Businesses, regardless of size, have sensitive data and losing such information would affect customer relationships, and result in financial liabilities and legal penalties. Many small businesses are affected by data breaches. Customers are not always notified that their personal information has been stolen.
Reasons Why a Firm May be Exposed to Data Breach
Employee Negligence: The primary cause of the data breaches in small businesses is employee negligence caused by the following actions:
- Leaving computer systems unattended
- Visiting restricted sites
- Clicking spam links
- Not changing passwords frequently
- Tendency to open attachments
- Loss or theft of laptops, smart phones and storage media
- Procedural errors
Such negligence often puts sensitive business data at risk of being hacked by cyber criminals and even malicious employees.
Contractor mistakes: Critical information is more likely to be at risk when it is outsourced to unreliable third parties. If the outsourcing firm does not have proper measures in place to prevent security breaches – such as stringent HIPAA compliance for medical transcription services – their clients would be badly affected.
Inadequate Internal Data Protection Measures: Many small businesses do not have adequate mechanisms internally to protect or safeguard confidential data. This exposes them to the risk of information theft by malicious insiders. Only data-centric security for confidential information can ensure protection from external as well as internal threats.
Risks posed by Employee Mobility: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs have become more commonplace in enterprises, and data on such devices is not under the scrutiny of the firm’s IT administrators. It is one of the main reasons for data breaches. Research shows that more than half of employees frequently store sensitive data on their laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. If these devices are lost or misplaced, there is a greater chance of confidential information getting into the wrong hands.
Lack of Back up Data: Many of the companies don’t have a routine mechanism for storing back-up data. Backing up files is important to protect against loss of user data, hardware breakdown, corruption of the database, and even natural disasters. Critical data is always at risk without back-up measures.
Non-implementation of Data Security Policies: Small businesses may have data protection policies on paper, but the problem is that these are not properly implemented. In addition to ensuring that data protection policies are put in place, firms should make sure that their employees, insiders, and customers are well-informed about these policies and that they are strictly implemented.
Strategies to Address Security Issues in Small Business
- Protect confidential data stored in laptops, smartphones or backup tapes with password security. Unauthorized access can also be prevented by encrypting data.
- There should be a comprehensive backup strategy to protect data.
- Implement an automated mechanism for destroying or securely dispose the confidential data of sensitive customer, patient or employee after use.
- Install firewalls and antivirus software and other malware solutions on systems and devices.
- Educate employees and all others concerned about the company’s security policies and take measures to strictly implement them.
Tasks that are routinely outsourced include medical billing and coding, medical and legal transcription, data entry and document conversion, payroll, web hosting, and information technology. As outsourcing means putting critical information in the hands of a third party, businesses should choose their partner with care. They should make sure that the service provider also has strict security policies in place – starting from the hiring of their employees and training them on security policies to a work environment that is designed to prevent security breaches.