Data security has continued to be a hot topic with high profile security breaches and attacks keeping data security in the headlines. Small businesses aren't immune to cyber security incidents and should think about ways to protect their data. This is where encryption can help.
Creative Commons Image Credits: Encryption Lock by Perspecsys Photos
The latest research from Symantec also makes for worrying reading as it shows a 91 per cent increase in targeted attacks over the last year, one in 392 emails contain a phishing attack and 38 per cent of mobile users experienced some form of cybercrime in the last 12 months.
IDC state that nearly 300 Exabytes (300 billion gigabytes) of information is created globally each year. One way to protect this mass of data is to use encryption. Encryption has come a long way since the codes used in the last war. Today business owners and individuals alike can now use easily accessible encryption systems to protect everything from email to sensitive documents stored in the cloud.
What kind of encryption can I use in my business?
When the word encryption is used many small business owners shudder at the thought of setting up complex and expensive systems. The fact is you already use encryption. The passwords that you use to access data are a form of encryption. So encryption for your business should start by overhauling password security. You can check whether the passwords your business is using at the moment are robust enough with this handy password checker from Microsoft. The company also advises:
- Whenever possible, use eight characters or more.
- Don't use the same password for everything. Cybercriminals steal passwords on websites with very little security, and then they try to use that same password and user name in more secure environments, such as banking websites.
- Change your passwords often. Set an automatic reminder for yourself to change your passwords on your email, banking, and credit card websites about every three months.
- The greater the variety of characters in your password, the better. However, password hacking software automatically checks for common letter-to-symbol conversions, such as changing "and" to "&" or "to" to "2."
- Use the entire keyboard, not just the letters and characters you use or see most often.
- Don’t use dictionary words in any language.
- Avoid words spelled backwards, common misspellings, and abbreviations.
- Never use sequences or repeated characters. Examples: 12345678, 222222, abcdefg, or adjacent letters on your keyboard (qwerty) or any personal information such as your birthday.
How do I protect sensitive business data?
The data that your business has stored on its PCs can all be encrypted with just a few clicks of your mouse, as strong encryption is built into the Windows and OS X operating systems. On Windows only certain versions of the operating system have what is called BitLocker. To enable BitLocker, go to Control Panel > System and Security > BitLocker Drive Encryption, or do a search for BitLocker in Windows 8 or 10 to see if your version has this type of encryption available.
One of the most vulnerable areas of your business is how sensitive data is stored and transported. With cheap USB flash drives available, it is very easy to move unprotected data to these drives. The good news is that any flash drive can be encrypted. The IronKey series of flash drives and external hard drives use the same level of encryption your bank uses with its online banking services.
How can I encrypt emails?
As email is the lifeblood of many businesses it is vital that these systems are not only efficient but also secure. If your business has moved to Microsoft’s Office 365, you can add encryption services by subscribing to the Azure Rights Management service
Users of the desktop version of Office can use Active Directory Rights Management Services (ADRMS) or a third party encryption application such as OpenPGP. However, Outlook does include an encryption setting that you can also use.
Gmail users have all of their messages encrypted by default. However, there are also a number of additional applications you can also use. SecureGmail is a Chrome extension that makes encrypting Gmail messages a breeze.
Should I use encryption in the cloud?
All cloud services use encryption. The data that flows from your business’ computers to the cloud servers and back is always encrypted by default, but this doesn’t stop you adding another layer of encryption if you want to. Why? Because the cloud service provider holds the encryption keys and not your company.
There are many systems to encrypt the data you are sending to the cloud including TrueCrypt that is a free open source platform that can encrypt your data on the fly.
As more businesses now offer flexible working, remote devices such as notebook PCs often access sensitive data. It is vital to ensure that the connections between the remote device and your business’ computers are secure.
Small business owners must ensure that every piece of data that moves in and out of their enterprises is safe and secure. Research by Kaspersky has shown that 35 per cent of businesses fail to adequately encrypt the data they are managing. With a raft of encryption platforms now available, you can ensure your business’ data is protected.
This article originally appeared on Lifehacker UK