Five Ways to Stop Data TheftWhen we think of theft, we normally think about physical assets going missing, but that’s far from the only important thing you need to protect.  The theft of data and information is a growing threat to businesses.  If your client list, marketing plan, financial information or other sensitive information were to end up in the hands of a competitor, it could do far more damage than simply losing some inventory or equipment.

The best way to defend yourself from the threat of data theft is with a good offense – a good set of policies and plans in place from the start to nip any potential data theft in the bud.  Studies have shown that companies with policies and technology in place, and that enforce those policies, suffer far less data loss than more lax companies.  Here are some helpful tips to keep your company from becoming a victim.

Set up a Clear Data Handling Policy

Many people who steal data don’t even regard it as theft – it’s not a physical object, so who’s “really” losing anything?  By establishing policies regarding how data is handled, ignorance can’t be used an excuse to justify data theft.  Make sure your company has clear and understandable policies on such issues as the use of personal devices, such as laptops and cell phones, when it comes to company data.  Ensure that your employees know how to safely and responsibly use file sharing tools, such as cloud storage sites, to handle your data.

Education

It’s also critical to make sure your employees understand what data theft is, and why it’s wrong.  Data is valuable to your company; make sure your employees are taught that it’s just as critical as any physical assets.  Make sure you occasionally hold refreshers and reviews of this information, both for new employees and to ensure long-time employees don’t forget how critical this is.

Watch for Suspicious Behavior

Is one of your employees transferring an unusually high amount of data?  Is someone logging in at three in the morning to access private information?  Any abnormal access of your data is a potential threat – while there may be legitimate and understandable reasons for unusual activity, it’s critical that you discover what those reasons are, in order to catch anyone attempting to sneak data for their own use.  Security cameras may also help detect suspicious behavior from employees, such as an employee downloading something from their manager’s laptop.

Set Permissions

Some data only needs to be accessed by certain personnel. If you have data sitting on your server, able to be accessed by employees from anywhere in your organization, you’re just asking for someone to take advantage of you.  Set up a system of strict permissions – passwords, access control and lockouts – to ensure that your most sensitive data is only accessible by your most trusted employees.

Some security equipment, such as access control systems, will help employees visualize the importance that the company gives to areas where critical information is stored, such as IT rooms. If your IT room, or similar important areas, has a wide open door, it suggests that anyone can have access to the information whenever they want.  Access control systems make restricted areas more clear.