Are you protecting your data properly?
More than 25 years ago, a computer virus confounded millions of PC users across the globe. Unfortunately things have only got worse since then.
Called Brain, and launched in 1986, it is said to have been the first virus to spread worldwide on IBM computers. It was transmitted via floppy disks – remember them? – and was created by two programmers in Pakistan who wanted to stop people pirating their medical software. They said they simply wanted to track all copies, and even included their contact details, presumably to help hapless owners disinfect their PCs.
Compared to the ‘trojans’ of today, those early viruses were relatively harmless. Now, malware attacks can wreck computer systems, destroy data and shut down businesses. According to the government’s Office of Cyber Security, such crime costs businesses £21 billion each year.
It’s not always easy to keep pace with the opposition, but there are some practical steps to make sure all your data – online, digital and on paper – stays secure from prying eyes and hands.
Computers: check their anti-virus software and firewalls regularly to make sure they are
up-to-date and capable of repelling attacks. Also, check if you need to upgrade your operating systems.
Email: use public/private key cryptography when sending emails that contain business-critical data. Digital signatures can add an extra layer of security.
Business correspondence: give your documents a security rating, ranging from open access to ‘For Your Eyes Only’. (If it’s good enough for Bond…)
Dispose with discretion: use cross-cut shredders to destroy documents, CDs and DVDs. If you’re getting rid of computers, destroy the hard drives; wiping them may not be enough. Remember that some photocopiers contain hard drives too.
Office safeguards: keep sensitive documents and storage media under lock and key in secure storage. Are your filing cabinets and cupboards up to the job?
Train your staff: if your business handles the personal data of customers, you should be familiar with the Data Protection Act. Companies can be fined up to £500,000 for breaching it.
Expect high standards of your suppliers: ensure that their data security matches yours.