifically to their job description, and they should also routinely spot check the systems to ensure that there is no suspicious activity.

When an employee leaves the company, their account must be shut down, so they no longer have access.

There are many ways that an employee can take company data, including emailing it to themselves, taking screenshots with their phones, or accessing the network when they are outside of work.

The IT team needs to secure these potential vulnerabilities. Additionally, management must be aware that employees are liable to leave work with a company device and cause harm outside of the premises.

To prevent physical theft, you must require that employees check out the equipment before they leave. You might also consider installing metal detectors at exits so security can be notified if a company device is taken off of the premises.

Common sense protections

While there are many strategic steps that you can take to avoid a data breach, in most cases, enacting common sense protections can prevent threats. For a start, organisations can mitigate against illegal access by creating a password policy that requires all employees to use strong, unique credentials.

These passwords should be updated regularly, and where possible be paired with two-factor authentication.

Next, all sensitive data that goes into and out of corporate devices should be encrypted so the information cannot be read if it’s compromised.

The best way to do that is by equipping your systems with a VPN (virtual private network). In addition to securing your data, a VPN will also disguise the employee’s device, making it harder for criminal hackers to find.

This strategy is especially important if you have remote employees who work in public places, like restaurants and coffee shops.

Looking for more tips?

You can find more advice on preventing data breaches in the workplace by reading our free guide: Cybersecurity 101 – A guide for SMBs.

Small organizations often struggle to know where to begin when developing security defenses due to a lack of expertise and resources.

This free green paper explains that it doesn’t take a team of dedicated professionals and a huge budget to implement effective measures.