Data security is a relatively new issue for the average internet consumer to be concerned about. As the use of software grows in popularity, so does the amount of data available online. As we all know, data is power in the selling world, and it didn’t take long for online marketers to realize all the data the online world had to offer.
It also wasn’t until recent years that laws were developed around the use and privacy of personal data. This in turn brought concerns around stealing data to the front of consumer’s minds.
The Facebook – Cambridge Analytica data scandal is one that is still fresh in the minds of most internet users. Prior to the lawsuit, data security and data harvesting were relatively niche topics – unknown to the average internet user. Since the 2016 scandal and the use of private data for political gain, online consumers have improved their data protection savvy. Knowledge regarding Instagram listening in on conversations, cookie tracking, and manipulated algorithms have become more commonplace. Meanwhile, internet use policies and tracking laws have been updated to protect the user.
While data security awareness has increased, we should still be asking what measures companies are actually taking to protect your data from third parties threats. Thankfully, who you choose to give your data to initially is within your control. The smart consumer should be concerned about their data. They should choose to do business with companies that place privacy high on their list of priorities.
So with that, why should you concern yourself with data security in the first place?
What is Data Security?
In short, because the cost of failure is too high. While data security can be a vague subject, it can be thought of in real world terms. Concrete examples such as protecting your family from intruders, your business from fraud, or yourself by wearing a seatbelt – in your daily life, you take precautions against risk and its consequences. In these situations, it can be easier to understand the necessity for safety and protection. Data security is no different.
Ask yourself how you feel about the following:
- Would you want yours or your children’s medical information made public?
- Would you give strangers access to your phone, and let them download and share your photos, emails, and private conversations?
- If a stranger knocked on your door, would you let them in your home to look around as they please?
In a nut shell, this is data security. It’s the simple measures you take to keep information private from strangers online. Unfortunately, keeping your data secret online isn’t as easy as keeping your phone away from the hands of strangers.
This brings us to the importance of data security and privacy, especially in the midst of 2021. Data security is the practice of protecting digital information from unauthorized access, corruption, or theft. Contrary to what most people think, data security is more than the security of software applications or the external security of devices. It includes policies and procedures established within organizations themselves.
Our Top 5 Data Security Practices
If you’re a small business owner, data security may not be an area you’re too familiar with. Unfortunately, nearly 43% of small businesses become targets for hackers every year – costing companies over $200,000 in breaches. While data security may not be your area of expertise, it doesn’t have to be daunting to take on. When you’ve put years of effort into creating a business and earning client trust – it’s worth your time to invest in the prevention of an online breach with better security practices.
For us, we abide by simple practices that help keep our customers, our employees, and our software safe. In fact, when we founded CloudAdvisors more than 6 years ago, our twin pillars of Data Security and Data Integrity guided our decisions. Today, those principles are at the heart of our security practices, and we’re going to highlight some of the steps we take to protect Canada’s Employee Benefits Marketplace.
1. Invest in your people
Often times when a breach occurs, hacker’s will misuse an employee’s access. Rarely is the concern a hardware or software vulnerability. For this reason, training and communication are critical steps companies can take to minimize the likelihood of breaches. It’s important for companies to include security as part of their core training, particularly in an increasingly remote working environment after COVID-19.
Unfortunately, gone are the days where 100% of a workforce operates on premise. This means educating employees on how to stay safe, while away from the office, is more important than ever.
Employees should understand why security mindfulness and security practices are a discipline and a continuous exercise. Evidently, employers need to prioritize security training during business hours, and validate completion of necessary learning modules. In essence, if your people aren’t trained or aware of cyber security risks, are they being set up for success or failure?
2. Keep systems up-to-date
Keeping things up-to-date can be tedious, particularly when we have so many apps and operating systems. With limited time, people often choose to forego their updates and this can be a dangerous decision.
When developers publish Patch Notes or Release Notes from a version update, they usually list fixed bugs, and patched vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, people who don’t update their apps are subject to those very vulnerabilities developers list in new release notes, which can serve as an instruction manual to a malicious actor.
Keeping our apps and systems up-to-date prevents known vulnerabilities from being used to attack us.
3. Use Antivirus/Anti-Malware software
Only install software from known and trusted sources. This is especially true for Antivirus and Anti-Malware software as it is trusted with the responsibility for keeping your devices safe. CloudAdvisors budgets for this to ensure we secure each device properly.
4. Principle of least privilege
The Principle of Least Privilege states that a subject should have only those privileges needed for it to complete its task. If a subject does not need an access right, the subject should not have that right. Simply put, limiting access to systems, files, networks, and applications will mitigate some of the most common vulnerabilities.
A company has a responsibility not to unnecessarily put its employees in a position of risk, particularly when there is no measurable benefit to increasing their access levels. By following this discipline, sometimes processes slow down with the increased scrutiny, but this is a healthy balance between security and convenience.
5. Be Careful what you click and open
In an age where tracking beacons, and data mining are the norm, people in privileged positions are more likely to be targets of hacking and exploitation. At CloudAdvisors, our onboarding journey requires each new hire to learn basic security principles, which includes helpful habits.
To begin with, don’t visit unknown websites or download software from untrusted sources. Unverified sites often host malware that will automatically install, compromising your device (phone or computer).
If attachments or links in an email are unexpected or suspicious for any reason, don’t click on them. Don’t download attachments, or click on the ‘unsubscribe’ button either.
What's Happening Today?
In today’s tech world, a vast amount of data has been created and manipulated as technology continues to grow and adapt. COVID-19 has made digital transformation a necessity, and has also accelerated the need for organizations to switch to cloud-based systems in order to work remotely. It is important to note that 50% of all corporate data is stored in the cloud.
This switch makes companies vulnerable to data breaches. Unfortunately, nearly 86% of Canadian security leaders stated that their organization suffered some kind of breach in 2020 after starting to work from home.
The need for data security is more important than ever, and people are starting to take notice. Users are becoming more skeptical of how organizations manage and use their information. Consumers are starting to value companies that keep their data secure and protected.
Companies hoping to succeed in this digital age must put data privacy first. Data protection is rapidly becoming essential to keep customer trust and loyalty.
Why Does it Matter?
Companies today have an enormous responsibility to secure their data, and to protect the people who trust their services. Improving security requires leaders to train the people who access and manage their data. It means investing in education, teaching employees the impact of their role, and encouraging best practices around secure operations.
So how can leaders start? By making security a priority through sufficient budget and assigning accountability. Companies should continue to learn, and ask for help in areas they’re not experts. Organizations need to prioritize security internally, to not only adapt to this changing digital world, but to maintain the level of trust and loyalty between their business and their customers.