How to Prevent Data Theft: A Guide to Safeguarding Business Assets

prevent data theft

Effectively preventing data theft and securing your valuable digital assets is an ongoing job that requires all hands on deck. To assist your team in becoming better at cyber security, here we explain how to prevent data theft and share proven best practices you can implement to bolster your cyber security defenses.

What is Data Theft?

Data theft is the illegal access, transfer, or storage of personal, confidential, or financial information. Many organizations are aware of data theft but don’t realize how their daily practices increase the risk of data theft. Many unexpected vulnerabilities enable malicious activity, including:

Physical site risks: Although we think of cybercrimes happening on systems or somewhere in the “cloud,” one of the most significant breach risks is very tangible: Your workplace. It is still common for cybercriminals to get access to your system and data the old-fashioned way. Criminals still love old-school theft and will look for opportunities to steal everything from paperwork to laptops and phones to employee security access cards. If they can enter your workplace, they can also find their way to your hub and attach all kinds of devices they can use to access information via your physical assets. This also includes simply helping themselves to paper filing systems, making digitization even more critical to help protect your digital assets.

Social engineering: Phishing is the most common way cybercriminals access sensitive data. They send emails that seem perfectly innocent to tempt employees to click malicious links. Criminals have become quite creative and sophisticated, learning to mimic the look of official company emails to avoid suspicions. Once that link is clicked, the scammers use the information to commit fraud. In some cases, they might even act as members of the IT department, blatantly asking for information like passwords.

Human error: Little missteps taken by staff also contribute to data risks. These acts are not malicious and instead occur due to carelessness. An example might be sending highly confidential or sensitive information to the wrong person or losing a sensitive paper file or document.

Internal actors: You might also have internal malicious actors working independently or in cahoots with criminals to perform fraudulent acts.

Luckily, you can implement security measures to prevent data theft and secure your valuable assets.

How to Prevent Data Theft

There are several data breach prevention tactics your business can adopt, including:

Employee Education

Data breach best practices begin with employee education. As you can see by some of the most common vulnerabilities listed above, employees contribute to many data breach scenarios. By improving knowledge, you empower employees to become aware of their actions and take steps to help avoid data compromises. Sharing tips with employees explaining how to prevent data breaches would include:

  • Using strong passwords
  • Keeping passwords in a secure area where prying eyes can’t find them
  • Never sharing their passwords
  • Always logging out when leaving their computers, phones, and laptops unattended
  • Keeping their phones with them to reduce the risk of theft
  • Recognizing phishing scams and other suspicious activity
  • The importance of not sharing personal information via email
  • Not clicking on links received in email

This basic training helps employees avoid common pitfalls that provide opportunities for cybercriminals.

Access Controls

Improved access controls help ensure only those with a need to access sensitive information can do so. Role-based authorization, in hand with a stringent password-changing schedule, helps create a more secure workplace where data access is controlled. Using roles and permissions limits who can access data and the level of access they’re allowed. For example, while some team members might need to review information to complete their jobs, not all require editing permissions.

Data Breach Monitoring

Data breach monitoring provides 24/7 network monitoring using a proactive, real-time system that detects and then shuts down data breaches. Systems such as T-Intelligence offer the following critical breach detection functions:

  • No False Positives: False positives are a common time waster for small to mid-sized companies who don’t have the resources to investigate. With T-Intelligence, you are only alerted when real threats occur.
  • Zero Intervention: Automated threat analysis does all the work for you by detecting and preventing breaches from occurring in real-time without human interventions.
  • Peerless Protection: Threatening inbound activity is blocked, and malicious lateral traffic from within is eliminated, preventing cyber criminals from accessing sensitive data or deploying ransomware attacks.
  • Machine Learning: Machine learning algorithms allow T-Intelligence to recognize new threats, learn from them, and become stronger at defending against future attacks, becoming more robust and effective with every attempted attack.

Data Backup and Recovery

Data breaches often maliciously delete your data for no apparent reason. A data backup and recovery strategy will protect your data management system from loss regardless of why data is wiped out, including system crashes and natural disasters. An automated remote backup system backups data continuously to minimize risks of losing business-critical data.

Protect Against Physical Breaches

Safeguarding paper files and equipment such as laptops and phones is crucial to reduce the risks of data breaches. Having a secure location to store physical records and considering scanning and digitizing paper files to improve document protection is worthwhile to help bolster security. This helps ensure that only authorized employees and customers can access data. Also, ensure employees understand the risks of theft of flash drives, mobile phones, tablets, and other portable devices so they keep a closer eye on them. Using complex passwords also reduces the risk of criminal access via these devices.

Encrypt Data

Encrypted data prevents cyber criminals from using data accessed through breaches. Encryption scrambles data, so humans can't read. Only authorized passwords unscramble the code.

To remain vigilant against evolving cyber threats, you need to be diligent in breach detection monitoring, improve access controls for data management systems, introduce data encryption, and provide ongoing employee security training. 

MEDI’s Threat Intelligence tool complements these strategies by offering real-time threat detection and rapid response capabilities. Click here to learn more about our cyber security services or to set up a free consultation today.