The Importance of Protecting Your Sensitive Information in 2022

As more and more people get on the internet and start sharing information, data breaches are becoming more common. In 2021, a report found that 45% of US companies suffered a data breach in the past year.

This is alarming news for any business owner trying to protect sensitive information from prying eyes. Are you worried about your sensitive data and wondering what you can do to secure business information? Keep reading to find out more about this cybersecurity issue.


What is Sensitive Information?

Sensitive data is confidential information that must be kept from the eyes of outsiders because its loss, misuse, modification, or unauthorized access could negatively impact an organization’s or individual’s welfare or security. Usually, organizations and individuals will use passwords and other means to protect their information from threats.

There are three different kinds of sensitive information:

  1. Personal information like social security number, home address info, etc
  2. Business information like patent information, new product strategy, and more
  3. Government classified information

The problem is that too many folks are complacent about data loss, thinking they are safe because they use a strong password. Cybercriminals are becoming quite savvy about accessing sensitive information, despite strong passwords. So you need to do a lot more than this to protect sensitive information.


How to Protect Sensitive Information?

A lot of sensitive data is lost due to the following issues:

  • Lost or stolen equipment
  • Weak passwords
  • Lost or stolen credentials
  • Social engineering attacks
  • Targeted attacks
  • Data encryption deficiencies
  • Partner vulnerabilities

The way to fill in security gaps is by taking care of each of these vulnerable spots one by one. Having your employees change their passwords every six months is not enough. They need regular training to know what not to do to lose sensitive information to exploitative forces.

Layers upon layers of security must also be added to ensure that you are ready to face hacking attempts when they happen (as they will).


Who is a Target?

Unfortunately, too many business owners believe they are safe from cyberattacks. You might wrongly believe that only enterprise businesses and big brands are vulnerable to data breaches, but that’s not the case.

Everyone is vulnerable to sensitive information loss, no matter how big their organization is. You probably process tons of sensitive information about your customers daily, like credit card information, phone numbers, customer addresses, and more. All that information is vulnerable to threat.

Every week, you hear of some company that wasn’t careful enough with their customer information and came under fire in the media for losing valuable customer data. Not only is a data breach a terrible hit against your sales, but your reputation among customers will also suffer. It could take months or years to recover from such a downfall.


What Steps to Take if Your Sensitive Information Has Been Exploited?

The problem is that cyber attackers are constantly coming up with new ways to bypass your defenses. That is what they do best.

That’s why it’s important not to sit on your laurels once you have done one security update. Being safe in this world from cyberattacks means constantly taking action to protect your company’s sensitive information from hackers.

Nowadays, employees have begun working from home more frequently, and on top of that, they freely use their personal devices to access sensitive business data. These two points make businesses more vulnerable than ever to losing valuable information.

There are certain things you can do to protect yourself.


Have a Solid Strategy for BYOD

The minute your employees start taking your sensitive information off-site into their homes, cafes, and abroad while travelling, they become most vulnerable to attacks. You don’t want to start micromanaging your employees because that won’t be conducive to boosting productivity.

But you can build a strategy on how BYOD (bring your own devices) will work in your company. Also, remote work will need to have a security strategy wrapped around it.


Implement Policies about Digitized Files

Going paperless is great for the environment. But is it good for your sensitive information? If you are going to digitize all your sensitive data, have policies on how this will take place.

Think about how the digitized files will be stored and where on your network. Also, have strict delineations on who can access these digitized files and who can alter and delete these files.


Educate Your Employees

According to Proofpoint’s 2022 Human Factor report, 55% of employees admitted to taking a risky action, like clicking an email link that led to a suspicious website or not knowing what phishing is.

Humans are definitely the weakest link when it comes to compromising your IT security. That’s why your employees need to be constantly trained and educated on the latest cybersecurity threats.


Assess Risks From All Sources Regularly

Just like cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new ways to access your sensitive information, the same applies to you as well. You need to constantly be accessing your security network and strategies to identify holes and fill in those gaps as soon as possible.

You can’t sit still for even a second in a world where information is king, and everyone wants a piece of your information, legally or illegally.


Set Controls on Who Can Access Sensitive Information

These are some considerations for setting effective controls on sensitive data:

  1. What data is collected from all sources, customers, employees, partners, etc.?
  2. What data is collected internally?
  3. Set levels of sensitivity for all data collected
  4. Figure out who needs access to the data and don’t give access to those who don’t need it

It might create extra work for your security team if you have one or for your employees. But all this red tape will ensure that no unscrupulous person gets access to your sensitive data to do with it as they will.


