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Preventing data breaches is a huge part of protecting your company's success.Data breaches are an ever-present threat for modern organizations. Worse yet, the threats to your company’s data are constantly evolving. Hackers keep discovering new ways to profit off of your company’s hard work by stealing sensitive information or holding business data hostage.

Protecting your networks from all forms of intrusion is impossible. No security setup, no matter how strong it is, will prevent 100% of all attacks. However, there are things your organization can do to minimize data breach risks and their impact.

Step 1: Get to Know the Threats to Your Data

Before devising a corporate-wide plan for protecting data, it’s important to first understand the threats that are out there. Study the different kinds of malware that are commonly employed against businesses in your industry, and the attack strategies used to introduce them to your network.

Palo Alto Networks has a useful blog about the “Kill Chain” that explains the seven stages of a cyberattack:

  1. Reconnaissance. Hackers research and ID targets using publicly-available info on social media and corporate websites. Phishing tactics are employed to compromise user account credentials. Finally, hackers probe perimeter defenses and systems for vulnerabilities.
  2. Weaponization. The hacker selects an attack method based on the results of their reconnaissance.
  3. Delivery. The hacker delivers malware, carrier files, automated tools, or directly accesses the system. Typical delivery methods include:
    • Email
    • Social Media Links
    • Hosted Attacks on Hacker-Run Website
  4. Exploitation. Once system access is achieved, the hacker activates attack code, with the goal of taking control of the machine. Local exploits require previous access to the vulnerable system. Remote exploits use network transports to exploit systems from afar.
  5. Installation. Hackers establish control and set up privileges to ensure installation of more malicious software.
  6. Command & Control. A back door is created to a specific infected server to allow the communication of data files back and forth from your system to the hacker’s system.
  7. Execution. The attack is carried out and data is stolen.

Knowing how hackers pick their targets and attack methods is crucial for thwarting attacks.

Step 2: Establish a Balance Between Enabling Business Objectives and Acceptable Risk Tolerances

Balancing priorities for data security can be as difficult as balancing marbles on a ramp.As important as data security is for businesses, keeping mission-critical information accessible to the team members who need it is a necessity for ensuring smooth operations.

Any security plan should keep in mind how business operations will be impacted by different security measures, such as ability to access information, complexity of sign-in processes, number of times employees have to sign in per day, and overall practicality of security measures.

Taking these factors into account when designing information security policies and adopting new security technologies can have a significant impact on how well your workforce adheres to these measures. If protection methods are too cumbersome, employees may try to create workarounds for accessing sensitive data, such as copying data to unsecured, local devices.

Using “transparent” security measures that strengthen security without requiring extra input from employees helps to strike a balance between protection and accessibility.

In many cases, it may be necessary to make some hard choices about just how much security to apply to different databases based on how sensitive the information is and how important it is for specific employees to be able to access it.

Step 3: Drill Employees in Data Security

Employees play a huge role in a company’s data security plan. In many cases, they can be the biggest data security risk to a business.

This is part of the reason why the PCI Security Standards Council recommends “establishing a minimum awareness level for all personnel” in an organization. PCI’s publication also reminds readers that “security awareness may be delivered in many ways, including formal training, computer-based training, e-mails and circulars, memos, notices, bulletins, posters, etc.”

All employees in an organization should have a general awareness of the company’s security standards, and the reasons for them. More specialized personnel who have access to more sensitive data should have a more in-depth awareness of security.

Each employee should be able to:

  • Create strong passwords
  • Recognize phishing attempts
  • Check hyperlinks to make sure links match anchor text
  • Recall data sharing practices and policies
  • Follow company security protocols

By training employees in security protocols and regularly communicating updates to security policies to them, you can drastically reduce the risk of a data breach.

Step 4: Research and Implement Security Technologies to Protect Your Data

There are a lot of paths and technologies to consider for protecting data, check as many as possible.After learning how hackers will attack your company, assigning priorities between defense and accessibility, and ensuring that employees are aware of data security policies, it’s important to actually research and implement a suite of security tools to protect your company’s data.

There are innumerable individual technologies available for protecting your company’s networks from intrusion. To narrow down your search and reduce complexity for your operations, look for a solution that:

  • Incorporates multiple layers of security under a single provider
  • Provides comprehensive support
  • Offers managed services for patching vendor software
  • Allows for scaling resources up or down as your needs evolve

For example, a secure cloud solution can provide a business with strong, multi-layered security to protect against various intrusion techniques, comprehensive support for managing IT infrastructure, various managed services such as OS patching and security updates, and scalability to increase or decrease computing resources as needs change.

By combining these services under a single vendor, operational complexity for your business is reduced. A single vendor means tracking one point of contact and planning out one bill to schedule payment for each month.

Acquiring different security features from separate vendors adds complexity, and there’s no guarantee that all security solutions will smoothly integrate with each other.

Find out more about how you can combine multiple layers of security, service, and support with the cloud today!

Secure Cloud Solutions for SMBs | Whoa.com