For many modern businesses, data is one of the most valuable assets you can have. When it’s not managed properly, however, it can also be a serious liability.
Confidential or sensitive consumer information, internal documents, and employee information can all be exposed if your data isn’t properly secured.
These data breaches can have a devastating impact — especially for smaller businesses who may struggle to recover from the costs associated with exposure of customer data.
This is why data protection is important for any business — and how simple security measures can go a long way in keeping customer data safe.
The Risks of a Data Breach
The rise of e-commerce and digital marketing means that businesses hold on to more customer data than ever before.
For example, it’s not uncommon for a business to store data like customer names, addresses, emails, telephone numbers, and even bank details.
This information is essential for your marketing efforts — your email campaigns probably wouldn’t get very far without a list of active customers and their email addresses. However, this data — along with other info, like business communications and employee information — can also create a serious headache for your business if it gets exposed.
Data breach costs can vary depending on where your business is located and what kind of data you’re holding onto. In general, however, data breaches are expensive — in 2020, they cost $3.86 million on average — and they’re getting more and more expensive every year.
The more information you hold on to, the worse these costs can get. For large firms that hold on to large amounts of financial data, for example, costs may be as high as $50 to $100 million.
The expenses that come after a data breach are in part due to fines that businesses can face in the wake of a breach, but also the costs associated with lost or corrupted data, downtime, and decreased customer confidence in your brand.
These costs are often enough to sink small businesses. One USA Today report even found that 60% of small businesses go bankrupt within six months of an attack. The same report also found that 90% of small businesses aren’t using any data protection at all to keep customer information safe.
Data Breaches Are Becoming More Frequent
To make matters worse, data breaches are becoming a lot more common, to the point where more than 500 million records were exposed in 2018 alone.
At the same time, hackers are attacking a wider variety of targets.
While major brands and businesses are some of the most common victims of cyberattacks, small businesses are facing an increasing number of attacks and breaches.
According to data from Verizon, almost a third of all data breaches in 2020 involved small businesses. This was due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic — as the pivot to remote work presented new security challenges for small businesses — but also a growing trend of hackers targeting small businesses and organizations with fewer resources to put towards cybersecurity.
How Data Protection Keeps Businesses Safe From Breaches
With the right cybersecurity strategy, you can protect your business and customer data against hackers and cybercriminals.
Even basic security measures can go a long way.
For example, research from Verizon found that in almost a third of all attacks that resulted in breaches, hackers’ primary weapon was phishing — a common kind of cyberattack where a hacker pretends to be a trusted party to trick people into divulging sensitive information or downloading a malicious file.
Simple training and good cybersecurity protocol can go a long way in preventing these kinds of breaches.
For example, teaching employees how to spot a phishing attack and the basic security practices they should follow — like using a unique, secure password for their work accounts — can help prevent these common oversights and mistakes that may lead to breaches. Using a firewall, regularly backing up data, and managing the network access of devices, like employee smartphones, can also help.
Better security technology can also be a great tool. Even simple solutions can both help you catch potential security risks and deter hackers.
Encryption, for example, is typically considered a basic security measure, but it can go a long way in deterring hackers. Failing to encrypt data may also make your business more vulnerable to attacks.
This is true even for big-name companies and organizations. A number of breaches and leaks — like the leak that led to tech giant Tech Data accidentally releasing 264 gigabytes of protected data — have been caused by issues with misconfigured encryption, or a lack of any kind of encryption at all.
More advanced security tech can help you create even better protection for customer data.
Many modern security platforms, for example, include tools that help you detect unusual network activity or manage network access — ensuring that if an employee account is compromised by a hacker, there’s only so much of your network that the hacker will be able to access.
How Data Protection Can Keep Customer Data Safe
Data is valuable, but it can also pose major risks for your business. Many companies are holding on to a growing amount of sensitive consumer data — at the same time, hackers are ramping up their attacks and targeting smaller businesses more and more often.
Any business that collects and holds on to consumer data — or any kind of sensitive info — should be aware of the cyber threats out there, and what they can do to prevent a breach.
For example, employee training that teaches your team how to identify a phish can go a long way in shutting down attacks that rely on social engineering. Good security practices — like the use of encryption — can also help.
– Originally written by Eleanor Hecks (Editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine)