Data is something that's hard to get away from: IBM estimates that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day.
From the terms you use on search engines to the bank details you enter when shopping online, information is being collected on an almost-constant basis. Protecting this is a concern for businesses, who not only want to keep their own sensitive data safe but also that of their clients, as well as consumers.
People are right to be concerned. It's estimated that at least 15 million customers fall victim to identity fraud, costing more than $16 billion. For companies, it's not just about the financial risk but also the potential reputational damage that could be caused through cybercrime.
So what are the best ways to keep your data safe?
It may seem obvious, but backing up your data is a crucial part of keeping it safe. Incremental updates will save you a lot of disk space as they will only copy anything new, which should also reduce the amount of time it takes.
You need to think about where these hard drives - or whatever else you are using to back up your information - are stored. Of course, it's possible - and advisable - to password protect your hard drives with a randomly generated code but anyone in IT knows that even the toughest password can be cracked eventually. You also need to think about who has access to the area where these are stored.
Ideally not all hard drives will be kept in once place so that if there is a physical break-in, you won't lose all your company's sensitive information at once.
The best solution will depend on your business and what works for you, though remember the most convenient option may not be the most secure.
Use the cloud
You'll want to have at least two different back-up options that are stored - and can be accessed - in different ways. The cloud offers a good solution if you're wise enough to implement the right security measures. Not only can you password protect your information, you can also encrypt the data so even if people are able to get their hands on it, most won't be able to make any sense of it.
There's a variety of software packages that you can buy allowing you to encrypt your sensitive information, which can also be used to increase security on your hardware. This is a vital step for most businesses as it makes it much more difficult to access and use.
Storing your information on the cloud also protects your data from being lost due to physical damage. Whether your office suffers from flooding or there’s a burglary, having your data online can be advantageous in many scenarios.
One of the best ways to identify vulnerabilities in your system is to try and find the weaknesses yourself. Have an afternoon where you and some of the most skilled people on your team try and penetrate your security. It's much easier trying to resolve problems that you find than trying to do so after a cybercrime event.
This can also work as a training exercise for newer employees, helping them to work on their skills and also become familiar with the system you have in place. Of course, some hackers will have a higher level of expertise than others but it's a good way to see how you could further improve your data security.
Run regular training sessions
You can assume a certain level of awareness from your IT department, but you shouldn't overlook the rest of the company. People working outside of your team may not know the small and simple things they may see that are red flags to anyone who is tuned into web security. Teaching employees about topics like how to spot suspicious-looking emails or a dubious webpage can save you a lot of worry further down the line.
Short, regular sessions on how to stay safe online can help ensure that staff throughout the rest of the company aren't making your system vulnerable. Your session should cover what your company's policy is for collecting, storing and deleting information and what the procedure is for a potential security risk. This should also be delivered to people who join the business to help them become familiar with your system and how to protect it.
Don't overlook old data
It's easy to think that just because information no longer matters to you, or is outdated, that it doesn't need your attention when it comes to protection. However, your old data can still be incredibly valuable to cybercriminals and could jeopardize your company.
You can choose to put your drives into a macerator, which will demolish them into tiny pieces. Or you can repurpose your old drives, allowing you to use them again, by cryptographically erasing the information. Investing in self-encrypting drives can make this even easier and save you money in the long run.