How to improve information security

Your company uses and produces valuable content each day. Employee personal information, client data, and product brainstorms are all examples of content your company needs to succeed. Protecting all this information should be your business’s top priority.

Security measures help you reduce data risks and build a more reliable organization

Developing an information security program for your business means giving protected access to those who need it while restricting access to those who don’t, so your teams can work efficiently and without risk. Security measures can help you decrease data vulnerabilities and build your reputation as a trustworthy organization.

Improving your business’s information security takes a series of ongoing efforts to protect users and data at every step of the information storage and sharing process.

Table of contents:

  • The importance of information security
  • Improving information security
  • Use cloud management software to keep your data safe and secure

The importance of information security

Information security is the collection of methods and practices you can use to protect your business’s data. It helps you avoid unauthorized use or access to your files, which can result in unwanted modification, destruction, disruption, and misuse. Information security is crucial for all forms of data, including cloud-based content in your software systems, as well as physical files.

Information security includes two main components: protecting data and ensuring information compliance. Many security and privacy regulations exist worldwide to shield people and businesses from data misuse. Complying with relevant regulations helps you boost your business by safely collecting data from clients around the world.

The three main objectives of information security are confidentiality, integrity, and availability, which together are called the CIA triad. These three goals help guide the way your business handles and stores data:

  • Confidentiality: Keep your company and customer information private by implementing confidentiality tools like encryption and password protection
  • Integrity: Protect data from modification so it stays in its intended form
  • Availability: Ensure authorized users can easily access your content to maximize business efficiency

Following these objectives helps your business’s information stay safe. Establishing your business with secure platforms increases client trust in your products and services.

Higher data security also makes your company more efficient by protecting your assets and operations every step of the way. You’ll also save money by avoiding many potential data breach costs.

Improving information security

Whether your business already uses some form of information security or you’re looking to create a new policy, many factors can help you meet your data protection goals. If you’re wondering how to improve information security, implement these data security best practices:

1. Protect your data

File encryption scrambles data, so it's only accessible to those with the password

Reinforcing the barriers surrounding your information is an important first step. Tactics like passwords and two-factor authentication are protective walls that help keep out unwanted users. However, constructing a second layer of protection on the data itself ensures extra security if one of the front-line barriers is broken.

Data encryption encodes your files and their sensitive information to store and send them securely. Only authorized individuals can view encrypted files. Encryption uses complex algorithms to scramble the data, so it’s unreadable to unauthorized audiences. Users can decrypt the data if they input the correct password, which only authorized people receive.

Encryption is particularly beneficial during file transit. It protects data as it’s being sent over the internet or stored on a portable device, so people can only access it once it reaches the correct destination.

Different encryption methods encode data in various ways, with several levels of protection. Some encryption standards are common in their respective industries, while others are database-specific. Encryption strength depends on factors such as password length, algorithm strength, and how well the encryption system works with your data solutions.

File encryption software also helps your business comply with state and federal data privacy regulations. Many states require file encryption for certain scenarios so personal and professional data stays safe when you send it over public networks.

Encryption benefits

Some of the biggest benefits of file encryption software include:

  • Layered protection: One of information security’s most important layers is encryption, which works in tandem with other elements to target specific data vulnerabilities
  • Multi-device security: Encryption software protects your information across all devices your team uses
  • Data transfer security: Files in transit still receive encryption protection, so you know they’re safe at every step of their journey
  • Information integrity: Encryption helps you avoid fraud involving malicious alteration by preventing people from tampering with your data

2. Consider internal threats

Anyone with access to your files and accounts is a potential internal threat

Protecting data from outside threats is most effective when coupled with internal threat protection. Internal security threats are much more common than external issues and can be harder to account for. Knowing what kinds of internal issues to look out for will help you create an information security plan that helps safeguard against internal attacks.

Internal threats come from people who have legitimate access to your business’s files and accounts. These people may have malicious intent to steal or tamper with company data for their personal gain or out of anger at your business. Former employees who are upset about being fired or furloughed, for instance, may exfiltrate data before leaving your company’s systems, either as a way of expressing their frustrations or to sell data for financial gain.

More often, however, internal incidents happen by accident. Team members can make mistakes, like sending a sensitive email to the wrong person, using their less secure personal accounts for work matters, losing their work devices, or clicking on a bad link or suspicious attachment from a phishing scam.

Create a secure work environment, avoid setbacks, and combat inside issues by putting these measures in place:

Train staff on basic cybersecurity practices

Cybersecurity practice to train for: personal data accounts, wrong recipients, losing devices, sharing passwords

Awareness is the first step toward helping your team avoid accidental internal data breaches. Train everyone to recognize potential information threats they may encounter.

