10 Data Security Enhancements for Your Business

10 Data Security Enhancements for Your Business

More than three quarters (77 percent) of IT decision makers across the United States and Canada believe their companies are likely to face a data breach within the next three years according to survey results released recently by Adastra, the global Data and Analytics solution provider.

The online survey was conducted by Forum Research between December 2–14, 2022 and consisted of 882 IT professionals throughout the United States (589) and Canada (293).

Survey respondents ranked data security as the biggest game changer in 2023 as companies continue to bolster their cybersecurity preparedness—68 percent of managers surveyed say their companies have a cybersecurity division and a further 18 percent report they are in the process of creating one. Only 6 per cent of respondents reported having no cybersecurity division.

“The increase in data breach incidents across North America is troubling and must be prioritized as employees continue to return in-person to their corporate offices,” said Kuljit Chahal, Practice Lead, Data Security at Adastra North America. “During the pandemic many employees were hired virtually and, in combination with long absences from offices, introductions to and re-familiarization with security protocols will be critical.”

Awareness of data security best practices among employees is essential—according to the 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 82 percent of data breaches are caused by human error and companies of all sizes are at risk.

“In our role as data security experts, we have found that some companies, especially smaller ones, can be lulled into a false sense of security believing that perpetrators will not bother with them­—this is absolutely not the case,” said Chahal. “The results of this survey should serve as a reminder that companies of all sizes must invest in data security protection, resources and education, particularly as we return to in-office activities,” he said.

In 2021 alone, Statistics Canada found that 41 percent of data breaches occur in small and medium-sized companies with less than 250 employees and Canadian businesses impacted by cyber breaches spent a collective $600 million to recover. The cost of a breach can be significant and far more than what an audit from a data security firm will cost.

A poll of this size is considered accurate +/- 3.3 percent 19 times out of 20.

10 data security enhancements to consider as your employees return to the office:

1. Insider threats - employee re-education of systems and protocols

The unauthorized disclosure of data isn't always the result of malicious actors. Often, data is accidentally overshared or lost by employees. Keep your employees informed with cyber security education. Employees who go through regular phishing tests may be less likely to engage with malicious actors over email or text messaging.

2. Know your inventory

An inventory of software, hardware and data assets is essential. Having control over the assets with access to your corporate environment starts with an inventory. Inventories can be a part of the overall vulnerability management program to keep all assets up to date, including operating systems and software. Furthermore, a data inventory or catalogue identifies sensitive data, which allows appropriate security controls like encryption, access restrictions and monitoring to be placed on the most important data.

3. Delete redundant data

Reducing your overall data footprint can be an effective way of reducing risk. Data that resides in multiple locations may not have equal protection in each environment. Understanding what data is required and what can be archived helps to keep control over data assets.

4. Early detection systems

Detecting anomalies and suspicious activities can resolve issues before they become a breach. Today's XDR (extended detection and response) and EDR (endpoint detection and response) systems include automated responses to common attacks. For example, suppose an employee downloads a malicious email attachment. In that case, the EDR system can prevent the execution of the malware hidden inside and alert security staff.

These detection systems can be monitored by internal cyber security staff or monitored by third-party security companies who can alert management of incidents as they occur.

5. Data back-ups

Having a robust, immutable data backup plan can help an organization quickly recover from an incident. The frequency of the data backup depends on the risk the organization is willing to take. "Can we afford to lose a week's worth of data or a day's worth of data?"

6. Limiting staff access

Employing the least privilege principle reduces overall risk by only allowing access to data and services required to perform specific duties. Establishing processes for provisioning and de-provisioning user access with approvals, audit trails, reports, and regular attestations can limit what an attacker may be able to access in the event of compromised credentials. It's not uncommon for end users to have unrestricted administrative access to their endpoint laptops. This allows users to install unauthorized software or be more easily targeted for malware attacks.

7. Hire a third-party company to conduct a security audit - know your vulnerabilities

An outside assessment of your organization’s security posture, based on established cyber security frameworks such as NIST or CIS, can provide a clearer picture of strengths and weaknesses and a roadmap to address your greatest vulnerabilities.

8. Establish new passwords with two-factor authentication

Traditionally users are authenticated by one of three ways:

What you know (password)
What you have (card access or one-time passcode)
What you are (biometrics)

Adding a second factor to the ubiquitous password authentication adds another layer of security for access.

9. Update your computer programs with the latest security features

Most data breaches occur because a known vulnerability was exploited. Establishing a vulnerability management program that regularly scans software assets and applies patches is one of the most crucial security activities a company can perform.

10. Physical security

As employees return to the office, there will be employees who are coming back to the office for the first time. Reinforcing clean desk policies and reviewing physical access controls, including access to secure areas, may be required to ensure assets are not stolen or lost.

Work-from-home employees who have company assets should be routinely educated on keeping those assets secure while at home as they would in the office.

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