Data is one of the most valuable assets your business owns. Their protection is mandatory! They are vital for your own operation, and reveal a lot about your general strategy, your plans, projections, next moves, financial situation, client information, etc. You can’t leave all this accessible to the wrong eyes.
The loss of sensitive data can lead to significant financial problems and reputation damage. Every day, every hour, you and your team generate new data. Be ready to prevent data loss!
What does data loss mean?
Data loss is also called data leakage, and it means any kind of event or process that affects the integrity of data by corrupting them, deleting them, or making them inaccessible, unreadable, not usable for software, or users in any way.
Due to errors or failures, systems themselves can delete information while using, saving, processing, or transmitting it. However, be careful, because data loss can happen when the data are in motion, but also when they are not in use, only stored!
That’s why having backup and disaster recovery are a must for your business. You need both, the necessary resources to prevent and to restore lost data, in case it happens.
Most common data loss causes.
Data loss can happen more often than we would like to admit, due to causes like:
- Human errors. Lack of safe practices for checking emails before opening them, for building strong passwords, for mandatory logout, etc. Weak or non-existent access controls to the data.
- A device or devices you use to save data are physically broken or stolen.
- Virus infection of your system that is clearing different files.
- Thieves operating on a network or implementing a direct attack.
- Regular users, cybercriminals clearing or overwriting data intentionally or accidentally.
- Corruption of data. Here, the reasons might be different:
- Not exiting properly a program that is still in use, with open files.
- Voltage spikes or unexpected losses of power can corrupt files that were in use, and hardware can suffer damages.
- Malware, ransomware, or other viruses.
- Hardware issues. The possibilities are many, but as examples, just think about hard drives. They are very useful but if they crash or a sector is damaged, data written on that sector will be lost. Servers can fail, routers too. Even cables can be affected by different conditions like temperature (heat), and this will affect the transmission of data, and data themselves.
- Interruptions during the transmission of data. For instance, wireless routers sometimes can cause drops on networks, and this can affect data while being transmitted.
7 Ways To Prevent Data Loss.
As you see, data loss can really happen to everybody, at any time. The best choice is to prevent it!
Constant security training.
Statistics are clear, human mistakes are the number one cause of data loss. The only way to avoid this is to train people. Safe practices must be encouraged daily until they become habits. Collaborators must be aware of the risks their actions involve, and the damage that they can cause to the whole organization. Inform them about cyber threats, provide them with strategies to deal with such threats. Security must be shared responsibility.
Security training must be constant since collaborators can quit, others can be hired or promoted and they must know the responsibilities that new positions involve in terms of security.
Design this training based on the kind of business you own, positions involved, and data every collaborator generate or use. Getting everybody into a security-first policy is a big step for your data to be safe.
Some important points that you need to include in the training are:
- How to check e-mails to prevent phishing attacks, scams, and threats.
- How to prevent malware installation. Dangerous files, e-mails, images, software, websites, etc.
- How to create strong passwords, and common security policies related to them (not to reuse words, not to share, not to use the same password for different accounts, to update regularly, etc.).
- How to surf the Internet safely. The Internet is not a safe place. Employees need it to work, but they must use it carefully. Teach them to recognize fake domains, the difference between HTTP and HTTPS, the danger of downloading suspicious files, files, safe practices for using social networks, etc.
- Safety policies for the use of external media. Flash drives, disks, hard drives, are useful, but can also be a threat. They can be used to steal data, infect the system by installing malware, or directly corrupt hardware.
- Clean desk policy. Sensitive information should not be easily accessible to passers-by and thieves.
- How to keep safe customers’ data and privacy.
- Protection, physical and environmental in the office (handling of visitors, restricted areas, avoiding “shoulder surfing”, etc.).
There are many other important elements, but these are the main ones.
Encryption of sensitive data.
Make your data unreadable for criminals. If they can’t decipher data, they won’t understand their importance. Ideally, you should encrypt all your data. There are different software choices for encrypting data that you store, backup, data that you transfer from one place to another, etc. Encrypt as much as possible, and based on your business needs.
