Data protection is a serious issue that affects companies of all sizes. Protecting client, employee or contractor information is of vast importance, so how can you ensure your data is protected if you’re self-employed?
Strategies and procedures for data protection can seem inaccessible if you’re working on your own as you don’t have access to as many tools and software packages as larger companies. Not to mention many employees of larger companies learn data protection procedures through training programs and easily have a port-of-call for any queries they might have.
Where to start?
Much of the advice given to large companies to protect their vast stores of information can still apply small business owners. Take the below as an example, from Information Security Manager of Six Degrees Group, David Miles:
“We would recommend that companies maintain a dynamic approach for their staff to prevent any mistakes from happening. They may find our approach helpful:
- A robust induction program for staff, including a wide range of examples of security risks and real-world explanations
- Regular awareness sessions to highlight any new issues that may present a risk to the organization’s security
- An open policy of internal communication so that employees can comfortably ask questions that may arise around these topics
- Utilization of file access control measures allowing segregation of data and management of staff roles within an organization to prevent unauthorized manipulation of information.”
What tips can you take away from this?
Start by being aware of basic security threats, such as public and unsecured Wi-Fi networks by disabling sharing, checking your firewall setting and turning off your Wi-Fi whenever you aren’t using it. Make sure your anti-virus software is fully updated and stay clear of phishing emails by monitoring your spam filter.
Staying with your email, you should stay particularly vigilant of ‘spear phishing' attempts. These will often reference a recent transaction you’ve made or use information from a social media account. The best way to circumvent this is staying careful on social media. You may be accustomed to firing off quick tweets or updates, but consider what information you’re sending out and what your privacy settings are to control who has access to your information.
Keep a tight handle on your used passwords, as well as where they are stored. It can be tempting to have browsers save password information to make browsing easier, but this means anyone who gains access to your computer can instantly get around login screens. Passwords are always best kept offline or, if you’re finding it hard to manage a wide range of passwords for your business, using dedicated password storage software or hardware.
Encrypt your hard-drive and portable media including USB keys to ensure that sensitive information is kept safe on devices that can be easily lost or stolen. Encryption software, such as Microsoft’s Bitlocker will help you set up a secure password system in a straight-forward manner to protect your files and ensure your device can’t be used if someone picks it up.
Of course, as is always the case with password protection, using more elaborate passwords or pass phrases, using upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols is advisable. Try to stay away from using full words and try to use mnemonic devices to remember passwords easily while keeping them safe. If you’re doubting the strength of a password, you can try out similar password structures through an online password checker and receive a breakdown of how secure they are.
Being self-employed can be daunting when it comes to managing large amount of data and keeping it secure, but following these tips will reduce the risk of you being caught off-guard while you stay up to date and your security continues to improve.