In 2025, the world will lose a colossal $10.5 trillion per year, up from 6 trillion in 2021. It’s an alarming statistic, given our growing dependence on digital technology.
Many cyberattacks target businesses. Small businesses are particularly attractive to attackers. That’s because these institutions tend to be ill-equipped against data breaches.
Only 14 percent of small businesses have invested in proper data protection, although 43 percent of all cyberattacks target these institutions.
But that doesn’t mean that individuals are safe from cybercriminals. Your personal data is valuable, and there’s a multitude of criminals out there hunting for it. In 2018 alone, data breaches affected 2.2 billion individuals worldwide.
The good news is that there are simple ways you can protect yourself and your business from threats. Here are some of them.
1. Encrypt Your Personal or Business Data
Many people who hear about data encryption assume that it’s something that only technology geeks can understand and do. In reality, modern data loss prevention (DLP) software helps make it simple for anyone to encrypt and decrypt your information, including email and other files.
The importance of encryption is that it scrambles your data, so it makes no sense to people who steal it. Thus, in the event of a breach, you’re sure that your personal or business information is still safe.
Encrypting your data can be a valuable step towards satisfying the standards set by the data protection law. While the general data protection regulation (GDPR) does not explicitly require data security encryption, it does call for you to enforce the best possible data security measures. No doubt encryption is one of the best data safeguards out there and one of your best bets when you’re determined not to violate any data protection act out there.
2. Have a Data Backup
One of the simplest yet effective data protection techniques is to ensure you have a backup for all your data. The goal is to make sure that, in the event of a breach, you have a recent copy of all your important data. This way, you never really lose your information.
For businesses that use the cloud, it’s absolutely necessary to have a strong cloud disaster recovery plan. Like traditional disaster recovery, cloud disaster recovery aims at getting your enterprise back to normal or at least functional operations in the event of a significant interruption, such as a data breach.
So, how often should you conduct data backups? The simple answer is as frequently as possible, given that it’s impossible to tell when a breach will occur. A good policy is to back up your data at least once a day.
3. Invest in Quality Anti-Malware Software
Malware is one of the biggest threats computer users face today. New threats crop up every day, making it a huge challenge to fight the different types of malware out there. Some malware targets inconspicuous areas of your IT system and is difficult to detect until it’s too late.
Malware software is specifically designed to infiltrate your computer without your knowledge and consent. It comes in different forms, including computer viruses, trojan horses, worms, spyware, scareware, ransomware, and so on.
Malware can be present in emails and on websites. Sometimes, it’s hidden in downloadable photos, videos, files, freeware, and shareware.
Your best defense against destructive malware is to invest in formidable antimalware software. Regularly run this program to ensure your computer is safe.
Be sure to scan for spyware periodically and fix any infections found. In addition, watch out for suspicious email links, and avoid visiting websites you don’t trust.
4. Update Your Operating System (OS) Regularly
For many users, operating system updates are a pain they’d rather avoid. But these updates are essential. Every new update comes with vital security patches that can protect your computers from any threats that developers have recently discovered.
When you fail to install the required updates, you’re putting your computer at risk, regardless of the OS you use.
How often should you update your OS? As frequently as you can.
For instance, Windows typically updates its operating systems at least once a month. You can set your OS to update itself monthly. The same setting can work even for other operating systems that may not have as frequent updates.
Be sure to update other software applications on your computer regularly, too, including your antimalware software. If automatic updates are an option, turn it on for all your software applications.
5. Turn Off Computers That Are Not in Use
If you’ve finished using your laptop or computer, don’t leave it on. Power it off until you need to use it again.
Too often, people make the mistake of leaving their computers on and connected to the Internet. What that does is to leave the door open for cybercriminals to attack.
If your computing devices are always on and connected to the Internet, hackers have round-the-clock access to plant malware on your IT system or commit other cybercrimes.
6. Use Firewalls
A firewall provides protection against external cyberattacks by shielding your network from malicious traffic. It blocks malicious programs, spyware, and viruses long before they can infiltrate your IT system.
Your data protection officer (DPO) can help ensure that firewalls are configured to block potentially harmful data from certain locations, ports, and applications while letting necessary and relevant data through.
Generally, there are two types of firewalls that you can use:
These are also referred to as network firewalls. They’re physical devices positioned between the internet and your computing devices. Your vendor or internet service provider (ISP) can offer you an integrated home or office router that includes firewall features to safeguard you from attacks.
A hardware firewall is especially useful when it comes to the protection of multiple computers. This type of firewall provides an additional layer of defense against threats that reach your IT system.
The main drawback of a network firewall is that it’s a separate device that requires an IT professional to install, configure, and maintain.
The vast majority of operating systems come with a built-in firewall feature that you need to enable extra protection. This step is important, even for people who already have an external firewall.
You can also purchase firewall software separately from software vendors. If you opt to download firewall software from the internet, do your research on the vendor first to ensure you’re buying from a reputable source and that the vendor offers the software through a secure site.
One of the main strengths of a software firewall is that it can effectively control the network behavior of an individual application on your system. The main concern is that the software firewall is usually located within the same system it’s trying to protect, which can hinder its ability to detect and fix malicious activity.
7. Use Strong Passwords
People use passwords so often that it’s easy to take them for granted. The reality is that your password is often the only thing standing between your valuable information and a cybercriminal.
Always use secure passwords. Hackers love weak passwords as they have little trouble cracking them.
To create a strong password, consider using a combination of numbers, symbols, and a mix of upper and lowercase letters. You can also try combining random, unrelated phrases to come up with a password that’s extremely difficult for hackers to guess.
Even better, consider using a reliable password generator to come up with the most secure passwords.
Once you’ve created your passwords, keep them securely, so they never fall into the wrong hands.
8. Destroy or Delete Old Files
Any information that you no longer use needs to make way for other information. It’s natural for companies to destroy or delete that data.
The essential thing is to make sure that you go about getting rid of files the proper way. For instance, once you’ve deleted information on your computer, overwrite it to ensure it’s permanently gone.
Be sure to delete old files from your cloud backups as well. This is an essential part of cloud data protection.
For old physical documents, shred them completely before you throw them away. These documents include bank account statements, credit card statements, and other mail.
Prioritize Data Protection to Avert Cyber Crime
With cybercrime growing at an unprecedented rate every day, the need to invest in proper data protection has never been greater. The good news is that safeguarding your data isn’t rocket science. With the simple guidelines we’ve highlighted in this post, you can stop hackers in their tracks.
Are you interested in top-level security products and services to keep your data secure? Contact us today to learn how we can help.