Data Breach – Is Your Small Business Protected?

If you are the owner of a relatively small business it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you are immune from data breaches caused by cyber attacks. However suffering a cyber attack is the single biggest threat to your business. In fact research has shown that 9 out of 10 data breaches involve small businesses.

A data breach can be catastrophic for small business owners as there are so many legalities connected to the storage of data. Fines and penalties if a breach occurs can be substantial. If valuable data is breached your reputation as a trusted businesses is likely to be damaged.  

It doesn’t matter how small or large your business is, you will at some point gather personal information from employees and customers. This could be in the form of addresses, ethnicity, health records, criminal records and sexulaity. Obviously some of this information is sensitive in nature and if breached could be used in a discriminatory way. For this reason there are many laws relating to protecting the data.

Data protection laws apply to all kinds of businesses and vary depending on where in the world you live. If you store personal data the laws apply whether you are a sole trader or large limited company.

Your responsibilities as a small business owner

All data that your business gathers and stores must be done in a transparent way ie the individual from whom you are collecting data must be informed clearly of who you are, what the data is to be used for and whether it will be shared with other parties external to your business.

The data you collect must be accurate and individuals should be given the opportunity to correct any discrepancies. The data must not be excessive and suitable for the purpose intended.  

Ensure that the data is only stored for a stipulated length of time, following which the data should be securely deleted or destroyed.

All data must be stored securely and storage methods must be current and effective. You could consider practice management solutions by outsourcing storage in a safe and secure manner. Ensure any software relating to cyber security is up to date.

To backup how your business manages data protection, consider developing policies and procedures relating to the safe storage of data and how the business adheres to data protection acts and regulations.

How to avoid a data protection breach

Breaches can occur in a number of ways. Staff can cause breaches either maliciously or unintentionally, so it essential to restrict access to information relating to personal data. Staff should be well trained on how to manage data security and contracts and terms of employment should have a section relating to data breaches.

Your computer systems are vulnerable to being hacked which could result in a breach of data protection. To deter a cyber security breach you should ensure that your security software is sufficient to cope with any threats. Passwords should be restricted to only a small number of people and should be changed frequently. Become aware of phishing emails, which often contain malicious spyware. Avoid opening any email that looks suspicious and delete them immediately.

Invest in the best cyber security you can afford, as in the long run, it will be worth the expenditure.  

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