In today’s technology-driven world, many companies amass a large volume of highly-sensitive data such as credit card numbers, consumer/employee personal information, social security numbers, etc. As a result, this has created an ever-present threat of data breaches where information can wind up in the wrong hands.
In fact, research from the 2015 Cyberthreat Defense Report found “70 percent of organizations reported having been compromised by a successful cyber attack in the past 12 months.” This has created a legitimate concern for companies across many industries, necessitating the need to take data breaches seriously.
What’s the Risk of a Data Breach?
Although it’s impossible to say what the precise odds are of a data breach within your company because of all the different variables involved, data breaches have increased globally and no one is immune. Predicting a breach ultimately relies upon two main factors — the number of records a company maintains and the industry its in.
Companies that manage a lot of sensitive data (e.g. those in the medical, financial and retail industries) tend to be more susceptible than others who manage fewer records with less sensitive information.
Relevant Laws and Regulations
Currently, there are two federal laws that specifically address data security — the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act and the Fair Credit Report Act. Both were designed to ensure that companies follow proper protocol when handling and disposing of sensitive information. If there does happen to be a data breach that’s due to the negligence of a company, it can result in costly fines and penalties.
In addition, there are 47 states that have created security breach laws to help ensure that businesses and government entities take adequate precautions when handling sensitive data. You can find more information on these state laws on the National Conference of State Legislatures website.
How to Protect Yourself
Minimizing this threat usually begins by educating yourself and your team on how to appropriately handle data. For instance, you might provide training on:
- Collecting non-essential data
- Properly disposing expired data
- Reacting to a suspected data breach
It’s wise to implement a routine threat assessment program that periodically checks your risk level. Then, make the necessary adjustments to heighten security. This will often catch a small issue before it gets out of hand.
Another strategy is to utilize a robust security software program that uses cutting-edge techniques to prevent intrusions. This usually involves user authentication systems and encryption to monitor your network at all times.
Be sure to exercise caution when deciding who has access to sensitive information. For instance, only allow your most highly trusted employees to handle sensitive data — and it’s always smart to perform background checks before granting access.
Technology can be a double-edged sword when it makes our lives easier while the same time creating significant data security threats. Implement proactive measures before it becomes a problem to prevent a lot of headaches on your end, allowing you to run your business with greater peace of mind.