Countless companies have succumbed to disastrous security breaches, exposing the data of clients and employees, paying millions in remediation and settlements, and leading to C-level firings. Nonetheless, countless other companies still seem to put data security on the back burner, as stories of their demise continue unabated. If a company’s overarching goal is to grow and make money, this matter must become a top priority.
Impressive growth and profit margins are irrelevant if the company ends up losing millions of dollars to rectify an avoidable security breach or half the team that built the business is fired because of negligent security practices. To preserve your business, not to mention your employment status, you have to invest in solid data security ASAP and here are some things to keep in mind when doing so:
The first step to protecting data is to have a plan. Businesses have strategic plans, marketing plans, development plans, and all sorts of other growth-related plans. Thus, crafting a security plan must become a regular part of all that annual planning. It may be necessary (and is certainly recommended) to consult with external IT experts to assess your company’s needs.
Although this may seem daunting time-wise and cost-wise, it is important to consider the savings in the long-run. The initial investment may be substantial, but the peace of mind and data protection that a strong security plan offers are priceless.
Related Article: The CFO's Guide to Document Retention
A solid security plan is useless unless everyone in the company understands and abides by it. There must be specific rules relating to secure document saving, retention, and sharing. Trainings must be conducted periodically, but enforcement must be customary and consistent. In addition, depending on the nature of the data that your company is storing or to which it has access, it may be necessary to require employees, vendors, and other consultants to sign non-disclosure and/or confidentiality agreements. The scope of these measures really depends on the value of the data at stake, as well as the repercussions for its exposure.
Systems with Security Measures
It is also important to invest in the appropriate software or systems to enable employees to complete their work while maintaining the integrity of sensitive data. In general, the system utilized should employ multi-factor authentication procedures and advanced encryption, at a minimum. These two measures are non-negotiable, but there are also other useful security features, such as watermarking, disabled printing, and privacy blind. The more security, the better.
One of the reasons that CEOs and other C-level executives have been fired after security breaches is due to the fact that a ridiculous number of people had access to their systems and/or data, essentially guaranteeing catastrophe. Even if a lot of people have to access information at some point, that access should never be unfettered. For anyone outside of the company, a special data room should be established to ensure that access is limited appropriately and to provide for constant monitoring and oversight via audit logs. And, when a business relationship ends, for whatever reason, it is imperative that such access is severed to prevent misappropriation and improper dissemination.
Ultimately, millions of dollars, and several important jobs, can be saved with a little research, planning, and investment.