Operating systems and applications can always be reinstalled, but your data is unique, making it the most important thing on your computer or network. Here’s a look at 10 ways you can protect that data from loss and unauthorized access.

1. Back up regularly

Backing up early and regularly is an important component of the data loss prevention strategy. Data loss can happen due to cyberattacks, natural disasters, human error and other types of events. If you have your data backed up, you can do data restoration to recover the lost data.

While you can use manual backup, you can also rely on data backup solutions that automatically back up data based on your configured schedule. More sophisticated backup solutions allow you to choose the data to back up.

2. Keep business software up to date

Software developers often need to issue new updates to fix bugs and patch security vulnerabilities. You must keep your business software up to date to ensure it has the latest security patches, bug fixes and other updates to protect against new and old cybersecurity threats.

The majority of cyberattacks are done through the exploitation of newly found security vulnerabilities, so you must be vigilant in ensuring you keep your business software updated to the latest version.

3. Password-protect everything

Use password protection for your data, as this acts as the first line of defense against unauthorized access. Some businesses need to use password protection as part of their compliance requirements, such as compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation. Using password protection also helps boost multilayer security for your systems, as you can combine password protection with other forms of security measures to keep your data safe.

SEE: Use TechRepublic Premium’s Password Management Policy to help keep your business secure.

To password-protect your business data, you can use a variety of methods, including implementing a strict password policy to ensure your employees create complex passwords. In addition, you can have them regularly update their passwords.

4. Use a VPN

Virtual private networks are great for keeping your business data safe. A VPN works by creating an encrypted tunnel for your data to hide your data from hackers and snoopers and also helps minimize your online footprint.

A VPN is a must for employees connecting to business networks or accessing sensitive files from their homes or while traveling. You can use a VPN service for free. However, ideally, you want to invest in a paid VPN subscription from a reputable provider. With a paid version, you get a more reliable connection, dedicated servers and other premium features.

5. Install antivirus software

Modern antivirus software helps protect data from ransomware, spyware, Trojan horses, browser hijackers and various other cyber threats. While an antivirus software license for a business comes at a cost, it’s a relatively small price to pay to keep your data safe. Anyone using Windows 10 or higher already has antivirus software installed. Mac computers don’t have a built-in antivirus system, so you will have to purchase one separately.

6. Use multifactor authentication

A reliable way to protect your data is to use multi-factor authentication on devices connected to the business network. With MFA, users are required to enter a password and a one-time passcode sent to another device to gain access. This way, the user needs at least two devices or “factors” to log into the system.

MFA acts as an additional layer of security for your data and is becoming a vital part of cybersecurity protocols for businesses. Without using MFA, your data remains vulnerable to unauthorized access as a result of lost devices or stolen credentials.

7. Make use of a public key infrastructure

A public key infrastructure is a system for managing public/private key pairs and digital certificates. Because keys and certificates are issued by a trusted third party (a certification authority, either an internal one installed on a certificate server on your network or a public one), certificate-based security is stronger.

SEE: Explore the differences between asymmetric and symmetric encryption.

You can protect the data you want to share with someone else by encrypting it with the public key of its intended recipient, which is available to anyone. The only person who will be able to decrypt it is the holder of the private key that corresponds to that public key.

8. Hide data with steganography

You can use a steganography program to hide data inside other data. For example, you could hide a text message within a .JPG graphics file or an .MP3 music file, or even inside another text file; although, the latter is difficult because text files don’t contain much redundant data that can be replaced with the hidden message.

Steganography doesn’t encrypt the message, so it’s often used in conjunction with encryption software. The data is encrypted first and then hidden inside another file with the steganography software.

Some steganographic techniques require the exchange of a secret key, and others use public and private key cryptography. A popular example of steganography software is StegoMagic, a freeware download that will encrypt messages and hide them in .TXT, .WAV or .BMP files.

9. Educate yourself and your employees about cybersecurity

One of the most crucial steps you can take to protect your data is to educate yourself and your employees about cybersecurity. You need to promote a skeptical mindset when interacting with any unfamiliar website, email or message. This should include learning the importance of following the best practices for data protection, such as not opening emails from unrecognized senders and not clicking on suspicious attachments.

SEE: Take advantage of this cybersecurity training bundle from TechRepublic Academy.

10. Seek professional guidance

There are several companies that offer expert guidance and services on keeping your data safe. You can choose security consulting companies to assess the security vulnerabilities in your system and how to patch them.

If you need more comprehensive protection for your data, you can choose to hire a managed security service provider. They offer a variety of security services, including 24/7 security monitoring and incident management. In addition, if you want to insure your digital assets, consider purchasing a cybersecurity insurance policy.

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Learn the latest news and best practices about data science, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, data security, and more. Delivered Mondays and Thursdays