Data is the fuel that drives your operations. Many companies use data to uncover insights regarding customer preferences, sales patterns, and inventory. Because of how valuable data has become, businesses are racing to implement data management techniques that provide value and improve performance.
However, this so-called "data rush" has led to genuine cybersecurity concerns. Your company information may be getting shared across unsecured platforms, and this may result in potential data breaches.
What type of business data is at risk?
There are multiple layers when it comes to business data. To begin with, public data is information that presents a low risk when compromised (such as press releases, non-classified business reports, and social media handles), while private data is more sensitive and may result in a higher level of risk (examples include purchase orders and company presentations).
Restricted data presents the highest risk when compromised because it includes personally identifiable information such as names, addresses, bank account numbers, and social security numbers.
The unfortunate reality is that your private and restricted data may be getting shared online without your knowledge. If such data were to end up in the wrong hands, you might end up facing multiple data risks.
Are you wondering how your business data could be ending up in the hands of unauthorized persons? Here are six ways this can happen, and here are also some tips for how your organization can stay ahead of such risks.
1. Phishing emails
Phishing is one of the most significant risks that your company data faces. Phishing emails come disguised as a message from a supervisor or colleague enticing the recipient to click on a malicious link (or to download an attachment). Such links often redirect the user to a malicious website, where they may unknowingly insert their username and password. In this way, your sensitive company information will end up being shared online.
Phishing emails are particularly risky because they deceive your employees into disclosing sensitive information such as passwords, social security numbers, contracts, and much more.
To reduce the risk of phishing emails in your business, make sure you strengthen your network from incoming threats. Install advanced perimeter software that can detect and prevent the entry of suspicious email messages. Ensure that your email system has sophisticated tools to recognize potential phishing attacks. You should also educate your employees on how to identify suspicious emails and uncharacteristic requests.
2. IoT devices
The internet of things has disrupted (in a positive way) how businesses carry out their daily operations. Interconnected devices improve performance, reduce costs, and enhance the customer experience. However, these devices have also become notorious for data breaches.
IoT devices often use unsecured channels to transmit data including Bluetooth signals and low-frequency channels. And because 70% of smartphone applications share data with third parties, your company information can easily end up in the wrong hands. For example, if you use an app to place orders, track sales, or schedule your workers, such data may be shared publicly and end up exposing you to risk.
A solution to this IoT challenge is to limit the permissions that your apps have access to. Only provide what is necessary to keep the app running effectively. Another useful technique is to encrypt your data while it's being transferred from one location to another. This will reduce the likelihood of any interception attempts.
3. Social media sites
Social media marketing is an effective channel that businesses use to attract new customers. However, your company's social media handles may also turn into a vulnerable area for data breaches. Whenever you post any company data to promote your brand or connect with customers, you may end up sharing private or restricted information if you are not careful.
To protect your sensitive data when engaging with customers online, make sure that every social media post is double-checked for content privacy and security. Only share public information that is of little to no risk when it ends up in the public domain.
4. Online accounts and loyalty programs
Loyalty programs are not only for individuals. Businesses also enjoy taking advantage of such programs so they can receive discounts from their B2B suppliers. When signing up for online accounts and loyalty programs from your upstream business partners, you may end up providing lots of private information. For example, a single online account may request the names of employees, phone numbers, birth dates, and even home addresses.
This data becomes publicly available information that may end up in undesired locations. The recent data breaches at Marriott and Target show just how damaging compromised data from loyalty programs can be.
To mitigate this risk, make sure you only provide limited information to online accounts. Inquire about the security steps that are being taken to safeguard your business information. You may need to be very picky when it comes to choosing who to trust with sensitive data.
5. Unsecured Wi-Fi networks
Many businesses occasionally operate their systems using unsecured Wi-Fi networks. For example, your employees may log in to their company emails on a free Wi-Fi service, or they may send restricted data across insecure network channels.
Using public or unsecured Wi-Fi can easily result in data breaches. This is because any information you disclose (or websites you visit) is likely to be intercepted by malicious parties. Make sure all your company business is conducted across secure and encrypted network channels. Provide your employees with access to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when connecting to company systems or email from outside the office.
6. SQL Injections and Eavesdropping
An SQL injection is a cybersecurity threat that may affect your database. When sensitive business data ends up in the wrong hands, hackers could use it to program harmful SQL commands that derive and share your private information publicly.
Eavesdropping is another risk, where incoming traffic to your website can be intercepted and compromised. Such data includes usernames and passwords, credit card numbers, addresses, among others.
Keeping your business data secure is key to the success of your business. Many different threats surround your private and sensitive company information, making it necessary for you to implement steps that will mitigate such risks.
When it comes to cybersecurity, a holistic approach is necessary. This includes appropriately organizing your data, using strong passwords, encrypting sensitive information, and installing strong perimeter software that will keep threats away.