6 steps to protect your business’s financial data
As a business, you must protect your consumers’ financial data. If your company’s sensitive, financial information is hacked, you could suffer from financial loss and brand mistrust or damage—and possibly lose customers. Ensuring the safety of your customers’ financial information can be daunting, especially if you’re unsure where to start. Below are six steps you need to take to protect your business’s financial data:
1. Identify critical assets and systems
The first step in protecting your business from cyber threats and securing financial data is to identify the “crown jewels” of your business—the assets and systems critical to your business. This data is considered a high-value target for cybercriminals or without which your business would have difficulty operating.
To start, create a detailed inventory of data and physical assets, and update it routinely. Record the manufacturer, make, model, serial number, and support information for hardware and software. For software, know the specific version that is installed and running. You should also know where data and technology are stored and who can access both.
2. Protect your data and devices
Once you’ve identified your data and devices, how do you protect them? Ultimately, your goal is to build a culture of cybersecurity that includes employees knowing how to protect themselves and the business. You should also understand the cyber risks as your business grows or adds new technologies or functions.
3. Keep your software up to date
Installing the latest security software, web browser, and operating system is the best defense against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Regularly updating your software will ensure your company is not at risk of being exposed to security flaws.
Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks—turn on automatic updates if that’s an available option. Automatic software updates allow you to get the latest security fixes as quickly as possible without doing anything.
4. Use strong authentication procedures
Use a robust authentication process, like two-factor or multi-factor authentication, to protect access to accounts and ensure only those with permission can access them. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds layers of security, typically by sending a one-time password generated in real-time, making it harder for hackers to crack. MFA can reduce security breaches by up to 99%—allowing you to protect your business’s sensitive information.
This also includes enforcing secure passphrases. A strong password is at least 12 characters long and combines letters, numbers, and symbols. Do not use sequential letters or numbers, like “qwerty” or “1234.” It’s also recommended to use separate passwords for different accounts. Using the same password for every account could be detrimental in a security breach. If you use the same password for your social media account and (for example) your POS system, your customers’ financial information could potentially be stolen if your social media accounts were hacked.
5. Back up data
Back up your data by implementing a system—either in the cloud or via separate hard drive storage—that regularly makes electronic copies of essential information. If you have a copy of your data and your device falls victim to cyber threats, you can restore data from a backup.
Use the 3-2-1 rule as a guide to backing up your data. The rule is to keep at least three (3) copies of your data and store two (2) backup copies on different storage media, with one (1) of them located offsite. Limit access to data or systems only to the employees who require it to perform the core duties of their jobs.
6. Keep a clean and secure device
Your company should have clear rules for what employees can install and keep on their work computers. Employees installing unapproved software poses a major threat and could compromise sensitive data.
Employees should also know not to open suspicious links in emails, tweets, posts, online ads, messages, or attachments—even if they know the source. Employees should also be instructed about your company’s spam filters and how to use them to prevent unwanted, harmful emails. Encourage employees to keep an eye out and say something if they notice anything strange on their computers.
Protecting your customers’ sensitive financial data is one of the most critical aspects of owning a business. Over the next few months, we’ll share greater insight and tips on other ways to safeguard your business and protect your customers’ financial information. In the meantime, we offer additional resources to brush up on your financial education with ACHIEVE for consumers and small businesses. Click here to start learning today.