How To Protect Confidential Information In Your Business?

by Carson
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protect confidential information

Whatever the purpose of your business is, you likely store confidential information in your servers. Here are 9 ways to prevent them from being exposed to cyberattacks.

Table of Contents

  1. Compose a privacy policy
  2. Label them clearly
  3. Only let employees access the things they need
  4. Sanitize inputs
  5. Train your employees to avoid falling victim to social engineering
  6. Revoke access to confidential information
  7. Maintain physical security
  8. Make backups
  9. Be prepared for a data breach

1. Compose a Privacy Policy

Although customers will probably not read your privacy policy, it’s important to write one. It should explain what types of personal information your company collects, why and how they are collected, the third parties that may get hold of the customers’ personal information, and how your business will protect your data. The article should also include contact details for your company in case customers have complaints, and that it may be subject to change, either with or without further notice.

Moreover, don’t make privacy policies hard to read. Although it is a legal document, compose it like a blog post or use simpler language. Furthermore, make privacy policies easy to reach on your website and app. Provide a link to the privacy policy if you want your visitors to provide more information than they need to otherwise, such as when creating an account.

2. Label Them Clearly

Moreover, you should label essential documents so that employees do the right thing about the confidential files and not accidentally send, open, modify, or remove them. If employees did something wrong about the data, the consequences would range from having to restore from a backup to being subject to a severe data breach.

3. Only Let Employees Access the Things They Need

Furthermore, managing data access must not be overlooked. Only let employees access the things they need. For instance, if the employee is in the marketing department, he/she will only have access to sales records, website analytics, marketing data, and related files and databases, but not anything else in the company. You should also store information in different password-protected directories so that employees can only access the files that they need.

That way, the chances that a file or a database is accidentally manipulated, sent, or deleted is reduced. As mentioned before, the consequences are adverse if employees get hold of the data they don’t need and process it incorrectly.

4. Sanitize Inputs

One type of cyberattacks, called an SQL injection attack, takes advantage of inputting malicious SQL queries in input fields. They succeed by inserting special characters in the input field that ends the string of characters and makes instructions valid.

To solve this problem, you should sanitize all inputs on your website. That means escaping all special characters such as quotation marks and arithmetic symbols. That way, the string will continue until it’s meant to end, and any instructions typed in the input fields will be technically regarded as standard input.

Sanitizing inputs escape special characters so that potential instructions inside the input fields won’t run
Image created using Canva

5. Train Your Employees to Avoid Falling Victim to Social Engineering

A common way for hackers to steal data from your company is to use social engineering (i.e., tricking the victim into disclosing private information or installing malware). For example, they might send phishing emails or messages to you or your employees or even craft some deceptive messages personally in a spear-phishing attack. They can also set up fake websites whose URL looks legitimate or can be easily visited through typos when typing the URL. For instance, “google.com” might be mistyped as “gogle.com”.

How can employees avoid these scams? Well, your company should train them. Firstly, the training campaign should make sure that the employees read the emails carefully. Common signs of phishing to look for include:

  • The email’s sender address is not legitimate
  • Urgent action is requested
  • Links or attachments in the email is not legitimate
  • The email requests personal information
  • There are generic greetings
  • Excessively many grammatical or spelling mistakes
  • It is just too good to be true

Moreover, your employees should learn to report spam to your IT team, government agencies, and email service providers. That way, they can assist in the investigation of scam campaigns and prevent other people from becoming victim.

6. Revoke Access to Confidential Information

If an employee is leaving the company, make sure you revoke his/her access to any confidential information on your company. You should close his/her account to prevent him/her from accessing the confidential information that shouldn’t be disclosed outside the company, and make him/her still responsible for protecting these data if there are any left in his/her possession.

7. Maintain Physical Security

Besides online and information security, your company must maintain physical security to protect storage devices from being physically stolen. Moreover, if you still store confidential information on paper, you should protect these pieces of paper too. This means locking down your servers and confidential papers physically and not letting employees access them unless they have obtained permission related to the maintenance of these systems.

8. Make Backups

Even if you protect your data, you still can’t guarantee that the method is foolproof. Information can be maliciously modified or deleted in a number of ways, and you should ensure that these data are always accessible through backups.

If your company don’t have backups, it will result in the loss of confidential information, which means that users might not be able to log in to their accounts or use the services if related data is lost, which will result in the loss of visitors. Moreover, your employees might have to make databases and documents all over again, which is not beneficial.

Firstly, the 3-2-1 rule should be followed. There must be at least 3 copies of your data, with at least two on-site (one local) and one offsite copy (in the cloud). However, backups might also be infected with malware, so it’s better to keep old backups. An excellent way to do so is to use multiple storage devices to store multiple backups.

Remember to follow the 3-2-1 rule!

9. Be Prepared for a Data Breach

Last but not least, it’s great to be thoroughly prepared from a data breach. Even if your company does everything right, your business might still be subject to a cyberattack and suffer from a data breach.

Firstly, you should construct an incident response plan for your business. If you know what to do beforehand, the outcome will be much better. This includes what can initiate the rest of the incident response plan, how to contact customers about the data breach, what the company should do to contain and fix this issue, and how to improve your security policy after the event.

Secondly, you should make sure that it gets drilled so that you know that the plan can be used in an actual data breach. Employees should know how to report spam, and the people responsible for notifying customers should create appropriate templates on behalf of your company to tell customers about the breach. Moreover, make sure they know how to trace the source of threats for further investigation. If the plan proved to be unfeasible after the assessment, try modifying it to make it easier to execute or make changes for your employee training program.

Conclusion

Here’s 9 ways to protect confidential information in your company. If we missed any important points, feel free to tell us in the comments below. Moreover, if you want to learn more, please visit the websites in the references below.

References and Credits

  1. (2019, November 16). Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://www.completecontroller.com/protecting-personal-information-a-guide-for-business/
  2. (2020, October 12). How Can I Protect My Company’s Confidential Information? Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://openlegal.com.au/how-can-i-protect-my-companys-confidential-information/
  3. (n.d.). What are the common indicators of a phishing attempt? Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://cofense.com/knowledge-center/signs-of-a-phishing-email/
  4. Dan Kaplan. (2016, May 10). 9 Powerful Ways to Help Prepare for a Data Breach. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://www.trustwave.com/en-us/resources/blogs/trustwave-blog/9-powerful-ways-to-help-prepare-for-a-data-breach/
  5. (n.d.). What is SQL Injection (SQLi) and How to Prevent It. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://www.acunetix.com/websitesecurity/sql-injection/
  6. Adrien Gendre. (2021, October 14). Phishing Awareness Training: 8 Things Your Employees Should Understand. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://www.vadesecure.com/en/blog/phishing-awareness-training-8-things-employees-understand
  7. (n.d.). What are the common indicators of a phishing attempt? Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://cofense.com/knowledge-center/signs-of-a-phishing-email/
  8. Dan Kaplan. (2016, May 10). 9 Powerful Ways to Help Prepare for a Data Breach. Retrieved November 4, 2021, from https://www.trustwave.com/en-us/resources/blogs/trustwave-blog/9-powerful-ways-to-help-prepare-for-a-data-breach/

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