Before the digital age, keeping sensitive information private was a matter of finding a secure location to lock it up. This idea of protecting and hiding private information also applies to electronic storage and records. Sensitive information, such as consumer credit card information, ePHI, and more must be protected from theft, fraud, data breaches, malicious intent, and other data security issues — or the consequences can be devastating.
The consequences of security breaches
For every record containing sensitive information that is either lost or stolen, businesses can incur $158 in costs, with breached healthcare records costing substantially more at $355 according to a study by IBM. These costs are derived from remediation and lost business.
While data incidents are problematic themselves, it’s the aftermath of the loss that often does the most damage.
Businesses that rely on the availability of their records for the continuation of day-to-day operations experience substantial losses in productivity and profits when critical data becomes unavailable, whether through loss, virus, human error, or theft.
Recovering files can be a slow and expensive process, and unless the business has a business continuity plan in place to refer to, it may take multiple days to manage your customers’ reactions to the security breach and get employees the files they need to continue working — if the files can be recovered at all.
When certain data loss events occur, such as severe device damage, virus encryption, employee error, theft, and more, recovery options may be limited. When it comes to data loss, there is never any guarantee of successful data recovery, unless preventative measures have been taken proactively.
Threats to data & how to avoid them
Theft: Laptops, drives, and other physical storage devices can easily be stolen from an employee’s vehicle, or from any unsecured location. However, theft isn’t always a matter of walking in and taking a physical device. People who want your sensitive information will always be willing to go to great lengths to seek out vulnerabilities in your security and exploit them, often times without even needing to be in the same state or country. Your business information must be protected with both physical and digital safeguards.
Phishing: One of the easiest ways for data to be compromised is via phishing attempt. All it takes is an authentic looking email or website asking for personal information, and the deed is done as soon as the victim presses SEND. According to Symantec, in 2015, spear-phishing targeted at employees had risen 55%. That means millions of people and businesses were vulnerable to attack, and most of them were completely unaware in the beginning. The best way to avoid inadvertently giving your sensitive information away is to educate yourself and employees on what to look out for in emails or websites that may look official, but actually aren’t.
Virus: Another common way for data to be compromised is via virus or malware. How does a virus steal your information? Many of these virus and malware programs have key loggers in them. That is, they record every keystroke you make and send it to whoever is behind them. Additionally, cryptolocker viruses are notorious for hijacking your data and keeping it encrypted from you until a ransom payment has been made. While some programs are obvious about being laden with viruses, some are less conspicuous and can even evade detection from some virus protection software! This is why it is important to have multiple layers of security and virus protection safeguarding sensitive data.
Data breach: Although phishing scams and viruses are the major perpetrators of security breaches, often times data is stolen or compromised from within by someone who should not have access to such information. For example, if you look at how the military and government organize their security clearances, only certain individuals are allowed access to various levels of secret information. In a business environment it is usually standard practice to cordon off sensitive data and allow access only to individuals with proper training. Setting up a permissions system is usually a simple matter of getting your company’s IT Admin to set up passwords and logins for each tier of users you may need.
One step to business continuity
We handle so much data on a daily basis that for the most part, we become desensitized to it. It isn’t often that anyone stops to think about where that data goes, and who might be viewing it. While not every security threat can be eliminated, most can be prevented with the right security measures. And with the right business continuity planning, you can ensure your data will always be at your fingertips despite data loss, deletion, viruses, and more.
By storing your data off-site, with a trusted cloud backup provider, you can simply restore your system and retrieve your untampered files from the cloud. As far as recovery goes, it’s one of the quickest ways to get your business back up on its feet after an attack and a great tool to have in your back pocket.
With viruses and phishing attempts becoming more sophisticated, it takes more effort and vigilance from IT teams, data loss prevention protocols, and anti-virus software to keep your data secured. Whether you are a business or home internet user, be sure to utilize every resource at hand to better protect yourself and your information.
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