Protect Your Data Through Staff Education

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on September 28, 2010

Whether your business has more than 5,000 employees or fewer than five, information security breaches can be one of the costliest events to affect it. Security breaches cause businesses to lose money through reduced employee productivity and disruption of revenue-generating activities. There’s the threat of revenue loss to satisfy lawsuits filed by those affected by the breach. The loss of proprietary information can jeopardize a company’s competitive advantage and in extreme cases its future viability.

Most organizations take steps to protect their data by adopting disaster recovery plans; employing dedicated security teams; and investing in such technologies as firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, physical access control, and multifactor authentication. But research routinely shows that the primary cause of most security breaches is unintentional end-user error by internal staff.

With that in mind, it’s important for businesses of all sizes to institute an IT security training program for employees. The program should cover common IT security mistakes and practices, including:

1. Limit use of external storage devices, which can compromise security by allowing viruses and other malware to bypass network security safeguards.

2. Sensitive data should be identified, labeled, and protected, so that end-users don’t inadvertently give away information through routine e-mail correspondence.

3. Data contained on IT hardware such as laptops and smart phones can be more valuable than the equipment. Remind staff that hardware is commonly lost or stolen and provide them with the resources to secure their devices.

4. Train employees to avoid using insecure machines or unencrypted networks to access corporate networks or sensitive data.

Organizations tend to focus on the latest technology to protect their data, but the human element cannot be ignored. The best lock in the world can’t protect a vault if someone leaves the door open.

Todd Thibodeaux
President and chief executive
Computing Technology Industry Assn.
Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

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