Hackers compromise thousands of computer systems and networks belonging to startups every year. The fallout from such security breaches can significantly compromise your operations at a time when you are just starting. Even if you are yet to fall victim to hacking attempts, you should still worry about data security. Here is how you can keep your startup’s data secure.
The first line of defense against security breaches is adhering to basic information security principles. These include the implementation of a strong password policy, and ignoring emails and links from sources that you do not recognize.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, such basic measures can reduce hacking incidents by up to 40%. Typically, hackers look to the easiest way of intruding a computer system. Often, they start with the basics. Investing millions in sophisticated security systems will still leave you exposed if you fail to adhere to the basics.
Every startup wishes to have a good reputation among its vendors, clients, employees, and other stakeholders. Compliance with laws and regulations on data security boosts your reputation, thus enabling you to scale your business quickly.
Since most startups fall victim to phishing attacks, you should train employees, vendors, and clients on how they can detect and prevent these attacks. Relevant stakeholders should be trained on all aspects of IT security besides being coached to avoid handing out sensitive company information to strangers.
As a minimum, every startup should enforce a data security policy that also includes guidelines on file sharing. This is a risk management strategy that helps you handle possible breaches that you might encounter. Often, cyber-criminals target startups because most of them focus more on business growth at the expense of data security.
To implement a data security policy that works for you, you should identify your firm’s critical assets. Similarly, identify where they are stored and whether or not they are encrypted. Your cyber-security stance will be enforced all the more if you minimize the amount of clients’ data in your possession. In this regard, avoid collecting protected data from customers or even employees unless you need it. You should also destroy any data that you no longer need.
Every startup entrepreneur should consider outsourcing breach prevention and similar functions to recognized compliance experts. This might strain your budget, but it is a long-term investment that guarantees protection against conventional and advanced data security threats.
The simplest solution is to store your data on cloud-based solutions that integrate both application-level security and data-centric security. By working with compliance experts, you will also get access to sophisticated tools such as Salesforce and Amazon Web Services. It is equally advisable to invest in business solutions that have the backing of big companies such as Microsoft and Google.
Encryption is the easiest and most cost-effective way of protecting your startup against data breaches. When it comes to encryption, you should go beyond sensitive information such as social security and credit card numbers. It is advisable also to encrypt seemingly irrelevant information such as email addresses.
Fortunately, encryption technology is affordable. In case of a data breach, the encrypted information will be unusable. Ideally, you should use the most watertight encryption option available to you. Likewise, encryption keys and secured data should be stored on different servers.
To determine how impermeable your computer system is, undertake penetration testing regularly. There are dozens of penetration testing tools that you can use to determine how safe you are. You need to find a tool that not only fits your startup’s needs but is also easy to operate. Penetration testing tools help you to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in your IT security.
The comprehensiveness of these tools varies according to their cost. While undertaking penetration testing, ensure that you consider guidelines that govern businesses in your industry. Generally, companies operating in some sectors, such as healthcare are required to conduct penetration testing and risk assessments regularly.
You are at a higher risk of data breaches if you operate on outdated versions of the software. Therefore, you should never ignore software updates whenever they are rolled out. Newer versions of security software often come with security patches to common vulnerabilities that hackers exploit. The older your software is, the more vulnerable it is to hackers.
Despite their strained resources, startup entrepreneurs cannot afford to risk a data breach. These incidents can slow down the growth of your business or even cause you to close shop altogether. The aforementioned IT security measures might sound overblown to some startup entrepreneurs, but you can’t understate their importance. They play a significant role in the survival and growth of your business. In the long run, investing in your startup’s data security is worthwhile.
Written by Chris Lewis.