Protecting your digital assets comes in many shapes and forms, but all can be grouped into just a few pillars that work to protect your business. Overall, there will be three main threats to your business:
- Human intervention
- Hardware failure
Cybercrime is one of the biggest reasons to use this guide to protect your digital assets. There isn’t a single company in the modern world today that does not use a computer or software system to run their business. Even small or market-based businesses still benefit from using things like excel sheets and other programs to keep track of their supply chain and their finances.
Cybercrime is a serious problem, and it isn’t just something that large, publicly-owned businesses have to deal with. The fact of the matter is that small and medium-sized businesses are a huge target, and the reason why they’re such a target is simply because they are easy pickings. While criminals don’t often target small businesses specifically, many fall into their traps and get caught that way.
Cybercrime is also growing, with 62% of businesses around the world experiencing a breach or attack of some kind in 2018. There is an attempt every 29 seconds, with an average of 2,244 attacks every single day to businesses small and big.
They’re also getting better, with successful breaches increasing by 11% since 2018. The worst part? Many businesses won’t even notice the breach, but their customers certainly will as their information is stolen and used against them.
Cybercrime is one of the biggest threats to your business. They can steal from you financially. They could ruin you by deleting your data. They can steal your customer’s information and thrash your reputation and business as a consequence. You owe it to your business and to your customers to do your all to prevent this.
The human element will always be a risk to your digital assets. Issues can range from saving a file to the wrong location and subsequently losing it. It could be someone downloading a virus at home and bringing it to work (where it is uploaded when that device connects to your internet). It could be malicious, with employees stealing data or “adjusting” your financials for their own gain. The human element will always be a massive risk to your business, but the right security features and training can do wonders towards reducing these risks at the source. From there, all you can do is invest in digital forensics to get to the bottom because, other than prevention, the only way to stop at least intentional and malicious attacks from an employee is by catching them.
Data doesn’t sit in the air, despite how it may feel. It is stored on servers, and those servers are also a risk to your business. If all of your information is only on one computer, then everything rests on that computer staying in good shape. If it breaks down (both mechanically and in regards to its software), then your business is in trouble.
Making your data redundant is the best way to help you deal with hardware failure. Machines will get old and will start to break down. Some are even designed to have a limited lifespan. Caring for them properly and making sure they are at the right temperature and free of dust is a great way to reduce the risk of failure and prolong a machine’s life, yes, but you are working against the clock.
How Can You Better Protect Your Digital Assets?
There are many ways, thankfully, that you can protect your data and digital assets from cybercriminals, human error, and hardware failure.
Make Your Data Redundant
The best way to protect your data from hardware failure is by making it redundant. This is automatically done if you have your data backed up on a cloud server. Cloud accounts are hugely beneficial to small and medium-sized businesses not just because you pay for only the space that you use, but also because your data is backed up on multiple servers, in multiple locations.
Many of the best cloud providers go to great lengths to encrypt your data as well, including using natural patterns (an infamous example is via a lava lamp wall) where the natural patterns are used to create new keys that are impossible to predict. Why use such strange features to protect you that extra security against hackers? Because a computer cannot truly create a “random” number. Because it cannot do this, using a natural, physical element like a lava lamp is just what the doctor ordered. Hackers and computers alike cannot guess or create an algorithm that will predict the numbers these lava lamps turn out, making them very hard to break into.
The benefits of this cloud system are two-fold. If one server goes down, your data is backed up on others. You also have the benefit of that cloud business’ tech and security protocols there to protect you. They don’t make you invincible, but they are a great place to start.
Improve Your Security Framework
Your security framework will be made up of many different things. Start with anti-virus software, a firewall, a VPN, endpoint security, and more. Someone with a cyber security degree can help recommend how you can improve your framework, but more than that, they will be available to help optimize your system. Running threat analysis and creating a recovery plan in the worst-case scenario is just as important.
For now, however, just get that framework in place. You need to protect your internet connection, your endpoints (the devices that your employees or guests bring with them that can connect to your internet), and your data.
Part of this will include protecting your folders from unauthorized access from your employees. It doesn’t matter if everyone working for you is the most trustworthy person on the planet. They could have their data stolen and have that stolen information used to access their business accounts with you.