Decide How Long Data Needs to Get Stored

In this fast-paced world, data doesn’t need to get stored forever. You will have to figure out how long you need to store data and then have measures in place to delete stored data appropriately. This way, you are not leaving yourself vulnerable to attacks due to old unused data.

You won’t have to worry too much about public data like company brochures, press releases, and employees’ first and last names (and bios on LinkedIn). But everything else, like internal data, classified data, and other more sensitive data, needs to get guarded with care.


Know Your Data

Do you know what kind of data your company deals with daily? There are probably hundreds of pieces of data that come through your employees’ devices and through your IT network.

There’s no way you can keep an eye on each piece of data yourself, nor can your cybersecurity team do so if you have one. That’s why you need to have security infrastructure in place that will keep an eye on your data for you, even when you are not around.

Through processes and technology in place, this monumental task of protecting your sensitive information can get simplified and efficiently executed without unencumbering your employees’ workflow.


Hire a Security Company to Protect You From Data Loss

Feeling overwhelmed and fearful at the thought of your sensitive data getting breached by someone who wants to take advantage of it is normal. Many business owners believe they aren’t vulnerable or have done enough when they do a few security updates, which leaves them in danger of losing sensitive data. If you cannot keep your sensitive information safe from the threat, you should hire a security company to take care of this for you.

There is a level of expertise and knowledge required to protect sensitive information, and it can be the difference between your company going bankrupt because it lost valuable customer information and customer trust or staying in business for a long time.


Schedule Your IT Assessment Today to Ensure Your Sensitive Information is Safe

Each business and industry has to look at security and sensitive data protection in a different manner.  If you need help figuring out where to begin,  contact us today, The IT and cybersecurity experts at Edge Networks have years of experience behind them. 

We will conduct a comprehensive assessment of your overall IT infrastructure to determine where the gaps lie and where you are vulnerable to data loss, so we can help protect sensitive information. We will even perform real-time cyberattacks to assess your IT network and identify immediate vulnerabilities.

Schedule an assessment today, and our experts will be in touch with you.

The Risks of Improper Offboarding

Offboarding Incorrectly can Lead to Issues and Security Threats

No matter what kind of company you run, there will be times when you have to let employees go. This can be a challenging process for everyone, especially if the employee feels angry about being released from their job. The more sudden the offboarding process, the more risk there is for an employer.

If you have been struggling with managing layoffs or having to fire people who have broken non-negotiable rules, you need to be careful about your offboarding process to prevent issues in the long run.


What Are the Risks of Offboarding Incorrectly?

Offboarding is as important as onboarding. The entire hiring and firing process needs to be tackled correctly by your company to prevent issues that might crop up later on. Cutting corners on either of these critical steps in the hiring process can lead to trouble that you would rather avoid. Make sure that you never take the offboarding process lightly.


1.   Data Loss

The biggest problem that often crops up with offboarding is data loss. When you do not handle the process of offboarding properly, employees can have access to data that they should be prevented from accessing once they have been released from their job. Vengeful employees that have been fired or laid off can cause havoc by stealing data or corrupting and deleting it so that you cannot use it. This can lead to significant slowdowns to work processes and conflict with other employees or other businesses that work with you.

If you do have to let someone go for one reason or another, you need to be sure that you do not allow these people to retain access to company data. This will prevent data theft and damage to your critical company assets. You should avoid data loss with ease if you are careful about the way that you release people from their jobs.


2.   Compliance Issues

One of the most common issues businesses face due to incorrect offboarding is noncompliance, which can occur due to employee anger before leaving. In places like hospitals or other medical facilities where HIPAA is in place, this can lead to issues that cost the company thousands of dollars in fines. In other work environments, non-compliant behavior can lead to issues with stolen information, lack of proper information collection, or improper conduct, leading to fines and customer dissatisfaction.

Compliance is often the first thing to be thrown out the window when someone is mad at their employer, and this is one of the biggest risks to your business when you offboard someone incorrectly. You need to be sure that the people you have on staff will uphold the standards of your business for a whole variety of reasons, and it is not wise to trust angry employees to behave appropriately on your behalf once they know they have been let go.


