What do the US Federal Government, 60 million South African citizens, 57 million Uber customers and the British National Health Service have in common?
They’ve all been in the news as victims of cyber-attacks leading to data breaches.
You'd be right for wondering if anyone can be safe from a hacker. If you want to avoid falling prey to a similar outcome, it's time to focus on information security.
Why is information security important?
Transactions, knowledge, communications, databases, infrastructure; an organization’s information is its most valuable asset. Regardless of any legal or regulatory requirements, keeping your company's information safe should be high on your list of critical actions.
If you do, you're:
- Keeping your sensitive data out of the hands of competitors
- Retaining data integrity
- Enabling easy access to data wherever and whenever it’s required for business operations
If you don't, your vital information could get into the wrong hands or end up being completely useless for your data needs.
What is data protection?
Unlike Europe's recent GDPR regulations, in the US there is no overarching data protection legislation.
Let’s think of data protection as the rules; a set of laws, regulations, and best practices detailing how we should collect and use personal data about individuals.
Data equals trust
So why is data security important? If recent breaches have shown us anything, it’s that the fallout for organizations can be far greater than just legal consequences. People generally expect that companies will safeguard their sensitive data, so any loss of this trust can have huge ramifications for future custom, and ultimately a business’ bottom line.
The increasing amounts of data we’re storing, and the increasingly easier options to carry data around (memory sticks, hard drives, and cloud hosting for example) along with penalties for failing to comply with strict data protection regulations, such as the EU GDPR and New York Cybersecurity, mean that now, more than ever, organizations need to get hot on keeping that data secure.
The importance of data security.
A subset of information security, data security is about keeping your data safe. With a heavier reliance on computers, there are a number of potential threats to the data you’re storing. Data can get lost due to system failure, corrupted by a computer virus, deleted or altered by a hacker. A simple user error can result in an overwritten or deleted file. Plus, lost devices such as a tablet or smartphone can see your data fall into the wrong hands.
There are several data security methods you can use to guard against these things, but does it really matter? As Equifax discovered in 2017, it turns out the answer is yes.
3 ways a security breach could impact your organization.
1. costs, fines & reparations
In 2021 alone, the combined cost of global data breaches is set to reach $6 trillion annually (source: UpGuard). As more and more of our organizations operate globally, that becomes an even bigger chunk that is liable to impact your business. This figure includes legal fees, fines, auditing services, repaying customers and other financial losses.
2. reputational damage
Estimates put the damage of the Equifax data breach in 2017 (that saw 143 million US citizens’ data fall into the wrong hands) at a staggering $87.5 million. Almost two years after the breach, the company was still suffering the negative after-effects of their data mistakes. How’s that for reputational damage?
3. job losses
If it’s your responsibility to worry about this, you could be forced to take the blame for any repercussions. Uber’s scandal (and subsequent cover-up!) resulted in two high-level redundancies. The company’s Chief Security Officer, Joe Sullivan and the company legal director, Craig Clark, taking the blame on this occasion.
In high-profile cases, top-level executives at Target, Yahoo and Equifax have paid for security breaches with their jobs.
The importance of data security is no longer just a ‘techie’ concern. Data security is now should be a board-level concern and an essential part of your organization’s business strategy.
Industry leaders agree that the future will be an ongoing battle. Companies will be caught in a cycle of data breach prevention, breach mitigation, and data protection advancement.
Hackers are always learning, developing and sharing their knowledge. With a skill set that's constantly evolving, the risks for business and the general public are only going to increase. Whether you like it or not, we are reliant on data to live in the modern world. The billions of data sets that make up our world and connect us also opens us up to attack.
“Businesses with fewer than 100 employees are far more likely than their larger counterparts to feel that their IT security is simply adequate or unsatisfactory. Without a deep resource pool to lean on, smaller firms struggle to address new facets of IT security.” CompTIA’s 2018 Trends in Cybersecurity report.
Figures from Commsbusiness.co.uk show the likelihood of a data breach in the UK at a shocking 61% for local government.
What can you do?
Acknowledging that you need to do something is the first step.
Data security is now essential and the levels of financial investment your business is prepared to make should reflect this. Your investment needs to be holistic and ongoing over the years. Not only do you need to employ the best protection but also the best advice and training for your employees. It only takes one mistake to take down a whole network, so it makes sense to educate your team.
It may be easy to see increased data restriction as a way to safeguard your company, but at what cost?
Without access to the powerful insights of your data, you will be restricting your team’s ability to deliver their best service to clients. Without the historical market and customer data, your team will be one step behind when it comes to anticipating the needs of your customers and prospects. Limit your data access and risk putting a limit on your service and sales.
Keep your data safe and your insights accessible. Discover what sales-i can do for you today!