Data Theft: Are You Exposed

Businesses are storing more client data than ever before and that data is at greater risk of being stolen than ever before.

If you’re an adviser, consultant, physiotherapist or electrician, you have a lot of sensitive client data stored on your network. Names, addresses, telephone numbers, possibly tax-file numbers, and credit card numbers – virtually all the data a hacker needs to create false identities on the Internet and start buying everything from electronics to a new home!

Think about the data stored on your computer system. Then think about the problems your clients would experience if that information fell in to the wrong hands.

And here’s the scary thought. You’re more likely to be hacked by someone you know than a total stranger. 

Trusted employees land a better-paying position with a competing firm and download the client company’s database. It happens and it’s simple.

Disgruntled employees, recently-fired employees, unhappy spouses, even the kids who use your business computer to chat with friends can leave you vulnerable to data theft – theft that can bring down a business that took years – decades – to build.

 

Analogue data theft is much more common than electronic data theft. 

Sure, you’ve taken all the prudent steps to protect sensitive data from hackers, code crackers, script-kiddies and other black hats that roam the world of cyberspace. You have firewalls in place, anti-virus software updated daily and anti-spyware that detects malware before it has a chance to reach your network.

This is standard in today’s business world. You’ve taken the prudent steps we all take to protect against electronic data theft. But what about a cleaning crew that slips an unguarded laptop into the trash basket?

Actually you are more likely to be hacked by an angry spouse in the middle of divorce proceedings than you are by some kid 12 time zones to the west. Are you protected?

Can your kids access business documents and information from your computer at home? Can they log on and contact friends and relatives using your home or business computer? 

There are things you can do to protect business data from analogue theft, even if you have all the electronic protection in place. In other words, there are business practices that you can and should employ to protect against analogue data theft – someone simply walking away with your business.

  1. Keep data secure on a “need-to-know” basis.

Lock up data with passwords that are available only to those employees who need access to specific information to do their jobs. If your office network is open to all employees, anyone can steal that data so keep sensitive data password protected.

 

  1. Bulk up your passwords.

If you use your initials and birthday as your business password, it won’t take long for someone who knows you to figure out that password. Pet names, street addresses, birthdays, children’s names – these are all commonly used as passwords that protect highly valuable, highly sensitive data.

 

Add numbers and symbols to passwords to prevent against a relative or employee from figuring out your password and don’t give that password to anyone. A relative might figure out fluffy312 but they won’t figure out 1!pgf2%k.

 

  1. Lock down your hard ware.

It’s simple for anyone to walk into your office and walk out with an unattended laptop loaded with data. Cable locks keep laptops, micros and even desktop systems in place and, for the security they provide, these cable locks are downright cheap.

  1. Change your passwords for each account.

Most of us use the same password because remembering 10 different passwords is just too much information to carry around. That means if your manager knows your password for account information she also has access to your client information. Use a different password for each account. If remembering passwords is too much, use patterns on your computer keyboard and simply remember the pattern for access to specific data or buy appropriate software – and keep the master password to yourself.

  1. Change passwords often.

If you’ve used the same password for the past five years, every employee who’s come and gone can access data if they were given the password. At the very least, change passwords whenever an employee leaves your business’ employ.

  1. Add key logger software to your office network.  

Key logger software records every keystroke made by every employee with access to your network. This allows you or your directors to see where each employee goes on-line or across your network.

This may cause some ill will on the part of employees because it can be construed as a lack of trust on your part. However, honest employees won’t have a problem with the announcement that key logger software has been installed on the office network. (You might consider changing all passwords before announcing to the staff that you’ve taken this step to secure company data to avoid employees who do feel betrayed from accessing previously accessible files.)

  1. Keep your business computer separate from your personal computer.

If you work from home or have a remote site work station at home, keep your business computer password protected and let the kids use a different system for their on-line activities. Never let people have access to your business hardware unless you have to.

Finally, treat data as the valuable commodity it is.

It’s the stuff upon which your business is based. It IS your business. It’s your income today and your future well-being. Protect it like it was solid gold. It is.  And if you need to know more, contact your broker at Insurance House.

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