Protecting data should be a top priority for any company.
While important for end users, it’s also becoming more expensive for firms that do not protect their sensitive data. For example, recent enforcement for data privacy abuses increased with the FTC requiring both the company and CEO (and any future company he manages) to follow stricter security policies.
Yet, it’s often a challenge for startups to identify ways to protect their data — and this isn’t due to a lack of information, but rather too much of it. There’s more than one way to bake a cake and also, there’s more than one way to secure data. Deciding on which practices to use can be a challenge.
With that in mind, here are 5 tips to help companies secure their data.
How to Keep Data Safe and Secure
1. Security Policy (Identify and Protect)
The first best practice is to establish a strong security policy. For data protection, this involves both identifying what assets and systems will need protections and also protecting them with necessary tools and processes.
It’s important to start with understanding which parts of your business create and store sensitive data. This allows for a more strategic protection plan for teams to lean on when selecting tools or processes, because it will highlight multiple areas of overlap that can be protected with a single solution.
2. Employee Training
Another important aspect to a data protection plan is employee training. A security program is only as strong as its weakest link — which is always its people. So, it’s important to train employees on security best practices.
While training is relatively straight forward, there’s an important aspect to consider: What topics should be included in security training?
- Password management policy
- Phishing awareness training
- Introduction to required security tools such as VPNs or password managers
- Social engineering and physical security rules
- Software and vendor policies
The exact topics covered in training may vary across teams, but establishing a basic understanding across the entire company is important. Further, even with basic security training required across an entire company, firms will be better protected against attacks.
3. Use Best Practices
Cybersecurity best practices can change quickly but overall there are core tenets that remain consistent.
For example, the OWASP top ten vulnerabilities have been relatively constant for years. While it’s troubling to see the same vulnerabilities year after year, it does have a silver lining with the fact that companies can continue to benefit from many best practices year after year as well.
Cybersecurity best practices include:
- Multi-factor authentication
- Password managers
- Ensure your software stays up to date
- Have a breach response plan
- Continually train employees on security awareness
Simply following cybersecurity best practices may not be enough to prevent a breach but it is a good starting point for many companies. Using these best practices as a foundation also empowers firms to build on top of their security plans to create more robust defenses as the business grows and data protection becomes a bigger priority.
4. Encrypting Sensitive Critical Data
Another important aspect to a strong data protection plan is encryption. But before you encrypt and store your data, be sure your company only collects critical data. If your business does not need a particular data point, don’t collect it because that simply creates one more piece of data to protect.
After determining if all the data collected by your business is necessary, it’s time to look at encryption. One important note about encryption — while it’s best practice to not collect sensitive data that’s not used, it is best practice to encrypt more than just sensitive data. For example, email addresses are a great piece of data to encrypt. The extra encryption on internal team email addresses will help slow down or better, completely stop an attacker who’s successfully started to breach a system.
Lastly, startups should consider pentesting to help protect their data. This is especially relevant for firms that require pentesting to adhere to compliance frameworks or customer requests.
Due to the fact that many hacks occur from simple misconfigurations or other vulnerabilities found within a company’s tech stack, penetration testing can be a valuable way to identify these security blind spots and then address them before a malicious attacker exploits them.
Even companies that are not required to complete pentesting often find benefit from the exercise. For one, it helps show developers where security professionals would look within their code base and infrastructure to find security gaps. Furthermore, for companies that can afford the added protection offered by a penetration test, it makes sense to complete one. Firms can never have too much security, ask anyone who’s ever experienced a breach before.
In closing, remember data protection shouldn’t be an afterthought. Data breaches can cause a detrimental blow to a startup's ability to build trust with customers, not to mention the associated financial costs. Therefore, it truly is critical for companies to properly secure their data.
Learn more about how Cobalt’s Pentest as a Service (PtaaS) platform helps small and large businesses alike increase their security posture through penetration testing services.