It's becoming all too common these days — a business owner wakes up one day to find their data has been breached, their customers' information is gone, and their reputation is in ruins. Don't let this be you; it's time to start taking information security seriously.
This comprehensive guide to information security will help your small- or medium-sized business (SMB) protect sensitive data and stay one step ahead of cybercriminals. We'll cover the basics of information security, the top threats to SMBs, and the steps you can take to bolster your security.
What is information security?
At its core, information security is the practice of protecting data and networks from unauthorized access, loss, or destruction. It involves both educational and technical measures to protect sensitive data, such as customer information, trade secrets, and corporate data, from being accessed by malicious actors.
Information security is a particularly pressing concern for SMBs. While larger companies have the resources to invest in comprehensive security measures, SMBs like yours may lack the time, money, and expertise to invest in basic security measures. But by understanding the key concepts and taking precautionary steps, you can reduce the risk of a data breach or cyberattack that could cripple your business.
How is information security different from cybersecurity?
Though related, information security and cybersecurity are two distinct concepts. While information security involves protecting data from unauthorized access as a whole, cybersecurity focuses on protecting digital systems (e.g., computers, networks, devices) from outside threats. In other words, cybersecurity is a subset of information security, and both are essential components of a comprehensive security strategy.
Cybersecurity measures include installing antivirus software, using firewalls, encrypting data, and disabling certain network features to ward off malicious activities. On the other hand, information security measures may include practices such as shredding paper documents, restricting access to sensitive information, and backing up data regularly.
So when it comes to protecting your business, information security and cybersecurity should go hand in hand.
What are the three principles of information security?
Information security is based on three key principles: confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
Confidentiality involves restricting access to sensitive information. Only authorized users should have the ability to view, read, or make changes to this information, and unauthorized users must be prevented from accessing it. You can ensure confidentiality by using passwords, encryption, and other access control measures.
Meanwhile, integrity means maintaining the accuracy and completeness of data. Any changes made to information should be verifiable and traceable. This is especially important for financial and legal records. Some of the measures you can take to maintain integrity include logging user activity on systems and using checksums or digital signatures.
Finally, availability ensures that information is accessible whenever it's needed. This involves using redundant systems or backups to minimize the possibility of data loss due to system failure, malicious attacks, or other disasters.
What are the top information security threats?
There are numerous information security threats that can put your SMB at risk, but these are the key threats you should be aware of:
- Phishing and other social engineering attacks – Phishing involves sending malicious emails or links that appear to come from a legitimate source in an attempt to gain access to confidential information. Social engineering attacks, on the other hand, involve manipulating people into revealing sensitive data.
- Malware – Malicious software, or malware, is a piece of code designed to spy on users, disrupt systems, steal data, and more. It can take many forms, including viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, and ransomware. Malware infections can lead to data breaches and financial losses.
- Insider threats – These threats come from insiders, such as employees or contractors who have access to confidential information. Insider threats may involve accidental data breaches due to a lack of proper training, or malicious acts such as stealing data for personal gain.
How can SMBs address information security threats?
SMBs don't necessarily need to have an in-house security team to address information security threats. But even if you don't, there are a number of simple steps you can take to protect your business.
- Establish an information security policy – An information security policy is a document outlining the rules and procedures you use to protect sensitive data. It should cover topics such as access control, password security, physical security, incident response, and more.
- Train your staff – Employees should be trained in the information security policies and procedures of your SMB. They should also learn how to identify and respond to potential security threats.
- Enforce strong passwords – Passwords are a critical line of defense against cyberattacks, so make sure your staff is using strong, unique passwords. Consider implementing a password manager to help generate and store secure passwords.
- Stay up to date – The threat landscape is constantly evolving, so you should make sure your security measures are regularly updated to keep up with the latest threats. This includes applying software patches and updating security measures to reflect any changes in your environment.
- Enlist help – You don't have to tackle information security alone. Consider working with an experienced IT services provider like outsourceIT to review your security measures and help you develop an effective strategy.
By taking the time to understand information security and implementing the right strategies and measures, you can protect your SMB from costly data breaches and other malicious activities.
Need help getting started? Talk to one of our security experts today. We’ll help you develop a comprehensive information security strategy and provide advice on the best tools and solutions for your SMB.