Remind your people that information security is everyone’s responsibility. Even people who work outside of the IT team should adhere to safe practices to ensure security success throughout your organization.

Some common threats to address in your training include:

  • Personal data accounts: As personal information security often looks different from your company’s practices, remind staff to avoid sending company files to their personal emails
  • Wrong recipients: Create a company-wide habit of double-checking email addresses, as people often accidentally send emails to the wrong recipients
  • Losing devices: Train your team on the importance of keeping track of their work devices at all times, especially for those who work outside the office
  • Sharing passwords: Remind your team to never share passwords or leave written login information where others may see it

Phishing scams are another common way for people to accidentally share important data with the wrong people. Scam emails often appear to be from trusted organizations and will use this façade to trick people into opening attachments or clicking on links. Teach your team the warning signs for phishing scams, like typos, suspicious greetings, or unexpected messages.

Be understanding with your staff about accidental security issues that may arise. Cultivating a positive work environment makes your people more likely to bring potential scams to your attention and ask for security clarification before viewing or sending sensitive information.

You’ll also want to consider where your staff works from. While you can easily monitor in-office employee activity, remote teams require different training measures. Remind your remote team members to only work in private locations with secure network connections to ensure data safety outside the office.

Establish strong passwords

Strong passwords are a great way to minimize security risks. The stronger the password, the lower the chances a hacker will guess it.

Require all your people to set passwords that meet requirements. Some common password requirements include at least one capital letter, lowercase letter, number, and special character.

Prompt your team to change their passwords regularly to increase their security.

Use multi-factor authentication

Examples of multi-factor authentication: text verification, mobile app verification, secret question

Two-factor or multi-factor authentication can make your strong passwords even more secure. Multi-factor authentication requires at least one more level of user verification beyond the traditional username and password. Your team members input additional information before gaining access to the content.

Multi-factor authentication can come in many forms, including:

  • Text verification: Each time users log in, they receive a text with a one-time code they must input before continuing
  • Mobile app verification: Upon logging in, users need to verify their identity through a connected app
  • Secret questions: Users answer a secret question only they would know the answer to before continuing

Limit file access permissions

One of the easiest ways to limit preventable data breaches is by restricting access to sensitive files. Limit access permissions for each file to the staff members who need them, and keep unrelated staff out of those files.

Access control can look like:

  • Content classification: You can set up content controls so only people with the link can access it, or so only people with specific invitations can view or edit the file
  • Time-limited links: If you don’t want someone to have access to your content forever, put an expiration date on their permissions
  • Updated access lists: As people join and leave your company, make sure former staff members no longer have access to your files and update the permissions to reflect new team members

When only select team members access important files, you can more easily keep track of who views, reads, sends, and edits information. Strategically selecting trusted staff to access your most crucial files helps your business feel confident about working with its content securely.

3. Keep everything up to date

As new involvements occur within the information security industry or your specific business, your security measures should adapt to these changes.

Security measures should be up to date with changes in the information security industry

Keep your systems updated by implementing the following practices:

Get rid of redundant and outdated data

Securing sensitive data also often means having a safe way to dispose of it when you no longer need it. Even when your company is done using certain files, personal information and business data still need to be protected.

Keeping stale information may seem like a good way to build a robust record of your company’s past. However, forgetting about files is easy to do. Information that’s no longer monitored is not included in updated security measures and is vulnerable to breaches and attacks. Your people could also more easily transfer these files to themselves without needing your permission.

In addition, storing the same sensitive data in more than one file increases its risk of being stolen or misused. Redundant data is usually unnecessary, so consolidating and removing it helps keep the information secure.

Regularly check for and remove redundant and stale data to keep it from becoming a security risk in the future. Create information disposal mechanisms everyone in your company must follow. Shredding, erasing, or modifying data you don’t need ensures the information stays safe even as you get rid of it.

Perform regular updates

Keep up with your business's software updates to guarantee the best security

Software updates are useful for a variety of reasons. They help your devices and programs run faster and give your team tools to operate more efficiently. Updates also often come with crucial security improvements.

Regularly updating your business’s software will ensure you’re running programs with the latest and best possible security.

Hackers are constantly improving their tactics to adapt to weaknesses in earlier software versions. When you let programs like cloud storage software continue running in older versions, you miss out on security updates that protect you from the latest waves of breaches.

Back up data regularly

As often as you update your software, also back up your data. Creating backup files helps you regain data after security interruptions.

Backup data minimizes loss after theft and helps you restore your content’s integrity if a third party tampers with it. Backing up your data is even useful in daily company operations, as people sometimes make mistakes while filling out forms or editing content.

Some common ways to back up your data include:

  • Internet-based storage: Complete file recovery is easy when you automatically store all versions of your data in the cloud rather than on a company server
  • USB drive: If you want a physical backup device, a USB packs a lot of storage space into a small device
  • Network-attached storage: Use a network-attached storage device for automatic backups on a physical hard drive

While the backup strategy you choose depends on your company’s goals, keep in mind that internet-based storage solutions tend to be the most secure. Make sure your backup solution is as secure as your primary file storage systems.

Keep updated with the latest data breach trends

New phishing scams, malware, and other threats arise every day. Stay safe from new involvements in the hacking world by reading up on information security news. Studying real data breach stories can help you strategize how your business can avoid similar issues.

Alert your entire team as new threats and vulnerabilities arise. When everyone is aware of potential issues, you’re more likely to steer clear of them.

4. Invest more in information security

Diversify your security measures to keep your company safe

Your IT infrastructure’s strength and effectiveness rely on your business’s commitment to information security. The best way to continually improve this security is by investing more time and money into it.

Implementing a variety of security measures can help your company stay as safe as possible. Consistently keeping up with information security takes dedication from all team members and should be an integral aspect of all your business’s operations.

Turn information security practices into company-wide goals by doing the following:

Hire and support security staff

Consider creating a security team or hiring a chief security officer to monitor your company’s processes and keep all team members updated about new software and data protection trends. Knowledgeable people can help your company reach optimal security levels each day.

When you hire or appoint information security staff, take their suggestions seriously. They know what your company needs for success, and following their guidance will pay off with stress-relieving data practices that give you more time for valuable business progress.

Test your security

Even as you integrate new and improved security measures, you may wonder whether they’re the most effective choices for your company. The best way to know if your information security systems and policies are up to par is to test them out.

Professional security audits can reveal unexpected weaknesses in your operations and help you determine how to improve your information security going forward. You can hire external cybersecurity services to look over your systems. A third party can identify any security gaps you may miss during your own frequent assessments.

Professionals will assess all your security assets to review what you have in place and check for any vulnerabilities. They’ll also test your systems to ensure they work as intended.

An important part of security audits is risk assessment. Risk assessments evaluate any potential hazards your company faces and show how those threats may evolve. They then give you ways to respond to particular risks or reduce their chances of happening.

Get your security systems tested regularly to make sure all your protection measures are up to date. Security tests are also sometimes necessary for continued compliance with state and national standards.

Review policies and procedures

Create a practical, enforceable, and flexible policy

The information security landscape is constantly evolving. Continually reevaluating security policies and procedures helps protect your company from a range of new and changing threats. Implementing information security procedures involves writing, following, and updating a policy outlining how your business will work to keep its data secure. This policy should accomplish objectives such as:

  • Defining your business’s overall approach to information security
  • Listing the security measures you will take
  • Detecting vulnerable or compromised data assets
  • Mitigating risks as they arise
  • Protecting your business’s security reputation
  • Complying with applicable legal standards
  • Protecting sensitive data from your team and your clients
  • Establishing ways for team members and clients to report security threats
  • Limiting user access to sensitive files

Design your policy to be practical, enforceable, and flexible. As changes happen within your company or the broader security industry, you can easily adapt as necessary to maintain and improve your protections.

Have a plan

Even with all your security measures in place, breaches may still happen. Part of protecting yourself against threats is having a plan and knowing what to do if your business’s security is threatened. Plans help you efficiently tackle issues with as little downtime as possible so you can resume normal operations with fewer interruptions.

Have your security team create specific plans for all the types of threats your systems could encounter. Making a plan for each issue gives your business specialized defenses that are more effective than a generalized approach.

Discover the power of the Content Cloud

With a single secure platform for all your content, Box enables you to manage the entire content lifecycle: file creation, co-editing, sharing, e-signature, classification, retention, and so much more. We make it easy for you to collaborate on content with anyone, both inside and outside your organization. Frictionless, enterprise-grade security and compliance are built into our DNA, so you get total peace of mind that your content is protected. And with 1,500+ seamless integrations — as well as a range of native capabilities, like Box Sign — the Content Cloud provides a single content layer that ensures your teams can work the way they want.

The Content Cloud is a game changer for the entire organization, streamlining workflows and boosting productivity across every team. Contact us today, and explore what you can do with Box.

Box provides your business with the security solutions you need

**While we maintain our steadfast commitment to offering products and services with best-in-class privacy, security, and compliance, the information provided in this blog post is not intended to constitute legal advice. We strongly encourage prospective and current customers to perform their own due diligence when assessing compliance with applicable laws.