Common Document and Data Security Threats for Small Businesses

Thursday, November 9, 2023 12:53 pm, Posted by Absolute Destruction

You’d be remiss to assume that just because a business is classified as small or micro that it flies under the radar for common criminals looking to corrupt or exploit company files and documents.

In fact, the FBI recently voiced concern over the increase in cyber-attacks on small businesses, with almost 850,000 complaints pertaining to attacks and cyber activity with malicious intent, at a loss of almost $7 billion in one year alone — a 64% increase from the year prior.

Setting up and implementing robust safety nets that protect your company from a security threat can not only keep your business on the right side of privacy laws like PIPEDA, but can also help ensure the retention of employee and customer confidence and save you from financial losses.

For these reasons, it’s vital for small businesses to take a proactive approach to protecting their sensitive documents and data.

Read on to learn of the most common document and data security threats for small businesses and how reliable document and data destruction can play an integral part in keeping your information safe and secure.

Employee Error

Unfortunately, “human error was a major contributing cause in 95% of all breaches,” according to an IBM Cyber Security Intelligence Index Report.

One instance of employee error that may lead to compromised company data is a team member being duped by a phishing attack. A phishing attack is a relatively straightforward scam. Someone sends you an email pretending to be another individual or company to gain access to personal or sensitive information.

Emails can look incredibly authentic and may ask the recipient to hand over a password, divulge sensitive information, or click a corrupt link.

Poor Network Security

Poor network security can leave businesses open to a number of external threats. One common form is a ransom attack, where a hacker or a team of hackers overpower a company’s server, gaining access either by a phishing scam, as mentioned above, or by finding a hole in the network’s security. Once they’ve gained access, they hold the network hostage until a ransom is paid.

Hackers have been known to deploy ransomware attacks against entire countries. In 2017, Ukraine fell victim to ransomware and paid an estimated $10 billion to regain access. They’re also deployed against major companies; in 2017, shipping giant Maersk saw its system hacked and files wiped or overwritten. It cost the company $300 million to regain access and their tech team two weeks to recover their computer operations.

These are extreme examples of ransom attacks. However, they highlight how no one is untouchable. Even the most prominent companies with the biggest budgets, most advanced technologies and highly-trained computer specialists are at the mercy of savvy hackers.

Weak Passwords

Easily guessed passwords (often when employees use the same password to access multiple programs and accounts) are another direct opportunity for a cybercriminal.

Improper Data Destruction

Similarly, once data is obsolete and no longer required, proper measures should be put in place to ensure it can’t be rebooted and reviewed for sensitive company information.

Safety Nets to Prevent Threats to Data Security

There are many ways to protect your company's data from an external threat. If you haven’t already, consider implementing these measures below.

  • Train your team members on how to identify potential threats, like phishing scams. Unexplained changes to files, unusual network behaviour and abnormal user access are all telltale signs of attempts at unauthorized access.
  • Encourage team members to stay vigilant and protect their social media accounts. Major casino MGM experienced downed websites and compromised data as hackers deployed social engineering tactics using data found on an employee’s LinkedIn page.
  • Always back up data.
  • Install email authentication protections.
  • Deploy intrusion prevention software (IPS): a network scanner that constantly prowls for malicious attacks.
  • Destroy expired data. There are a few ways one can go about destroying electronic data, including by overwriting, degaussing and physically smashing the device. However, these methods aren’t always safe — both in terms of effectiveness, and personal safety. For this reason, shredding data through an industrial shredder will offer you the most effective results.
  • Conduct regular audits of data security measures.

Technology isn’t the only avenue for corruption. Improper document storage and improper destruction are also sources for extortion and fraud. Here are just a few examples of how documents can be used with ill intent.

Identity Theft

Improperly storing company documents or making them readily available could put employees and individual customers at risk of identity theft.

A thief can use even the most basic personal information, like a name, email address, home address, and cell phone number, to compromise someone’s identity.

Intellectual Property Theft

Marketing strategies, product ideas and location plans are all hotbeds of information for a rival company. Failing to destroy these documents could see you beat to the punch with a revolutionary new idea or concept if they’re found (say discarded in a recycling bin) — losing you money and potential customers in the process.

Corporate Espionage

Similarly, sensitive documents with plans and strategies and customer and client data can be stolen by disgruntled team members if they’re made readily available, leaving your small business open to espionage.

Safety Nets to Prevent Threats to Document Security

There are several very easy-to-implement measures that small businesses can put in place to keep documents safe from unauthorized access and corruption.

  • Limit access to sensitive papers — only team members who need access to fulfill their role should be able to see certain company documents.
  • Keep sensitive documents in a locked filing cabinet or a room requiring with a keypad or swipe card entry.
  • Never underestimate the value of basic paperwork. An unscrupulous thief can take their time to rifle through bins and piece together a full portfolio on team members or the company itself. Once paperwork has expired or it becomes surplus to requirement, destroy it effectively. If you have large volumes of paperwork, scheduled document destruction will prove valuable, allowing you to destroy papers effectively (and timely) and freeing up storage space.

The Bottom Line

Small businesses are actually more open to security threats than major companies; they don't have as sizable a budget to put toward protection against hackers and cyber threats, nor do they have the finances in place to bounce back as readily should an attack take place. While the payoff for criminals is lower per attack, they more than makeup for it in volume. Concerningly, 60% of small businesses aren’t able to weather the storm of a cyber-attack.

Connect with a cybersecurity specialist for advice and guidance if you’re concerned about your current cyber protection. And be sure to destroy documents and data once they’re expired and no longer required.

Connect with Us

Connect with us at Absolute Destruction to learn more about our data and document destruction for businesses. We can come to you to effectively destroy data and documents, keeping your business, clients and team members safe from external threats.

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