Data volumes continue to grow, our digital footprint continues to spread and data breaches continue to rise.  We are battling a digital information privacy war and our businesses and data are the targets.

Data protection success depends on the choices we make and the stand that we take. When it comes to data protection, businesses must be dynamic and hands-on if they are to have any hope of guarding their business and customer data.

Breaches will persist and will become more frequent and commonplace. This combined with stricter data protection regulations means that businesses must look for better ways and strategies to protect both business and customer data. Businesses need to adapt with the times to stay ahead of the curve.

This requires a tactical approach. Businesses need to take control of their environments, the data that they are responsible for and its security.

This means looking at the business environment differently in order to take a deeply systematic and holistic view to consider all the potential threat areas. Consider the business in its entirety as well as all the employees — how they work and how they behave.

Tactic 1: Encourage data protection throughout your business

It’s so important to encourage data protection throughout your business. Everyone must be well trained and skilled in the art of human firewalling so that the entire business is involved in managing and protecting the data assets. All employees. At all levels. This must be encouraged.  Data protection is not the IT manager’s or even the IT team’s responsibility alone. If it is approached in this way the outcome will be flawed.

Human behaviour is linked to cybercrime. Phishing attacks and other crimeware continue to be lucrative because of human vulnerability. More and more we are realising the importance of educating the entire workforce on the importance and requisite for data protection. A business-wide effort is needed for the best protection. Employees need to know good and safe data handling and need to know what to look out for.

If everyone is aware of the data’s value, the threat areas, the gaps, how to handle each situation and circumstance, there is a greater chance of success of keeping the bad from infiltrating. With more people on high alert and looking for problems every day, “inconsistencies” will be spotted before they become invasions.

Although a lot of information on precautionary measures for us to learn from and follow to deter and avoid threats like phishing exist, they continue to hook organisations unaware. We continue to see large organisations falling victim.

These frequently successful attacks emphasise the requirement for employee training. Employees are the weak link and the way that criminals continue to succeed. Technology can’t fix this. Undeniably, technical measures to protect data are essential, but employee training should not be disregarded. The two go hand in hand.

Data is the most valuable asset. It should not be one person’s responsibility to protect. It just does not work! This has been proven over and over again.

A data protection plan without employee awareness training is ineffective. Security must be a team effort.

Tactic 2: Strengthen your incident response plan

 A significant part of data protection is a having a reinforced incident response plan. Not only is this important as a proactive measure but a requirement to react as demanded by data protection regulation. It’s vital to know where the data with value is. It’s essential to know who has access to the data.

Data management is an integral part of developing an effective response plan. One that gives you the ability to rapidly respond. A response plan is important so that everyone within the business knows what to do at the time of an incident.

At the time of an incident, the speed at which you can initiate a response is crucial and will have a direct relation to lessening the impact of the breach (for your business and customers) and retrieving the data.

The last thing that you want is to find yourself in the middle of a data crisis with no plan to action.

Tactic 3: Use your business data cleverly

Most businesses have loads of business data that belongs to them that they can legally use. There are ways to improve your data protection by cleverly channelling this data to make better decisions that are more informed.

Instead of only focusing on attack vectors such as malware, viruses, and hackers, it may prove beneficial considering the behaviours within your business as well. If you know how your employees behave, you can put measures in place to better support them. Using data systems to help monitor environments is useful as the norm can be calculated and alerts can be issued when something out of the ordinary happens.

This means anomalies can easily be picked up, so rectifying actions can be taken sooner rather than later.

Tactic 4: Most Importantly…protect your data

We are all realising the value that data holds, both businesses and criminals. With all the cybercrime and attacks occurring across the sectors and throughout the world, it is very noticeable how sought-after data is.

Take the viewpoint that your data is vulnerable and that a breach is likely if you are not ruthlessly protecting it. Encrypting data is vital. If a breach occurs and your data is accessed or stolen or the data accidentally lands in the wrong hands, it would be unusable.

Let encryption become habitual and the norm within your business so that any time data is communicated or stored in plain text a warning light shows — as this would be an anomaly. This is where you want your business to be and how you want your employees to think. You need to encourage this type of behaviour.

This combination of four proactive tactics may be just what your business needs 

A combination of these few tactics can help to shift the mindset within your business. You want your employees to be part of the battle and part of the solution. If they are not, it means they will be part of the problem. By taking an approach that encourages the entirety of the organisation to get on-board makes your data protection strategy much stronger and enhances the odds of a successful security outcome.

Businesses are experiencing heightened cybersecurity threats of great sophistication that is showing no sign of easing. Extremely damaging and lasting repercussions spanning financial, compliance, and legal implications, as well as lasting impacts on business reputation, are all likely.

It’s good to be prepared: training your staff and senior management team is your first layer of defence. Having firm and appropriate procedures will help command the technology that you implement to protect your data assets.