Secure your business data in five easy steps

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To many, the concept of data security involves a few key things; strong passwords, encrypted data and firewall protection. However, they are really only the tip of the iceberg as there are a number of other important considerations you should give to how you protect your network data – the lifeblood of your company. After all, statistics have found that 60 percent of companies that lose data will shut down within 1 year.

Rather than present you with an exhaustive list of ways you can look to enhance your data security, or give you tips which you have already probably implemented, you will find 5 potentially less obvious methods you can use to protect your data from prying eyes.

1. Secure you printer

The birth of the network printer was a godsend to businesses the world over. It meant that there was no need for a network station dedicated to the printer and jobs could be queued for printing from anywhere within the network.

What you may not have realised is that these network printers obviously need a rather large memory to store and queue jobs. This means that the memory of printers is often stuffed full of useful information and sensitive information that hackers crave. Whether it is financial reports, network information, or that they are just looking for an unsecured port on your network, a printer offers them a host of options. To protect yourself, make sure that you:

  • Enable disk encryption on your printer (check the settings)
  • Enable automatic disk wiping
  • Enable automatic log wiping
    • Very important to stop would-be hackers determining which machine in your network houses sensitive information
    • Enable encrypted password for web-interface
    • Put the printer behind a firewall

2. Encrypt USB drives and cards used within the office

In the last decade not only has computer memory become cheaper, but it has become smaller, so much so that USB memory cards have become ubiquitous items in the pockets or drawers of most people today. After all why take a laptop home when you can copy your files to a USB drive and take it with you?

Whilst this is great in theory, in practice due to their size and their relative low value (in terms of purchase price) people lose these items all the time. In fact in NSW the State Rail Authority has so many of them, that come year end they auction hundreds of them off. Last year a study by security firm Sophos found that in just 50 of these devices which were lost, none of them were encrypted, meaning the data could be read by anyone who found them. In fact Sophos found some rather sensitive information on them including :

  • Lists of tax deductions
  • Minutes of an activists’ meeting
  • School and university assignments
  • AutoCAD drawings of work projects
  • Photo albums of family and friends
  • A CV and job application
  • Software and web source code

To ensure that your work is only viewed by your staff and those authorised to read it, make it company policy to have all USB drives pre-loaded with an on-the-fly solution such as TrueCrpyt which will ask for codes each and every time the USB is loaded to a machine. It may seem pesky, but at least your data will always be safe.

3. Enable automatic scanning on all drives put into USB port

As above, USB memory drives have become a standard item owned by most people with a computer. Unfortunately what many people don’t realise is that by sharing their USB with friends, or using computers which may not have the same robust security as you have at your work that they are exposing their USB (and thereby their network) to malware and other nasties. Sophos – in the same research as discussed above – actually found that 66% of USB drives had multiple instances of malware (including spyware) embedded within the files on it.

If you are a small to medium sized business that needs to use USB keys and cannot afford to disable the ports on each of the computers in your network, then step up your anti-malware security and install an auto-run USB virus scanner which will scan all USB ports each time a new device is plugged in. Most of the large anti-virus vendors will have a solution which you can consider.

4. Regularly change your Wireless Network Security Key

The threat of someone using your wireless network is well documented. Why let someone use your bandwidth or take the chance that they have accessed your files? Whilst chances are you have not been compromised, why risk it? You should regularly change your other passwords, so why is your wireless network password any different? By changing it on a regular basis, you will make unauthorised access to your site that much harder.

5. Remember to protect your Smartphones

The popularity of smartphones in Australia is well documented, and today most businesses – especially smaller to medium sized organisations – have a number of smartphones used by employees. With the ability to access company email as well as download and read corporate documents smartphones represent a new avenue for opportunistic hackers.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that up to 58 percent of people will lose their phone for business at one point or another. If you have smartphones on your network, then invest in technology which will allow you the ability to remotely track and if needed, delete the contents of the phone completely.

At the end of the day, whilst there is a fine line between being paranoid and being sceptical of everything that concerns your data, being vigilant is essential. Whether it is checking an email that was sent to you, validating a URL before entering it to your browser or questioning whether your computer really does have 22 viruses as the pop-up says, being a little sceptical can go a long way to helping protect your data.