Data breaches in small / medium businesses

Does your business collect and store personal information about your customers or employees? Virtually every business does and due to this the number of data breaches is on the rise.

A data breach is the theft, loss or mistaken release of private information and it isn’t just a “big business” problem. Small and medium businesses tend to have fewer data security resources and therefore are an attractive target.

According to research 60% of small UK businesses had a security breach in 2014, with the average cost of a worst case security breach being in the region of £115,000.

It is therefore important to for every business to take steps to prevent data breaches.


What can be done?

To assist with this, HSB Engineering Insurance have recently compiled the following steps which every business should look to follow:

1. Only keep what you need: Inventory the type and quantity of information in your files and on your computers. Reduce the volume of information you collect and retain only what is necessary. Don’t collect or keep information you don’t absolutely need. Minimise the number of places you store personal private data. Know what you keep and where you keep it.

2. Safeguard data: Lock physical records containing private information in a secure location. Restrict access to that information to only those employees who must have access. Conduct employee background checks. Never give temporary employees or vendors access to personal information on employees or customers.

3. Destroy before disposal: Cross-cut shred paper files with private information you no longer need before disposal. Destroy disks, CDs/DVDs and other portable media before disposal. Deleting files or reformatting hard drives does not completely erase your data. Instead, use software designed to permanently wipe the hard drive or physically destroy the drive itself. Also, be mindful of photocopy machines, as many of these scan a document before copying. Change the settings to clear data after each use.

4. Update procedures: Do not use National Insurance numbers as employee ID numbers or client account numbers; develop another ID system. Make sure that your procedures comply with any applicable laws or legislation. Also, make sure that they align with any applicable industry required standards, such those that may be required by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard.

5. Educate/train employees: Establish a written policy about privacy and data security, and communicate it to all employees. Require employees to put away files, log off their computers and lock their offices/filing cabinets at the end of the day. Educate employees about what types of information are sensitive or confidential and what their responsibilities are to protect that data.

6. Control computer usage: Restrict employee usage of computers to business use. Do not permit employees to use file sharing peer-to-peer websites or software applications, block access to inappropriate websites and prohibit use of unapproved software on company computers.

7. Secure computers: Implement password protection and ‘time out’ functions (requires re-login after period of inactivity) for all computers. Train employees to never leave laptops or PDAs unattended. Restrict tele-commuting to company-owned computers. Require the use of strong passwords that must be changed on a regular basis. Don’t store personal information on a computer connected to the Internet unless it is essential for conducting business.

8. Keep security software up-to-date: Keep security patches for your computers up-to-date. Use firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software; update virus/spyware definitions daily. Check your software vendors’ websites for any updates concerning vulnerabilities and associated patches.

9. Stop unencrypted data transmission: Mandate encryption of all data. This includes data ‘at rest’ and ‘in motion’. Also consider encrypting email within your company if personal information is transmitted. Avoid using Wi-Fi networks; they may permit interception of data.

10. Manage use of portable media: Portable media, such as DVDs, CDs, and USB ‘flash drives’, are more susceptible to loss or theft. This can also include smartphones, MP3 players and other personal electronic devices with a hard drive that ‘syncs’ with a computer. Allow only encrypted data to be downloaded to portable storage devices.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

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