THE BLOG
05/13/2016 05:10 pm ET Updated May 14, 2017

How to Keep Your Business Information Secure

Now more than ever it has become important for businesses to protect their information from those who have nefarious intentions. This is especially true when the company conducts business online or when a large portion of sensitive information can be accessed through the internet. Business must do its best to protect itself and its customers from hackers who wish to steal important information or from those who wish to spread viruses that compromise their systems. Whether working alone or in groups, hackers can do immeasurable damage in a relatively short space of time. Some hackers are even backed by the governments of their respective countries. However, it goes without saying that installing the finest security measures does not guarantee that your business's computer systems would remain untouched. However, businesses must try to seek out the best security that their finances would allow. Here are a few steps your business could take.

Implement a cyber security plan - Most experts would recommend that in order for a business to protect itself and its customers, it must implement a solid cyber security plan which it can stick to. A viable cyber security plan must consist of (i) Prevention - identifying those solutions, policies and procedures that help in reducing the risk of attacks; (ii) Resolution - when faced with an actual security breach, there needs to be an agreement on which resources are necessary for remedying the threat; and (iii) Restitution - Companies must plan on how to address the repercussions of a cyber security breach that affects the company, employees and customers. The plan must minimize the damage done to the business.

Monitor potential treats - It is of paramount importance for business to understand the types of threats that they are most likely to face as well as the types that to which they are most vulnerable. Understanding common threats is the best way to prevent catastrophic fallout if your cyber security were to be breached. It will also enable you and your employees to avoid potentially harmful behaviors and practices that expose your business to unnecessary risk. Measures like not opening spam emails, identifying phishing emails and visiting questionable sites will go along way in protecting your business from the most common points of attack.

Change default passwords -Whenever your business installs a new computer system or software, you must change the default passwords that come with that new technology. This is one of the most common mistakes businesses make. Default logins for various pieces of hardware and software are not difficult to find and in many cases common login information is used repeatedly my different manufacturers. Leaving equipment and software with their default passwords is the easiest way to allow hackers access to your information. Luckily, this is an easy fix for those with enough knowledge to attempt.

Keep your computer systems updated - A computer that has been left without updates for far too long is one that is most vulnerable to hackers advances. Updates and patches issued by software manufacturers are meant to protect you and your business from vulnerabilities in the original software. Hackers know of these vulnerabilities and as a result, will prey on those systems that have not been updated. To prevent this, make sure that your business's computers are set to automatically accept updates and patches from the manufacturer. Additionally, business owners should insist on having antivirus that blocks spam and detects spyware and malware installed on all computer systems. This will allow business owners an added level of protection.

Secure and back up data -Securing and backing up your company's data is one of the ways to ensure that the fallout from a security breach is not a catastrophic one that has a lasting effect on your business and your customers. If you don't have your data secured and backed up to a reliable place, you do not truly control or own your data. Businesses cannot leave their data security to chance, especially since many companies now offer part-time Database Administration (DBA) services. I recently spoke to a solutions manager with Remote DBA, who explained the minimum dba services that each company must perform regularly, whether those services performed in-house or by a third-party service provider. In addition to this, the onus is on businesses to periodically check on their stored data to ensure that it is accessible when it is most needed.

Rethink BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) -Companies should rethink any policy that allows employees to bring and use their own devices for work purposes. Customer-owned devices used for work purposes create a number of security risks to the company. Lost devices can pose a major risk to the company especially when employees are permanently logged in to work-related accounts. The number of steps needed to access sensitive information is drastically reduced. If a company wishes to keep their BYOD policy, it must offer training programs that address the issues associated with misplaced devices and security measures such as a "remote wipe" that individual employees could use to mitigate any negative consequences.

Use encryption software to protect business and customers -Encryption can prevent hackers from accessing sensitive data even if they were successful in breaching the business's security measures. Properly-encrypted employee and customer information will hold its own during a cyber attack. In addition to this, businesses must look to encryption software as a means of protecting themselves and their customers during payment processing. Most major credit card companies require that businesses implement a number of security procedures before allowing them to process payments. Understandably, for a smaller company, compliance may be difficult. However, businesses can choose to turn to payment processing companies such as Paypal which offer the exact same service without any hassle.

The hackers of today rarely access your information just for the thrill of it. Nowadays accessing sensitive information is done in order to steal information either of personal use or even for resale on the dark web. Unfortunately not only does this type of problem have no end in sight, hackers are being funded and are acquiring better, more dangerous technology. The onus is on business to keep one step ahead of the challenges they face and implement proper security measures that will not only prevent destructive attacks, but will mitigate the damage caused in the aftermath.