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Protect Your Data, and Protect Your Business

It’s not wrong to be trusting. But it is unwise. People tend to judge others by their own standards, so if they’re honest, they take it for granted that others are honest, too. By the time they realize their mistake, company data or finances have gone out the door never to be seen again. In some cases, this is just an inconvenience. In others, it completely destroys the business. That doesn’t have to happen to you.

You use computers in one form or another every day. The GPS systems in your car, your smart phone, even your television can be used to access the Internet and download movies or video games. Every time you access the Internet, you put yourself and your computer at risk. Taking the time to install security software and back it up by using the firewall that comes pre-installed on your computer, can protect you somewhat from hackers. You have to be even more cautious with your company data. Yet, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), many small-business owners aren’t protecting themselves or their customers as much as they could.

Here are some statistics courtesy of NCSA:

  • 65% of small businesses store customer data on their computers
  • 43% store financial records
  • 33% store credit card information
  • 20% have intellectual property and other sensitive corporate content online
  • Only 43% are confident that their businesses are protected against data thieves.

Installing security software and firewalls isn’t enough. You also have to educate your employees. According to NCSA, more than 75% of small businesses don’t have formal written Internet security policies for their employees. And more than half lack Internet usage policies that clarify what websites and Web services employees can use. It’s not always easy to know which websites are harmful and which ones are safe. Teaching employees how to recognize the warning signs of potentially harmful websites or phishing emails could increase the odds against someone inadvertently introducing malware into your business. Sadly, human error isn’t the only thing small-business owners have to worry about.

The National Cyber Security Alliance reported that 63% of small businesses don’t have social media use policies for employees. This is important because people who will over share their own personal information will probably also over share sensitive company information. Ignorance is not always bliss. But more disturbing than neglecting to have social media policies is neglecting to do criminal background checks on all employees, but particularly on those employees who handle your company’s finances. While this may work out more often than not, why tempt fate? Just as putting people in charge of company finances without checking their backgrounds jeopardizes your company’s finances, so does allowing employees to use USB devices jeopardize your company’s data. Despite that, more than two-thirds of small-business owners do allow their employees to use USB devices at work.

Everyone who chooses to access the Internet is vulnerable to attack. Because businesses have their customers’ personal information on their computers as well as their companies’ important data, it’s doubly important for them to take every possible precaution to protect themselves from both internal and external skullduggery.

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