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Data security: what can my business do?

It's not just big business that is targeted by hackers.

In April 2013 the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) published a survey which showed that 87% of small businesses (those employing fewer than 250 people) reported a security breach in the previous year.

The Office for National Statistics estimated that there were 2.5 million cyber-crimes last year, including hacking.

Any business that retains information about its customers, especially credit card and/or financial details, represents a target for hackers.

Cyber-crime: the risks

  • Claims from customers and/or suppliers for financial loss and distress caused by the loss of their data.

  • Credit card companies seeking to recover the costs of cancellation and reissuing credit cards and reimbursing cardholders for fraudulent use of the card.

  • A large fine from the Information Office Commissioner for breach of the Data Protection Act.

  • Enormous reputational damage and loss of trust of customers.

The solution:

  1. Adopt best practice for example ISO 27001:2013

  2. Adopt the 10 steps to cyber security published by BIS

  3. Join the cyber essentials scheme.

  4. Don't put your head in the sand.

Other data risks:

Cyber-crime is not the only risk that businesses face with regard to data. There are other key areas that could cause you problems, including:

Employees: Your staff are probably your greatest asset but they can also represent a significant threat as most data breaches are caused by employees, either innocently through mistake or maliciously.

Confidential information: Such things as customer lists, financial information, business plans, product or process designs and software code could end up in the public domain unless properly protected.

The solution:

  • Put in place robust policies and training for your staff.

  • Restrict rights of access and passwords regularly.

  • Ensure confidential information is clearly marked as such and is stored securely.

  • Consider protecting information by an intellectual property right such as copyright or a patent.

  • Use antivirus software and firewalls and only disclose information externally in a secure manner.

  • Make sure your contracts of employment clearly define what confidential information is.

  • Have enforceable restrictive covenants in place with employees to prevent confidential data leaving the business with them.

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