By protecting your data by limiting which folders employees have access to, you reduce the threat of internal espionage and theft and also work to reduce the risk of your employees becoming a secret back-door key for hackers.
Train Your Employees
Employees are how hackers get through even robust, secure systems. If someone who works for you accidentally downloads a malware virus to their home computer or to their phone and then brings it into the office, then it doesn’t matter what software you have protecting your business because that virus is getting uploaded directly to your company.
Train your employees on how to recognize threats, and keep them updated with the cybercrime trends to watch out for. By keeping these skills sharp, you can help them, help themselves. In return, they become less of a weak point for hackers to exploit.
Passwords and Two-Factor Authentication
Sometimes all that you need to protect your business is a set of password restrictions. If every employee has their own unique password to access their work at your business, then if their information is stolen elsewhere, that set of log in details cannot be used to access your accounts.
This is becoming a very popular approach for targeted attacks, with hackers going above and beyond when it comes to getting access to certain accounts. They won’t just know log-in details; they’ll know how your business operates and its chain of command. They do their homework and can often be stopped just by having every employee use complicated and unique passwords.
If you can, require everyone to use two-factor authentication. This way, hackers will have to have both sets; access to a phone number and an employees’ log-in data.
For higher-up employees that have access to a lot of sensitive data, lock these folders behind their own unique password, and encrypt them. What this will mean is that if a hacker gets in through you or another top-level employee, they will hit a wall when it comes to your most important information because they only had that initial password and not the rest.
Having every employee have their own set of unique, complex passwords makes it easy to understand who the breach was. This is instrumental if the breach was on purpose and can help you focus your efforts if it was from an outside source.
Bring on a Cyber Security Analyst
A cyber security analyst, ideally one with a cyber security degree from a world-recognized, accredited university, is absolutely worth having around. The last thing you want as a small or medium-sized business is to get hit with a cyber attack when you are just starting to lift off. Someone with a cyber security degree works to improve your overall security framework, run analyses, tests and works to create contingency plans for the day that one attack makes it through.
You should never assume it’s an “if” when it comes to a data breach or a hack, but a when. The more you grow, the bigger of a target you will become. This isn’t just because there is more to steal and criminals take notice, but because your systems, staff, and endpoints increase as you grow, meaning that the number of potential weaknesses to exploit grows with you.
A dedicated cyber security degree-holding expert is exactly what you need to keep your business secure and running full-steam ahead.
Or: Become a Cyber Security Expert Yourself
If you cannot afford a cyber security expert’s high prices, then earn a cyber security degree yourself. You don’t need to have coding experience, either, as there are cybersecurity graduate certificates you can take in advance that will bring up your coding skills up to speed so that you can then start your new cyber security degree.
There are a few things that you will want to make sure of when looking at a cybersecurity degree. To start, it has to be 100% online and have no mandatory log-in times. The ability to learn at your own pace is essential for managers or business owners, and more importantly, will give you the ability to succeed at both avenues.
Don’t wait until you graduate with that cybersecurity degree, either. Use what you learn and put it to practice at your business from day one. Not only will you start to protect your business better, as you aren’t dallying, but you will also have applicable, real-world experience and examples to help direct and inform your education.
If you have a problem at work, take that problem to your educators. Together you can work out a custom scenario, and you get that problem at your company fixed.
Growing without a cybersecurity expert on your team is a huge risk. By working towards your own cybersecurity degree you can ensure your company is protected and ready to grow. It’s an invaluable position and becoming an expert yourself will continue to help your business stay safe and strong.
How Can You Continue to Keep Your Assets Safe?
You continue to keep your assets safe by analyzing and auditing your current security measures. You learn how to do this and more with that cybersecurity degree, so if you have chosen to either hire or earn that cybersecurity degree yourself, then you will have all the tools that you need to improve and keep your business airtight from hackers.
What Happens in the Worst Case Scenario?
Always, always try to have the most essential information in relation to your business backed up, offline, and without connection to the outside world. Ransomware is one of the dangerous types of hacking attacks, as it holds your data hostage unless you pay up. Even if you pay, however, hackers could delete everything, and your business could be wiped.
By keeping your essential data backed up, you salvage your business. It will take time to get everything back up to normal, but so long as you have that core, you can be reborn.