Building a Strong Security Culture

What is data security, and why is it important? 

Data security involves ensuring that data is kept private and available to individuals who have legitimate reasons to access it. Preventive cybersecurity systems and practices are essential, but they’re not enough. Because hackers are always developing ways around the latest security measures, it’s important to have response and recovery plans in place so systems can be up and running again as quickly as possible in the event that prevention measures fail. 


How much do small businesses really need to worry about data security? 

While individual small businesses may not be particularly lucrative targets for hackers, the fact that they can’t devote the vast resources to cybersecurity that large firms can make them attractive. While most small business owners know they are vulnerable to cyberattacks, many don’t know how to adequately protect themselves on a tight budget. In this article, we’ll explore steps you can take to build a strong security culture that protects your organization’s data, no matter the size of your business. 


What can I do to keep my company’s data secure? 

Even very small businesses can take powerful steps to protect data from cybercriminals. Doing so helps build trust with your customers, employees, and vendors and maintain a positive brand image. If you haven’t already implemented the following measures, add them to your short-term to-do list. 


Restrict access to sensitive data. 

Giving employees access to critical data on a need-to-know basis reduces the risk of a breach. Small businesses are especially vulnerable to social engineering strategies like phishing and BEC attacks. By strictly limiting access to sensitive information, you make your business less vulnerable to this type of cybercrime as well as limit the damage hackers can do with leaked credentials, which often can be purchased cheaply on the dark web. 


Add a Layered Security Strategy  

This strategy involves implementing multiple security measures, such as firewalls, endpoint protection, end user training, password policies, and regular backups, to create multiple layers of protection. By having multiple layers of security, even if one layer fails, the others can help prevent a successful attack. 


Use strong passwords, and change them frequently. 

Weak passwords can give hackers easy access to your systems. Frequently, users create simple passwords that are easy to remember, but such passwords are also easy for hackers to guess. Some of the most commonly used passwords, like “password,” “admin,” and “12345,” provide very little protection. Make sure employees use complex passwords and change them frequently to give any leaked credentials a quick expiration date. To build a strong password, use 

  • At least 12 characters 
  • A combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and/or special characters 
  • A phrase rather than a single word 
  • Different passwords for different accounts 

For security questions, which often ask for personal information that hackers might be able to find out, try translating answers into another language to make them harder to guess. 


Consider using a password manager. 

Because it can be hard to keep track of multiple unique and complex passwords, many people are turning to password managers to keep it all straight. These tools keep track of your usernames, passwords, and security questions so you can access all your accounts via a single login. You might see the problem inherent in this system: what if someone hacks your password manager credentials? In fact, this recently happened to thousands of Norton LifeLock customers. Because of this risk, it’s critical to enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication 

to prevent hackers from accessing your accounts with no more than a username and password. 


Use a firewall and secure wi-fi network. 

Make sure to use a secure wi-fi network and a reliable firewall. Your network should be hidden and encrypted. Set up your router so it doesn’t display your network name, and restrict access with password protection. A firewall acts like a sentry for your system, preventing identified security threats from gaining access.  These two measures work together to keep cybercriminals at bay. 


Use reliable, up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware programs. 

Antivirus and anti-malware programs provide additional protection in case your primary defenses fail, detecting and removing harmful data. Several reputable vendors provide reliable and affordable antivirus and anti-malware solutions. Be sure to download patches and updates promptly to keep your system protected as hackers discover and exploit vulnerabilities. Keep other software up to date as well, including operating systems and browsers, and run a security scan after each new update. 


Back up data often. 

Often, cybercriminals use ransomware to hold sensitive data hostage. You can ensure you always have access to the data you need by implementing a strong backup strategy. We recommend backing up data frequently in three different locations. Businesses with on-premises servers should use an offsite cloud server in addition to an on-premises backup server. If you’ve already completed a cloud migration, use a separate cloud service for secondary offsite backup. 


Train and retrain employees. 

To create a strong security culture, you must provide comprehensive cybersecurity training at onboarding, reinforce best practices with ongoing training, and prevent leaks by former employees with secure off-boarding procedures. Make sure employees understand the security measures described above and use them consistently. Codify procedures and expectations in your employee handbook or other materials that employees can access easily. 

Pendello specializes in providing managed IT services for small and medium-sized businesses. We can help you identify your company’s vulnerabilities, recommend solutions that fit your business, and provide expert support throughout implementation and maintenance. Browse our blog to learn more about how to protect your business data.