7 Ways Startups Can Avoid Data LeakageJanuary 28, 2022
Businesses of all sizes are known to be safe-keepers of sensitive data such as personal identity records, banking and financial information, intellectual properties (IP), among others. For many of them, keeping such data secure is an enormous responsibility especially in the fast-paced digital age where data access is just one click away, so to speak.
Data safekeeping is even more challenging as the wave of leaked data continues to spiral today. Such data leaks may result in security breaches, which can disrupt a company’s operations and destroy its reputation. The damage may also end up costing millions of dollars.
That said, businesses, especially startups, must be fully equipped enough security-wise to avoid data leakage. After all, no one is exempted from such risk. In fact, even government agencies experience data leakage.
So, how can startups prevent data leakage?
What you need to know about data leakage
Data leakage refers to the unauthorized data transmission—may be electronically or physically—from within a business to an external recipient. This may occur via web, cloud, and email, and via physical devices such as laptops and external storage devices. Leaks often involve sensitive data such as customer data, company information and strategies, account credentials, trade secrets, intellectual property, and analytics such as customer behavior and psychographic data.
Leaks can be perilous to a business because cybercriminals can use the leaked information for a data breach attack if they locate it. As a result, the affected business may be subjected to regulatory fines and legal fees. It may also face long-term impacts such as loss of control over IP, reputational damage, and revenue loss.
Ways to avoid data leakage
We’ve listed down eight ways you should consider to curtail the risks of data leaks. Let’s buckle down!
1. Identify and keep sensitive data in a central storage
The first important move to protect your startup’s data from leakage is to inventory it. Identify your confidential and sensitive information, locate it, and ensure that it’s not stored on all your employees’ laptops or portable drives as these may compromise your data.
Keep your sensitive data in a highly secure and centralized location that is monitored by your cybersecurity team. For beefed-up security, ensure that your employees who have the right account privileges access your sensitive data over a virtual private network (VPN).
2. Limit user access privileges
Sensitive data shouldn’t be easily accessible to everyone. Therefore, it’s best to limit user access privileges. Make sure to reevaluate all permissions to check if your sensitive data can be accessed by unauthorized employees.
After that, classify your data according to its different levels of sensitivity, and have your IT or cybersecurity team provide access keys to authorized employees only.
3. Monitor your network traffic
By closely monitoring your corporate network’s traffic, you get to easily spot any anomalous activity.
Typically, hackers conduct reconnaissance within a network for half a year before breaching a system. Through consistent network monitoring, you’ll be able to flag suspicious behavior before a breach occurs. It helps to use monitoring tools, such as data activity monitoring (DAM) technology, that supervise access and activity round-the-clock and detect unauthorized actions.
4. Secure all endpoints
Endpoints are any remote computing devices that connect to a business network. Some examples are Internet of Things (IoT) devices, computers, laptops, and mobile devices.
Many businesses continue to adopt a remote working setup amid the pandemic. Thus, endpoints have also been dispersed, making them harder to monitor and secure. To keep your sensitive data safeguarded, it helps to employ basic cybersecurity solutions such as firewalls, antivirus programs, and VPNs. While these don’t fully combat threats, they can help minimize data loss through the basic protection they provide.
5. Encrypt all data
Encryption means encoding information to make it inaccessible to unauthorized people. With this, only those who have a “key” can read or utilize encrypted data.
The exploitation of data leaks may become more difficult for cybercriminals with encryption. By enabling encryption across your various network points and even your emails, your data becomes highly protected even from advanced cyber-attacks. This solution isn’t always impenetrable, but it keeps data secure in significant ways, especially if implemented effectively.
6. Utilize DLP Software
Have a multilayered cybersecurity strategy by using data loss prevention (DLP) software. DLP is a cybersecurity solution with a set of policies, tools, and techniques aimed at securing classified data from accidentally leaving company systems. It is also designed to safeguard businesses’ data from loss, corruption, breach, exfiltration, among others. DLP prevents data leakage and seeks to block unauthorized actions involving data.
DLP software can monitor activities; identify, classify, and tag sensitive data; and educate users on regulatory compliance. For instance, it blocks illicit data transfer and detects suspicious emails.
7. Strengthen data policies and educate your workforce
Having cybersecurity technologies in place can significantly protect your startup from data leakage. However, since proactivity is crucial to prevent this issue, strengthening your current data policies and informing your workforce of the best security practices can better underprop your protective measures.
Set stringent yet reasonable data access policies to keep activities in check. Provide also continuous cybersecurity defense training and supervision for your employees to help them improve their vigilance, recognize potential data issues, promptly act as soon as they encounter data threats, and report phishing and social engineering attacks. Make sure to also be receptive to their suggestions.
In a nutshell
Safekeeping the data of both your startup’s workforce and customers may seem arduous given that myriads of inevitable threats are lurking around the digital environment and even in your physical space. However, by keeping the right technologies, strategies, and policies in place, you can minimize any risk of data leakage and even prevent it from occurring.
By bolstering data security, you can also help future-proof your business and ensure that it runs seamlessly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kat Sarmiento is a Molecular Biology Scientist turned Growth Marketing Scientist. During her free time, she loves to write articles that will bring delight, empower women, and spark the business mind. She loves to bake but unfortunately, baking doesn’t love her back. She has many things in her arsenal and writing is one of her passion projects.