Business

Is Your Data Safe? Why Startups Should Care About User Protection and Privacy

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Data protection isn’t just for big corporations. Data breaches threaten small businesses and startups, too, with 61 percent of data breaches in 2016 affecting smaller businesses. Sixty percent of businesses attacked to close their doors forever within six months of the breach.

So, if you’re running a startup, you need to take steps to protect your business from hackers. Your business has a lot of valuable information in its possession – yours and your employees’ personal info, customer info and credit card numbers, vendor info, customer lists, passwords, and more. Don’t assume your business is safe just because it’s small.

Take the Threat Seriously

Usually, the only reason big companies like Target, Sony, or Equifax survive data breaches is because they’re so big that they can afford to cough up millions in recovery costs, and so widespread and integrated into the lives of their customers that they won’t lose too much business during their recovery from  a hack. Your startup doesn’t have that luxury.

If you’re like most startups, you’re operating on a shoestring budget, and can’t afford to absorb the costs of recovery from a data breach. A cyber attack could cost your startup  thousands of dollars; on average, anywhere between $84,000 and $148,000. Even if you had that kind of money lying around, you wouldn’t want to spend it recovering from a cyber attack. You’d want to use it to help your startup grow and become more stable.

And it’s not just the costs of recovering from an attack you have to consider; it’s also the fact that your startup won’t be able to generate any revenue while recovering. That means no new customers, and no new sales for the length of time it takes to repair the damage. Besides, it might not even be possible to repair the damage to your brand’s reputation, which could tarnish it forever in the eyes of customers who may have plenty of other options.

Be Careful with Devices

Startups that don’t take data protection seriously are easy pickings for hackers, but there’s a lot you can do to make sure your company isn’t the lowest-hanging fruit on the tree. You can start by using antivirus software on all your company devices, to protect against malware.

Speaking of company devices, be careful when implementing BYOD policies. While a BYOD policy might save your startup the cost of supplying everyone with smart phones, tablets, and laptop computers, it might not be worth the endpoint protection headaches  that can come with it. It’s easier to vet company devices for security risks, install malware protection on them, and ensure that they’re only used for business purposes. It’s also easier to make sure that employees can’t access sensitive information on your servers via company devices. But if you must implement a BYOD policy, make sure all devices are vetted carefully, protected, and used only for business purposes. Also ensure that employees can’t access sensitive information from mobile devices.

Safeguard Against Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are a form of social engineering attack that seeks to trick or manipulate users into giving up their login information so that hackers can access otherwise secure systems. While everyone at the company should be aware of how to avoid phishing scams, it only takes one particularly convincing phishing attempt combined with one lapse in judgment to compromise your whole system. However, you can shut down most phishing attempts with multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA requires users to supply a code texted to their cell phone in order to complete the login process. This blocks most phishing scammers because it means they can’t access your system with passwords alone.

Stay Vigilant Against Insider Threats

Perhaps the biggest threat to your company’s data comes from the employees themselves. Make sure that employees change their passwords regularly. Limit access to sensitive information to those who actually need it. Take special care to protect against revenge actions from former employees. Remove redundant employees from the system as soon as they’re made redundant, so that they can’t log back in and make things difficult out of spite.

Data breaches pose a special threat to startups, which face the prospect of huge losses in the wake of a cyber attack. Don’t put your budding business at risk. Take precautions to protection your data from those who would use it for nefarious purposes.

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Melissa Thompson
Melissa is an avid weight lifter, competitive sushi eater, entrepreneur, journalist, and mother of 2. She spends her free time reading vampire novels and thinking up interesting stories for one of her various columns at Forbes, TheNextWeb, and HarcourtHealth.