Protecting Sensitive Data: Online and Offline

Businesses often overlook data security risks until issues arise. Key strategies to safeguard data include encryption, strong passwords, software updates, antivirus software, data backups, and employee training. For physical data, ensure secure storage, proper document handling, and regular audits. Implementing these measures can reduce data breaches and protect sensitive information.

protecting sensitive data offline and online

In the busy-ness of business, it’s easy to overlook all the ways sensitive information might be exposed. In our 20+ years of running an IT shop, we’ve seen lots of obvious data security issues that the company itself was oblivious to – until they ran into a problem. Such as: 

  • Unprotected laptops being stolen out of cars 
  • Credit card information scanned and stored on shared cloud drives like Dropbox (with no encryption) 
  • Papers with confidential information tossed in the regular trash (not shredded)  
  • Software that reveals client information in the URL – or allows you to see a different order with a small change in the URL  
  • Sensitive client information being kept in Excel or Google Sheets  
  • Shared passwords used by a disgruntled employee or contractor 
  • IoT Devices and Printers being used as access points into unprotected networks  

There’s a sense that “this can’t happen to us” – or – “we’re too small to be targeted” but one small mistake can be damaging to your business or your customers. Here are some key strategies for safeguarding data both online and offline. 

7 Ways to Protect Your Digital Data 

  1. Encryption: Encrypt sensitive data both in transit and at rest. This ensures that even if data is intercepted, it cannot be read without the decryption key.
  2. Secure Networks: Use firewalls, secure Wi-Fi networks, and virtual private networks (VPNs) to protect your data from unauthorized access. 
  3. Strong Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Implement strong password policies and encourage the use of MFA. This adds an extra layer of security beyond just a password. 
  4. Regular Software Updates: Keep all software, including operating systems and applications, up to date to protect against vulnerabilities and exploits. 
  5. Antivirus and Anti-Malware: Use reliable antivirus and anti-malware solutions to protect your systems from malicious software. 
  6. Data Backup: Regularly back up your data to a secure, off-site location. This ensures that you can recover data in the event of a cyberattack or hardware failure. 
  7. Employee Training: Educate employees on the importance of data security, recognizing phishing attempts, and following best practices for data protection. 

7 Ways to Protect Your Physical Data  

  1. Physical Security: Secure physical access to areas where sensitive data is stored. Use locks, access cards, and security cameras. 
  1. Document Handling: Implement policies for handling sensitive documents. Shred documents that are no longer needed instead of just discarding them. 
  1. Secure Storage: Store physical records in locked cabinets or safes. Limit access to only those employees who need it. 
  1. Access Controls: Implement strict access controls to both physical and digital data. Ensure that only authorized personnel have access to sensitive information. 
  1. Device Security: Ensure that laptops, tablets, and mobile devices used by employees are secured with strong passwords and encryption. If devices are lost or stolen, they should have the capability to be remotely wiped. 
  1. Visitor Policies: Monitor and control visitor access to areas where sensitive data is stored. Ensure visitors are escorted and logged in/out. 
  1. Regular Audits: Conduct regular security audits and risk assessments to identify and address vulnerabilities in your data protection practices. 

By implementing these strategies, business owners can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches and protect their clients’ sensitive information. We can help you think through your entire IT strategy, including file storage and file sharing policy and IT governance decisions so that you can protect your data, and protect your business, while giving your employees the tools they need to be professional and productive. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do to keep my data safe online and offline?

1. Encryption
2. Secure networks
3. Strong passwords and MFA
4. Regular software updates
5. Antivirus and anti-malware
6. Data backup
7. Employee training

How do I keep my physical data safe?

To protect your physical data you should focus on:
1. Physical security
2. Document handling
3. Secure storage
4. Access controls
5. Device security
6. Visitor policies
7. Regular audits

What are best practices for securing sensitive data?

To secure your sensitive data, control access by granting minimal permissions, implementing multi-factor authentication, and use role-based access control.

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