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Data protection is more important than ever, but also much harder to achieve. It was fairly simple to previously protect data storage from hacking when it was only saved on-prem and there was limited access.
Today, data storage and access are more dispersed. Remote employees, cloud storage solutions, BYOD policies, and access via multiple devices from anywhere make data protection seem like an impossible goal.
It’s important to understand that a data breach is a business issue, not just an IT issue.
To make sure your company and customer data are safe, you will have to protect data storage from hacking attempts. The following data storage safety practices will help you achieve a high level of data security and compliance.
1. Use strong passwords
The most common way data storage is hacked are weak or shared passwords. You would ever store thousands of dollars behind a simple “0000” or “12345” password? No.
The data you are trying to protect is worth even more than that, so make sure that anyone with access to it has a strong, complex, and unique password.
Weak passwords are present in almost every organisation and can cost corporations millions in damages because of data breaches.
- To avoid hacking attempts, have a proper password protocol in place. All passwords that provide access to data should have a minimum of 12 characters and shouldn’t be complete words.
- Use a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The password should not have personal meaning – no names, addresses, dates, or anything that can be unearthed on social media.
- Passwords should also be changed every 6 months.
2. Add Two-Factor Authentication
Additional authentication protocols should be a standard practice to protect data storage from hacking.
In case your first authentication layer – the usernames and passwords – end up in the wrong hands due to a successful phishing attack, the second layer of protection in the form of two-factor authentication (or multi-factor) will keep data safe from outside access.
The authentication server will prompt the user to input another security code after authenticating their credentials. The code is usually delivered via SMS, or via a phone authenticator app. Some services will also offer the code via phone call if supported.
3. Include Session Timeouts / Auto Disconnects
To battle forgotten login sessions that could potentially lead to a data breach because somebody else used the device, incorporate session timeout routines onto your data storage servers.
These routines will automatically disconnect the user from all inactive sessions.
For example, if the user accessed your data storage but has been idle for the last 15 minutes, they will be logged out. When they come back, they will be prompted to log back in again.
This security measure is especially valuable if your staff has access to data storage from shared, remote (and potentially unsafe) locations.
4. Use encryption for all documents and emails
Encryption helps protect data storage from hacking because in the event it ever falls into the wrong hands, they won’t be able to read it.
When you encrypt data, the data is translated into ciphertext that is just a string of random characters. The only way to make it readable again is to turn it back to its original form with the right encryption key.
The larger the key size, the more computational power is needed to crack it. The rule of thumb is to use encryption services that offer at least 256-bit encryption protocols.
In order to ensure you have encrypted all sensitive documents, you should use a data protection solution that covers data discovery and sharing. Microsoft’s Azure Information Protection is such a system, and can be used to discover all your data, apply labels that determine how sensitive data is, and then apply rules on data access. The system will find all locations where data is stored and help you migrate it to a safer, centralised location.
Because such systems also include email encryption, it also helps you keep data safe in case of mishaps. For example, if somebody accidentally sends an email with sensitive data to the wrong recipient, the recipient won’t be able to read the data without first having proper authorisation.
5. Limit Access to Data Storage
In order to protect data storage from hacking, you have to limit access to data to inside actors too.
The more people have access to sensitive and classified data, the higher the risk of data falling into the wrong hands.
Your employees should have access only to data that’s essential to their role in the company.
In case employees would need to access data occasionally, it’s better to have procedures in place that would authorise access to them temporarily rather than giving them unlimited access.
6. Use Safe Cloud Storage Solutions
Cloud storage solutions help you keep your data accessible at all times and is becoming the standard today. With so many employees working from remote locations and accessing data from multiple devices, it’s safe to say that there are many more vectors of attack.
To protect data storage from hacking but keep it accessible and online, try using a decentralised cloud.
It uses blockchain technology to keep data safe and such cloud storage is not controlled by a single entity and data is not stored on a centralised location. Instead, data is spread in tiny fragments across a large global network. When you need to access it, it will be assembled and decrypted as soon as you are authorised (either with an encryption key or password).
7. Educate Employees
You can invest in the best firewall, anti-spam, and antivirus software, but if your employees don’t know how to spot a potential threat, your attempt to protect data storage from hacking will ultimately fail.
Everyone in your company, be it the newest members of the team or senior executives, should go through regular education training. Ideally, they should learn about:
- The latest threats and risks, and vectors of attack – Suspicious email attachments, phishing attempts, how to stop a spoofed email address, and more.
- Best practices when it comes to data security – Teach them about BYOD policies, unsafe public networks, being safe while accessing data from remote locations, etc.
- How to use new security software you implement – Get them on board with new software solutions and teach them how to use them to avoid slowdowns and disruptions.
Your data security is only as strong as the weakest link. What’s your weakest link?