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It’s constantly in the news. Companies and even government entities have experienced data breaches, leaving consumers to wonder not if, but when, they will be a victim of identity theft. It’s easy to think, “We’re a small business, who would even bother with our data?” However, it turns out that small businesses are considered easy targets by hackers. A study done by the National Security Alliance indicated that “85% of small business owners believe larger enterprises are more targeted than they are. In reality, there have been cases where small businesses have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to cybercriminals.” As a small business, a breach of your clients’ data will likely impact your bottom line much more than the bottom line of a large corporation. So what can you do to ensure your customers’ data is secure? Here are a few tips to help you secure your data fortress.

Data Protection Audit
On an annual basis, your company needs to complete a data protection audit. An audit will review your data protection practices to ensure they are relevant and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliant. It will also determine if employees are regularly following all data protection protocols set forth by your company. Be aware of the types of data your company collects and why it is necessary. If it isn’t necessary for enacting business transactions, don’t collect it. Any client data collected must be protected.

Employee Awareness
It’s important to offer regular training on your data protection policies and their data protection obligations. According to Lexicology, “You should be able to demonstrate that an appropriate level of training has been provided by maintaining records such as sign-in sheets, records of online assessments and relevant literature distributed to your staff.” 

Up-to-Date Software & Backups
The simplest way a company can protect client data is to ensure all company computers have the latest web browsers, operating systems, and security software. This is the first line of defense against malware, viruses, and other online threats. Make sure updates, and security patches are regularly installed on all machines when they come out. Backup your files frequently as insurance against attacks by hackers. 

Multi-Layered Security
Not only should you have the latest security software installed, but create a multi-layered defense by employing firewall protection and using spam filters to keep your email safer. A spam filter can help reduce phishing attempts and malware. 

Limit Employee Access
Ensure that employees only have access to the information they need to do their job. Not every employee will need access to every piece of sensitive data, so grant permissions on an as-needed basis. Also, it is unwise to allow employees to keep client data on their personal devices, as this represents a significant security risk. If you allow employees to access client data from their own devices, it is imperative that policies are in place to limit the security concerns. 

Secure Wifi & Strong Passwords
Make sure your wifi network is secured with encryption protocols and strong passwords. If you have a guest network, keep it separate from the internal network. Require employees to use strong passwords and lock their computers when they step away from their desks. 

If you haven’t already assessed your company’s vulnerability to cyberattack, now is the time to do something about it. Being proactive can save you headaches down the road, and it can be a signal to clients, and potential clients that your business takes their data security seriously. In this day and age, that’s a significant credibility factor.