This is a crucial way to prevent but also to solve data loss if it happens. It’s the safest action in case of a ransomware attack. But to back up requires a consistent strategy. First, you must know perfectly the types of data your business generates, to be able to categorize and back up based on how critical they are. This will define the best way to back them up, and the frequency for doing so.
If a database changes constantly or not, if new additions are made every day or every month, etc., you can establish a backup schedule (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly). You will guarantee every detail to be up to date.
The strategy should include a variety of archives. So far, everyone knows that one copy is not safe enough. The most common recommendation is to have three different backups. Two backups in different formats, at least one not connected to the Internet. For example, a hard drive, a cloud system and an off-site backup in case your equipment breaks down.
Do not forget to test your backups to be sure they were created properly! You can also test data recovery to know how fast, and accurate the solution you use works. Especially in case of emergency, you will need this process to be fast and efficient.
There are different options for backing up data, local drives, and different cloud-based solutions like B-a-a-S (Backup-as-a-Service). The last one has become popular due to its efficiency and ease to use. For instance, it can backup data from cloud applications like office 365, Google Suit, complete computer data (user computers or servers), or just a selected part of the data. In case you lost the data, that way you can get it back.
As already mentioned, there is different data in your business. More or less critical. Not all data should be available to everyone. First, define the type of data that each employee needs. Then, establish controls with different levels of privileges to officially restrict this access. Strong passwords, the use of at least two authentication factors, and proper logout play a key role here. Access to hardware (potential sources of data) like computers or mobiles also must be controlled.
Security software to avoid cyber threats.
Hacking, phishing, ransomware… you name it. Cybercrime doesn’t sleep. Your business machines must be protected 24/7 with anti-malware software, efficient firewalls, e-mail security, encryption, etc. Modern and efficient technology helps a lot, but remember you must train humans to use it properly and to make the best out of it.
Updating and patching software.
Vulnerability is exactly what criminals are looking for. Using them, they can infect your system, modify, delete or leak sensitive data.
Both, updating and patching, help to fix such vulnerabilities, strengthen your security, and reduce the possibilities of data loss. Remember that updates include not only the new patches, but also enhanced features that are also helpful to prevent problems.
Hardware totally deserves attention. It’s the container of circuits, electronic systems, and your valuable data. Physical security and conditions to keep it safe are very important.
Control and restrict access to every physical machine. This means limiting credentials, installing physical locks, fencing if needed, and surveillance. The level of protection for every machine depends on the role it plays for your network or organization, and the relevance of the data it contains.
Maintenance and constant testing are also vital to keep hardware running smoothly, or to detect issues before they cause damage. Depending on the type of business you run, and its size, your hardware can require a lot of cables. To keep them in order, well organized, it is important that you do not make mistakes when turning off or connecting new hardware.
To locate machines in proper spaces and with proper cooling systems is vital for them to last in good condition, and to perform efficiently. Heat is a hardware enemy. It can dramatically shorten its lifespan. Since cooling systems work with electricity, you should be prepared to face outages. Cooling cannot stop, otherwise the hardware and data may be affected. An alternative power supply is really needed.
Currently, you should strategically choose the location of hardware, calculating the impact of weather changes. Floods and fires can happen, and your hardware must be as protected as possible. Of course, accidents can happen, nature is unstoppable, and in such scenarios, a backup, and a quality data recovery solution will be your only chances to get your data back, for your business to keep operating.
Data loss prevention is critical for businesses, and all kinds of organizations. It involves different factors that must be considered in a smart and consistent strategy. There is no surefire way to prevent data loss, but a combination of them can protect you better. To choose the best protection options, first, you must analyze your business needs and the sensitivity of your data.
Remember, no business is immune to data loss. To think about disasters is stressful but honestly, it’s better, and cheaper to be prepared. Don not forget that the best defense is the proactive one! Don’t waste time and design your strategy right now!
If you love data, you can read another article about it, here: