A woman stands behind a counter in a warmly lit bar and types on a laptop. The woman is wearing a yellow hat, a white T-shirt, and a khaki apron; she has a serious expression on her face. Behind her are shelves filled with wine glasses, a tall glass-fronted cabinet, and a small refrigerator.
Protecting points of access is a top cybersecurity priority. Your business can use systems like multifactor authentication to make sure only authorized users can access your data. — Getty Images/Taiyou Nomachi

Your company’s data includes information about yourself, your employees, your customers, your clients, and your partners. That’s a lot to have on the line. With contemporary cyberthreats, you may be concerned about how your company is currently protecting such sensitive information.

Here are a few key steps you and your team can take to fortify your business’s identity protection and minimize the chances of a data breach.

[Read more: How to Communicate a Data Breach to Customers]

Implement multifactor authentication

Because passwords are used all over the internet and stored in different apps and devices, they are inherently vulnerable. That’s why it’s a good idea to use multifactor authentication, which requires at least two methods of verification to successfully sign in to your accounts. For example, you may need to first log in with your password and then verify your login with a one-time code you receive via SMS.

Usually, you won’t need to use multifactor authentication for every sign-in, but whenever you do, the process is quick and easy. More importantly, the additional step can prevent hacking by cybercriminals and malicious bots.

Use single sign-on

Single sign-on offers the convenience of storing all your passwords in one place while minimizing the risk of doing so. This popular process uses recurring login credentials or a one-time password. For single sign-on, you and your employees would log into the browser of the service provider, which then authenticates the user. Because the user was already authenticated by the service provider, they would not need to log into every app and service on their device individually. Implementing single sign-on can increase productivity, as it cuts out unnecessary time spent logging in and recovering lost or forgotten passwords.

Utilize zero trust security

Although employees working from home on a personal device increases risk, it may also be necessary given your company’s circumstances. Zero trust security enables employees to do so more safely.

One of the most important steps in protecting your business is to install a strong antivirus software.

Within a zero trust security model, the system authenticates and authorizes users, logins, and apps at every opportunity. Users have access limited to the essential files, programs, and software they need to complete their tasks, as unnecessary access creates unnecessary points of vulnerability. To be ready for the worst-case scenario, the zero trust model operates as if it has already been compromised by keeping things separate, detecting threats, and encrypting files.

Shield your passwords

Weak passwords can be easily deciphered, jeopardizing security and leading to data breaches or account takeovers. Passwords should never include personal information, be used across multiple accounts, or include common or obvious combinations of characters.

Require your employees to update their passwords periodically. Instead of words or anniversary dates, passwords should be tweaked to make them truly unique — encourage your employees to sub in numbers for letters and to spell things phonetically. Instead of an eight-character requirement, consider implementing a 15-character requirement, as longer passwords provide more opportunity for variation.

[Read more: 4 Simple and Easy-to-Deploy Ways to Protect Your Company Data]

Shred old records

While this may seem like an obvious or outdated step, it remains an effective security measure. Records you no longer need still contain sensitive information, which becomes more and more vulnerable the longer the records sit around. All documents with personal information on them should be thoroughly shredded. Add “shredding day” to your calendar and encourage employees to prepare the documents that need to be disposed of. Some companies allow their employees to bring in personal documents from home to be shredded as well.

Protect IT systems

One of the most important steps in protecting your business is to install a strong antivirus software. Evaluate a few options to see what works best for your company’s needs. Keep this software up-to-date and run regular checks of your devices. You can take additional steps, such as setting up a firewall or using a private network.

Once you have your defenses in place, you’ll need to carefully monitor your systems and address any suspicious activities. All of your employees should be educated on what suspicious activities look like online and how to proceed when they notice something potentially threatening.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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