Data security has always been a top priority for the business. However, in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic when companies worldwide were forced to set up remote workflows, it has become even more important.
Organizations that deal with large amounts of the client, financial, and personal user data should put their safety in the first place. There are many tools and practices that will help you protect sensitive information.
In this article, you will learn answers to the following questions:
- How is the coronavirus outbreak impacting cybersecurity?
- How to protect sensitive information from security risks?
- How to ensure data security and privacy when working remotely?
Furthermore, you will receive a detailed checklist to keep your data safe and see whether you can successfully manage security risks or not. Let’s begin!
How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting cybersecurity?
During the coronavirus outbreak, companies from all over the world are encountering a growing number of security threats such as hacker attacks, DDoS (denial-of-service attack) attacks, phishing, malware, and ransomware viruses.
For instance, the World Health Organization has witnessed a significant increase in hacker attacks and email scams since the beginning of COVID-19. At the end of April, WHO had a leak of 450 user credentials including email addresses and passwords. Although this didn’t negatively impact the WHO systems as the information was not recent, it did affect an older extranet system, which is employed by retired specialists and partners.
“Ensuring the security of health information for the Member States and the privacy of users interacting with us a priority for WHO at all times, but also particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.” —said Bernardo Mariano, WHO’s Chief Information Officer.
Building a remote workflow always introduces various cybersecurity challenges as employees perform tasks distantly, often accessing data from home devices. Therefore, businesses should hold staff training, set up reliable passwords, and establish safe information storage. But there is more. Explore the 8 best practices to ensure data security and privacy in your company.
The 8 best practices to ensure data security and privacy
There are many ways that will help you protect sensitive information and build digital trust. When preparing a data security strategy, check out software and hardware for leaks and vulnerabilities, see what measures your company has already taken and what you should improve next.
1. Create reliable passwords
This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to ensure data security and privacy. To set up robust hacker-resistant passwords, you should use a combination of numbers, symbols, lowercase and uppercase letters.
For example, if you want to use some simple word, say, thirteen, you can convert it into “Th1rt44n”. Also, never include in your passwords personal data such as name, birthday, phone number, address, names of family members or pets. Remember that they should have a length of at least eight characters. The more characters, the better.
In addition, some software solutions provide the ability to create passwords that automatically expire in a certain time period, say, every two months, which is very convenient. For this purpose, you can use Norton or another specialized tool that generates robust passwords that are hard to crack and automatically changes them after a certain period of time.
2. Increase security awarenesses in your company
When working remotely, it is very important to increase employee awareness and responsibility for information safety. To prevent possible risks and fix vulnerabilities, you should prepare a training program and hold a few workshops explaining privacy policies and teaching the best data security practices.
3. Use VPN connections
The use of a virtual private network (VPN) is another important step to increase data security and privacy. The primary goal of VPN services is to encrypt data and enable a reliable tunnel for its transmission, so that an intruder can’t receive the information about your location and online activities. Employing VPN connections, employees will safely access the required devices and computer systems when performing tasks remotely.
4. Employ a secure email program
When asking yourself “How to secure data?”, remember about including the use of a secure email program in your strategy. Sometimes you need to send some important information in emails, which can be under an NDA. Or you may have to ensure compliance with security standards and regulations. To provide safe communications, you can employ specialized encryption services such as Tutanota or Virtru.
5. Use reliable tools for data sharing
Companies that operate with large amounts of the client, personal, banking, and other data, often establish strict security policies that don’t let parties share it via emails. To ensure information security and privacy when working remotely, you can use reliable applications that encrypt it.
For example, Citrix ShareFile provides users with encryption functionality, file synchronization, and digital signatures to sign documents online. Signal, another popular tool for file sharing, offers end-to-end encryption (E2EE), one of the best ways to protect user data that is widely employed in messengers. For instance, Telegram, WhatsApp, and Viber added it.
In the E2EE system, only communication participants—sender and recipient—have the keys to code and decode messages. Therefore, even when your emails and documents pass through numerous third-party services, they cannot be read by others.
