Today’s businesses are exposed to several operational risks on their mission to solve a need for today’s sophisticated consumer. Businesses of all sizes, large, medium and small are exposed to risks in one form or another. The risks may arise from political to economic to social factors.
When a business is able to manage the risks that associated with its operations, that could be for the good to strengthen it and cause it to surge on a path of dominance. But the converse is also very much a possibility where the business’s inability to manage and protect itself against the risk it is exposed to could result in its failure to dominate in the field it finds itself.
This is seen with the good old Kodak where Kodak’s inability to reorient itself as new photography technologies like digital cameras emerged and threatened its survival and dominance of the market then.
Similarly, the new driver for business success in this age of technological advancement is data. Data is the new catalyst with which a business can make a fortune and have dominance over its market. This is why businesses in this era of history are exposed to the risk of data breach.
A company like Facebook is dominant in the social media space because of the enormous amount of data it has about its users all around the world. That enables Facebook to provide relevant services like target ads, relevant friend suggestions etc. and its ability to read the market space. With the help of available data the company was able to make the decisions to acquire some of its main competitors like WhatsApp and Instagram.
According to e-retail charts, amazon is leading the e-commerce company in the US, with rising volumes of sales. This is possible because amazon has taken time to study the e-commerce domain and what consumers want, and is providing just what today’s consumer wants and this is dependent on data.
Companies in the hospitality industry are deploying data-driven methods and schemes to improve upon their services to ensure customers are one hundred percent satisfied. The role of data for business success in today’s world cannot be underestimated or overemphasized.
However, things could go wrong when you’re working with data—for instance a data breach. Data breach is a situation where confidential, highly sensitive and/or protected data is accessed by an unauthorized character through unauthorized means. When data is breached, it could result in very catastrophic consequences for the victim. In the case of businesses, it could result in leakage of trade secrets, confidential trade files, customer details or even intellectual properties which are not yet registered.
Once there has been a breach, the affected businesses move in to manage the disaster and financial resources are involved in getting the situation under control. The amount of financial resource spent in remedying the situation is dependent on the severity or otherwise of the breach. For large corporations, dishing out money to remediate a breach might not be an issue, but rather the reputational damage they may face as a result of the breach and whether consumers might be willing to continue doing business with them.
Medium and small size businesses on the other side of the coin will feel the brunt on every side; finding resource to control the situation as well as reputational damage. If much care is not taken, the breach could spell the end of the business. This is why it is imperative that businesses of all shapes and sizes protect their systems from a possible breach.
Even though data breaches have become a never ending risk which businesses and the world at large are exposed to, it is crucial that businesses make conscious efforts to reasonably protect themselves from unauthorized access to their data. Below are some measures the corporate world could take to achieve this:
1. Strict IT policy. Policies are must be established to guide in providing solution to a problem. Just as businesses develop policies to guide their operations in the market space, it is prudent that they also develop IT policies to guide the use of their computer systems and devices in the work environment.
Developing a robust IT policy to explicitly determine the accepted limits and excesses of systems use is important. The policy should determine what network implementation is appropriate for the business, who connects to the network, what devices are allowed or not to the network etc.
In this day of technological advancement and convenience where employees decide to work with their own devices i.e. laptops, phones, iPad etc. they could become compromised entities through which a breach can be orchestrated. This is why IT policies are needed to regulate BYOD (bring your own device) issues among others to keep corporate data safe.
2. Strict surveillance of systems. Surveillance is a controversial issue in the tech space today, but as a business that wants to protect itself from unauthorized access to its internal data, surveillance in necessity you don’t have a substitute for. It is prudent to explicitly survey computer systems within your corporate network to determine what kind of data is entering and leaving the network, monitoring regular network traffic to notice any abnormal levels of traffic when there is, what employees are using the systems for and if it violates any IT policy provisions and/or poses any harm to the business. This will arm the IT department with good intelligence to have strong command over the company network and also help in the swift response to any incident that might occur.
3. Regular penetration tests. Businesses must begin to see IT as core business component and not just a support system and must make the necessary investments in IT to achieve and maintain success in business. Just as businesses will pay for auditing of their accounts or make necessary investments to expand production, they must ensure that regular network penetration tests are executed on their networks to determine network vulnerabilities. This will provide them detailed knowledge on what they are exposed to and what to spend money on. Regular penetration tests and solutions thereafter will keep businesses an inch ahead of unauthorized intruders.
4. Timely resolution of vulnerabilities. Timeliness is important in the attempt of protecting against a data breach risk. It is good penetration tests must be conducted regularly but it does not end there. There must be a timely resolve of all the vulnerabilities exposed by the test before any iron strikes hot. Technology is getting complex every now and then and if already discovered vulnerabilities are not resolved and new ones spring up, it becomes difficult to manage; given the financial commitments that goes with implementing this IT solutions. When businesses drag their feet in timeously implementing solutions, what will eventually happen is that, data will be breached at the very least attempt by an attacker.
5. Education of employees. Employees are those who implement the vision of the business using computer systems and are those whose actions and inactions could result in a data breach. It is for this important reason that they must be properly and adequately educated on the risk of a data breach and what they must do in their capacities to minimize the company’s exposure to a breach. They must be educated on the various vectors that could be deployed by intruders and symptoms of them so they can be vigilant and report any incident that resembles an intrusion or any suspicious event.
6. Physical protection and access control to systems. Who has physical access to computer systems like servers in a business environment is also important in protecting against a breach. It is critical to maintain very tight physical security at server locations and a properly regulated physical access to and from the location to prevent theft of hardware parts like hard drives which hold data. Also, managing properly access control of workstations must be on the protection agenda. Employees must logout of workstations when they are not using them. Also, passwords and usernames must be periodically changed and secured so that strangers don’t access local systems within the company.
7. Develop an incident response plan. Since data breaches have become inevitable in the life of businesses, it is provident that they develop incident response plans to guide in dealing with a breach in the event of an occurrence taking into account severity levels. It is better to be prepared and not have an incident than have an incident and not be prepared.
8. Well-resourced IT departments. Finally, in any businesses attempt to protect itself or minimize the risk of a data breach, it is vital that they maintain a highly resourced IT department to manage its IT issues. Where they cannot maintain a well-resourced department, they can outsource their IT needs to a more capable IT firm to manage for them. A milk is as good as the cow producing it.
These are some of the measures individual businesses can take to protect themselves from this huge risk of data breach which they are exposed to. The private sector usually depends on governments for legislation to protect them against such events; however, it is realized that intruders are miles and acres ahead of government legislation and even where legislation may apply, it amounts to very little so, it is judicious that businesses take their fate into their own hands and protect their data from a possible breach.
In conclusion it’s important to note that the size of the business determines the scale of solution to implement and the accompanying financial commitment that will be required; regardless of this, the private sector can no more shelve the issue of protecting itself against data breaches anymore. It has become a front burner issue now and they must act in their own interests and must act fast.