Electronic data is an inextricable part of doing business today and that data is valuable, both to your customers and your company. The downside is that while technology is moving at a break-neck pace, often security is becoming an afterthought. Here's why you need to renew your commitment to your business data security and how you can go about doing it.
The biggest threats
"Two of the largest threats to security in terms of scope are the extent to which mission-critical data is exposed via the Internet, and data compliance with respect to the credit card processing industry," explains J.J. Shea, chief operating officer, Solutions by Computer. "Unfortunately, data security measures in general have not evolved quickly enough in response to changes in the way data is used today. Security must keep pace with change or it will be inadequate - that has become obvious to everyone with the rising incidence of identity theft. In the rental business, where the information stored in rental programs is the lifeblood of the business, threats increase as this information is deployed in new environments."
In the case of credit card processing, Shea explains, compliance requirements have only recently come to the forefront as a major issue, although the Internet has been a problem to a lesser degree for some time. "That’s because when businesses were processing credit cards over dial-up modems, the data wasn’t as exposed as it is now. The increase in the use of Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP Internet) networks has created new environments in which data is more easily exposed to security threats."
Of course, the threats to your business' security aren't always related to technology. The human element plays a role as well. "In an equipment rental business, the threats come as much from employees as from the security you can implement on and around your hardware, databases and software," says Patrice Boivin, vice president of operations at Orion Software Inc. "You need to make sure that employees have access to enough information to do their job efficiently without accessing sensitive information. So, server and database access becomes critical."
Michael Saint, president of Corporate Services, agrees. "Often, sufficient restrictions are not imposed on certain users to prevent them from manipulating data," he says. "It's not always malicious; sometimes it's simply a result of ignorance. They just didn't know."
Van Nguyen, director of IT infrastructure at Wynne Systems Inc., says a lack of security measures is one of the biggest threats to business data security for equipment rental businesses, and this problem has actually gotten worse recently. "For small mom and pop rental shops, their main focus is to rent equipment and this is where they will spend most of their time and money. Very little money and effort will be directed toward the upkeep of their security infrastructure," he says. "For larger rental companies, spending on security infrastructures was reduced due to the current economic climate."
Protecting your data
Not long ago, many business owners believed the biggest threats to their data came primarily from within the organization in the form of disgruntled employees or poor operational habits. These things can be counteracted effectively by using the traditional method of assigning security levels to individual employees, limiting access to data and creating a trail of data use and misuse.
"Today, business owners must think in new ways about data threats," says Shea. "Threats can come from any direction. The Internet has effectively created new working environments in which communication with suppliers, customers and business partners can expose data to new security threats as a matter of course without meaning to. Even employee communications create external threats if your staff has the ability to log in and work from home or hotels. User IDs and passwords are business assets that can be vulnerable on the Internet."