6. Set up a two-factor authentication
To provide safe user logins in their accounts, employ two-factor authentication, a simple and reliable way to ensure data security and privacy. If a laptop or tablet for remote work is stolen or some passwords used by your employees are compromised, this feature will help you protect sensitive information.
Although intruders may crack the system and steal credentials, they will need a smartphone to receive a verification code. And hackers certainly won’t have a fingerprint if you use it as a password. What’s more, two-factor authentication will allow you to get automatic alerts notifying that someone is attempting to sign in to your account.
7. Connect cybersecurity consultants
If you need to ensure the highest level of data security and privacy, you should engage security experts who will analyze your systems for vulnerabilities, enable safe information storage, set up access permission control, as well as help you prevent hacker attacks, malware, viruses, and other threats. Leveraging cybersecurity-first approaches, you will reliably protect sensitive data. With efficient proactive risk management, customer trust in your company will increase.
In accordance with the survey by PwC’s Digital Trust Insights, 91% out of 3,000 business leaders connect security experts as stakeholders. Analysts also found that 80% of organizations have already used some tools and strategies to provide cybersecurity.
8. Protect from phishing
Phishing is a practice of fraudulent email sending with the purpose of receiving personal data, for example, user credentials or credit card information. These emails ask people to click on scammy links that are created to download viruses or steal user account data.
As email addresses are one of the easiest data pieces that can be hacked or obtained by intruders, phishing is one of the most popular threats that you need to protect your company from. Recently, the number of mobile phishing scams has significantly increased as mobile devices have been used by remote employees more often.
For instance, when specialists left traditional offices and began working distantly, Lookout saw a 37.1% jump in mobile phishing attacks, growing from 15.8% in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 21.6% in the first quarter of 2020.
Since today many people are doing their jobs outside the office, you should pay special attention to preventing human errors and teaching staff how to distinguish between fraudulent and regular emails. This is also important in case you cooperate with freelancers or third-party contractors, or if some of your team members always perform tasks from home.
A checklist to ensure data security and privacy
Now you know the 8 best practices to protect sensitive data when going remote. However, how do you define whether you are fully prepared for security threats or not? Take a look at the following checklist.
1. Keep your data safe:
- Back up all important documents, images, records, etc. Keep them in not in your system but, for example, in the cloud.
- Always make sure that you visit the company’s official app or website before using logins and passwords or entering other personal information.
2. Check the current software and computer systems:
- Make sure that your remote employees have installed the most reliable anti-virus programs on their mobile and web devices.
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) for remote collaboration.
- Set up role-based data access permissions to secure sensitive information.
- Leverage a two-factor authentication if you haven’t used it yet.
- Engage security experts or request a consultation from a reputable vendor if necessary.
- Install mobile and web applications only from trustworthy software vendors.
- Constantly monitor tech devices and software systems for potential security risks and suspicious activities.
- Disable outdated and/or unreliable third-party components that can be employed by hackers as entry points.
3. Make sure that your employees are vigilant:
- Ask your team members to talk to their families about the importance of information security and how to keep data safe when being online.
- Verify that your staff can distinguish between fraudulent and regular emails.
- Create robust passwords and make sure that specialists don’t allow their devices to remember them.
- As you should not use the same passwords across multiple apps and websites, it may be difficult to memorize them. So, you can use a reliable password manager tool, for instance, 1Password that lets customers quickly and securely sign in.
If your company has been forced to work remotely, or some of your team members always do their jobs distantly, or you are going to set up remote collaboration in the future, you need to focus on data security and privacy issues. Employing the 8 best practices described in this article, you will protect sensitive information and prevent from various threats.
If you aim to increase data safety in your company, drop us a message to request a consultation. Our team will get back to you within 1 working day.
“I don’t see a short term altering of spending, but clearly this will come for many organizations as the COVID-19 crisis continues. It would be extremely short-sighted for business leaders to reduce cybersecurity staff and budget at a time when the majority of the workforce is critically dependent on cyber to function.” —Steve Durbin, managing director of the Information Security Forum.