7 top tips to keep your data secure

Ben Griffin, sales director at Computer Disposals Ltd, offers some crucial advice

As damaging as security threats can be, they’re also easily avoidable when you have the appropriate safeguards in place. For businesses in particular, investing in the right methods is essential.

1. Protect against malware

Ward off data threats by securing your PCs and network against malware. Malicious software that can cause massive amounts of data damage, malware can swarm on unprotected machines without you even knowing.

  • Apply the firewall: while not enough on its own, your router’s on-board firewall provides the first line of defence, so turn it on.
  • PC protection: sophisticated security software protects without compromising on the performance of your computer or network. Look for protection that can deal with identity theft, suspect websites and hacking in one fell swoop.
  • Keep emails clean: anti-spam software protects against unwanted emails, which can create risks and distractions for employees. Stop them in their tracks with the necessary precautions.

2. Keep your wireless network secure

If you have a wireless network, beware: hackers are waiting to pounce on it without warning. An encryption key may flummox those who aren’t especially tech savvy, but to hackers, it’s be a breeze to bypass.

Strengthen your router by using the strongest encryption setting you can to protect your business, and turn off the broadcasting function to make your network invisible. As far as hackers are concerned, they can’t hack what they can’t actually see.

3. Safeguard passwords

Even something as simple as a password can be optimised to fortify your data. They might be a nuisance to remember, but the more complex your passwords, the more protection you can provide.

Make your passwords at least eight characters long, and embed numbers and other non-standard characters within them so they can’t be easily guessed. Changing them frequently can also help –as can employing credentials which aren’t words, but combinations of seemingly random letters, numbers and special characters.

Image source: Dan Nelson/Unsplash

4. Create a plan for personal devices

More common in small-to-medium sized businesses, make sure you’re staying abreast of the security risks associated with employees bringing in and using their own devices.

Create a plan for the practice to provide some protection against legal repercussions and mobile system costs. A clear, comprehensive policy covering pertinent data deletion, location tracking, and internet monitoring issues can be very valuable.

5. Set up automatic software updates

Hackers love to scan a network or site to see which version of software it’s running on to make it easier for them to exploit the vulnerabilities of older versions. Updating device security settings, operating systems and other software to their latest versions can prevent this from happening. Set any patches and improvements to automatically update in the background to further safeguard against potential threats.

6. Dispose of data properly

Having the appropriate measures in place to dispose of data which is no longer required is a critical factor in reducing the risk of a security breach.

Ensuring that retired and reused devices and storage media have had their contents properly removed will ensure that confidential company data can’t be retrieved further down the line –and won’t fall into the wrong hands.

Remember; reinstalling your operating system, formatting your hard drive or deleting specific files and folders doesn’t ensure your data is gone. In fact, in most cases your data is still completely accessible with freely-available tools. Ensure your IT disposal partner is using a tool that overwrites your data multiple times ensuring your data is unrecoverable.

Businesses should look to implement a sound data destruction policy which outlines the protocol for each use case (computers, phones, external hard drives and flash memory) –whether these devices are being redistributed within the business or discarded at the end of their lifecycles.

7. Use the cloud

A reputable cloud provider will be able to store data, maintain software patches and implement security. While not likely to be suitable for enterprise-level organisations, this can be a good approach for small businesses looking to provide themselves with a degree of protection.

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