The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to work remotely for the very first time. This means it’s now more important than ever to ensure you have protections in place to safeguard your businesses from cyber security threats.
In fact, hackers are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic, and fraudulent emails and scams are higher than ever. And we’ve all heard of ‘Zoom bombing’ — unwanted intrusions into work and private conference calls that, last week, saw Zoom release new encryption updates in an attempt to reduce the threat.
Many business owners think that password and virus protection are enough, but when you take into account just how much your data is really worth, it’s pretty likely your current methods simply won’t cut it when it comes to protecting one of your most valuable business assets.
What is your data worth?
You might not realise it, but the information your business collects and holds is one of its most valuable resources. This is especially true in information-rich industries like professional services. But even a small business, like a retail store, should place significant value on the information it holds in its Customer Relationship Management system. Businesses of all sizes look to data when making critical business decisions; from how many staff to hire to which new products to launch.
It’s with this in mind that businesses and accountants have begun questioning whether data should be recorded as a tangible asset on the balance sheet. Global research firm Gartner has predicted that by 2022, businesses will be valued on their ‘information portfolios’. And in the US, it’s been estimated that companies have in excess of $8 trillion in intangible data assets.
Take into account the cost to your business if anything were to happen to your data. Loss of important information is painful, costly and could disrupt your everyday operations and core business functions. We’ve even seen legitimate cases of ransomware in our community and can assure you that it’s an expensive and scary experience.
Where do data threats come from?
We’ve all seen the film Hackers. While these sorts of stories might make you think that data theft is mostly perpetrated by far-away groups in far-away places, research has found that 74% of cyber security incidents are actually carried out by employees, customers, suppliers and ex-employees.
This is frightening. A disgruntled employee with an axe to grind or a well-meaning staff member who answers the wrong email are much bigger threats than you may think.
Now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with staff working away from the office and using their own personal devices, the risks become even greater, with incidences of accidental disclosure of confidential information expected to increase.
That’s not to say that hackers aren’t a problem. They are. Email phishing scams, ransomware and other cyber security threats are also expected to increase during this time. But these statistics tell us that safeguarding your data from external threats simply isn’t enough. You need to establish sound governance structures, effective policy management procedures and robust digital safeguards to ensure your business is protected.
How to protect your business from data theft
Unfortunately, basic virus protection isn’t enough. The Australian Government has outlined the ‘Essential Eight’ strategies to mitigate cyber security incidents. These are broken down into three key categories:
- Preventing malware delivery and execution
- Limiting the extent of cybersecurity incidents
- Recovering data and system availability
Think of your business information like you would your home. Cyber security protections are like the locks on your front door. If your cyber security measures aren’t up to scratch and don’t meet these standards, then you’re essentially leaving the door open for anybody to walk-in off the street and take what they like.
While ticking off all Essential Eight may seem like an overwhelming task, a quick win for upping your data security is implementing two-factor authorisation (2FA) for accounts that possess sensitive data. While it can be a little tedious at times, 2FA is one of many quick and easy things you can put into place to protect yourself and your business. When you consider that recently 620 million accounts were made available for purchase on the dark web, you begin to realise that cyber security is the real deal.
Another strategy? Getting your digital platforms right. What digital platforms does your business need to monitor, prevent and alert you to any malicious activity? What security do you have to protect yourself from malware, ransomware or data theft? What protection do you have when your employees access sensitive company information from their smartphones? And what systems do you have in place to recover your data if something goes wrong?
Endpoint protection involves putting measures in place to secure your entire network, meaning your data is safe, no matter where it’s accessed. Security tools may include firewalls, monitoring tools and antivirus programs, amongst many others.
While we’re raving about the ‘cyber’ aspect of your business security, methods of ensuring your data is safe extend beyond the digital realm. Getting your education and culture around cybersecurity right is just as important. Talk to your IT advisor about policy management and consider undertaking staff training. It’ll be worth it just knowing that everything is secure. Ensuring that your staff are aware of, and proactive about, cybersecurity risks is the first step to protecting your business.
Are you worried that your business data could be at risk?
Of course you are. But that doesn’t mean that you need to feel overwhelmed. By simply getting the right team behind you, you can rest easy that you’re doing everything you can to manage your cyber security and protect your data.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with the BlueRock Digital team, who can advise you on how to keep your business safe from data theft and other cyber threats.
This article is the second instalment in our ongoing ‘Work From Home Toolkit’ series. In our first article, Staying Healthy When Working From Home, we explored the best ways to set up your home office, maintain productive work schedules and stay fit and healthy.