Did you know that 62 percent of data breaches came from the financial service sector in 2019?
As one of the most at-risk industries, it’s vital your financial organisation creates a watertight data security policy, for both the sake of your business and your clients
But, as connectivity continues to increase, so does the burden on businesses to ensure that client data is protected. However, it’s easier said than done. Many SMBs face the challenge of securing masses of sensitive client data while having limited resources to do so.
Fortunately, there are proactive and inexpensive measures you can execute and maintain to create a comprehensive data security policy and approach. Then, you can protect your business from cyber threats and stay the right side of financial regulations.
So, where does your business start?
What is a data security policy?
Let’s start with the basics.
To define it simply, a data security policy pertains to the way a business plans to achieve data privacy and security. Usually, this policy contains the training, methods, use-cases and plans that are implemented on a regular basis to secure sensitive data.
But how can your businesses enhance your data security policy and ensure your client data is secure from outsider threats? Here are nine of our top tips.
1. Create a data security culture
Business insiders cause 34 percent of breaches. These are employees who often mean no harm, yet breach data through preventable actions (such as sharing sensitive emails).
In order to stop these insider breaches, it’s important to create a culture where individuals understand the role, they play in your data security processes.
Everyone in the business should be aware of modern cyber risks and where weak spots can occur, as well as being engaged in preventing attacks. By creating an environment of vigilance and awareness, employees will be on the lookout for any suspicious activity and take ownership for any data they process or share. This accountability is vital to help minimise insider threats.
More than this, you’ll need to foster a data security culture that plans for the worst-case scenario. It’s not enough to be preventative – you must know what actions to take in the event of a data breach.
2. Back-up your data regularly
Improving security isn’t always about protection, it’s about ensuring resilience. After all, you can’t guarantee that you’ll never be faced with a data breach. As such, your data security policy should indicate the need for real-time data back-ups.
Having a back-up plan will allow you to prepare for the worst, should a cyber breach or physical incident take place. However, it’s essential you actively test and restore your backup data regularly to ensure that your data isn’t corrupt. If you leave this data unchecked, you could risk having no (workable) data to fall back on.
3. Make a security breach plan
More than half of cyber attack victims are SMBs.
While the ultimate goal is to be unbreachable, your small business must include plans that limit the damage caused in the event that data is breached in your data security policies.
The information security plan must cover the flow and storage of data, as well as identify ways that it could be breached, and where resilience can be added.
4. Detail permission levels and role-based access
As cloud adoption increases, so does the number of people that have access to it.
However, not all of your employees need complete access and permissions. In fact, this could pose more of a risk to your data.
By instructing your IT staff or outsourced consultants to put permission levels in place, you can be certain that only those who need to use the data in relation to their role (known as role-based access control or RBAC) can view it. In turn, limiting the risk of both internal and external breaches.
This is an essential part of any data security policy and should be reviewed whenever your organisation onboards a new hire or, alternatively, when an employee leaves.
5. Implement consistent cyber security training
We’ve already discussed the threat your well-meaning employees pose to your data security. But it’s not enough to deploy access controls and hope for the best.
As the volume and nature of attacks evolve, so should the knowledge and understanding within a business with regards to data security.
Your firm’s data security policy should detail a proactive and consistent approach when it comes to educating staff about the latest security practices. Appointing an employee to champion this - if there isn’t an IT officer - will ensure someone takes ownership of regular training and communication.
6. Protect data with a password policy
It’s no secret that weak passwords practically leave the door open for cyber criminals.
As part of your data security policy, your business should communicate employee password best practices. This should dictate the length, use of capital letters, numbers and ‘special characters’ and how often they should be changed.
Additionally, you may want to document how employees should securely track their passwords to ensure they don’t end up in the wrong hands.
7. Limit the volume of digital data
Reducing your data is an element of data security that is often overlooked and omitted from policies.
The approach requires a consistent level of ‘housekeeping’ when it comes to your files and folders. Ideally, you should only store the data that’s critical and delete any information that’s redundant.
In doing this, you keep your data pipeline much cleaner, limit the amount of errors, and help to limit the potential damage that could be caused in a breach.
8. Encrypt your data
When data is accessed by many users and devices, it’s incredibly difficult to determine whether each device that ingests the data can be trusted.
If a device can’t be trusted, you of course put yourself at risk of a data security incident.
So, the solution to this challenge is to encrypt the data itself, as well as ensure data encryption becomes a regular part of your data security policy. This will see the element of trust move from the device to the user, as only people who are authorised will have access to encrypted data.
9. Use multi-factor authentication
Don’t let your valuable data remain hackable.
Implementing a multi-factor authentication process is essential when such a variety of devices are being used to access sensitive data.
Ultimately, this verification adds another layer of protection and makes it harder for cyber criminals to compromise your client information.
There’s no need to be insecure
Data breaches and cyber attacks are an inevitable part of the modern business landscape. However, although they’re not easily avoidable, there are ways you can make your data security policy work better for your business and your clients.
From encrypting your data, to ensuring regular employee cyber training, there are many ongoing and inexpensive methods that’ll keep your data safe.
That said, without the right skills in place, your data security policy may not live up to your expectations. So, if you find you’re in need of an expert hand to get your business’s data security up to scratch, don’t hesitate to contact a trusted IT partner.
[Editor's note: This blog post was initially published in 2019, but has since been updated with new content in May 2020]