3.   Theft of Intellectual Property

This is often the most significant risk to tech companies or companies that develop products and goods that haven’t yet landed on the market. If you have any developmental ideas or projects that you are making or selling, you need to be sure that you do not let offboarded employees access this kind of information and data once they know they have been let go. It is all too common for employees to attempt to steal intellectual property to take it with them to their new job or to sell the information to competitors.

If you are worried about the risk of intellectual property theft, it is also wise to have a document that outlines the terms of data management and intellectual property management when you are onboarding employees. This will help protect you if you have to let someone go. Theft of data and property is always a considerable risk for companies that make new products, apps, or other technology, and you will want to carefully protect yourself against this problem.


4.   Reputation Damage

When you let someone go, the reality is that they will probably talk badly about you to other people. Reputation for your business is essential when you are trying to attract new hires that are skilled and have a lot of experience. While you cannot control everything that people will say about your business when you let them go, you can try to handle the damage that might be caused by letting someone go in a way that makes them very angry.

One of the key parts of offboarding people correctly is that you will need to make sure that the employee who has been let go does not have extra time to interact with other employees or to steal company property and data. You will also want to be sure that you are fair and communicative with the person you are letting go of. The way you release people from employment can go a long way toward preventing a lot of damage to your reputation once they are no longer an employee.


5.   Cybersecurity Threats

This is one of the threats that employers are not always aware of, but it can be the most serious of the risks related to improper offboarding. Many companies forget to remove access to programs and remove employee access to cloud sharing. This can lead to major issues to do with company data that can be accessed by an employee even after they have left the company.

The other problem related to forgetting to remove users that are no longer with the company is that hackers often seek out these unused accounts to gain access to the cloud or to programs that your company owns. This can be a major risk to your company’s security, and you will want to be sure that you delete or deactivate the accounts of people who have been let go. This is a critical feature of company safety when releasing an employee from their contract or job.


Tips to Help Offboard Employees Correctly

Ensuring that you handle the offboarding process properly is critical for your company’s data security, cybersecurity, and reputation. You will want to be sure that you follow these tips correctly so that you do not have any issues with a disgruntled employee risking the security of your business or damaging your company’s reputation once they are gone.


1.   Plan Carefully

One of the biggest features of a successful offboarding process is planning ahead. You will want to be sure that you have the end date, the steps for transitioning, the collection of keys and devices, and the revocation of software access planned for any employee you are letting go. When you plan ahead, you will be less likely to encounter surprises that can lead to problems down the road.

Being organized can make all the difference in the offboarding process, and you will be able to plan the last day of this employee with care. This will help you avoid all of the risks we have already discussed. You will be able to give your former employee all of the information they need to know about their release from employment so they cannot be shocked or angry with the process overall.

Employee on laptop during offboarding process

2.   Communicate Effectively

Sneaking up on employees is never a good way to handle this kind of breakup. You will need to make sure that your former employee knows that you are letting them go, and you need to be sure that you are clear about the terms of the release. There are some situations where you will want to provide the employee with some warning and then make sure that you escort them from the building as you let them go. When data or intellectual property theft are a risk, you need to be sure that you do not allow the employee that is being released to stay at work for the rest of the workday.

Communication can be the difference between a successful offboarding process and one that does not go smoothly overall. This will also help manage reputation damage as well as employee anger. Offboarding is always uncomfortable, but clearly communicating why you are letting the person go can make a massive difference to your offboarding process.


3.   Take Care of Documentation

You will always need to be sure to collect all the proper documents when you let someone go. This documentation might include a resignation letter, a non-compete agreement, benefits forms, and more. It is important to get these documents signed to avoid legal difficulties later if a disgruntled employee takes legal action and gets a lawyer.


4.   Remove Access

Ensuring that an employee’s access to the cloud, to programs and data, and to their devices has been taken away is critical for cybersecurity risk prevention and the prevention of data theft and intellectual property theft. Access to software and devices needs to be removed as soon as an employee is going to be released from employment. This is an easy step to plan, and taking care of this need well before you sit down with an employee to release them is the best course of action.

Removing access to programs can increase the security of your programs and the overall company network. You should also make sure that anyone who moves to another team within your company does not have access that they should not. Dead or inactive accounts can lead to hacking and other problems with ease.


5.   Exit Interviews

Make sure that you conduct an exit interview for everyone you have to let go. This is an important step that allows former employees to get things off their chest and have their voices heard. This can also help you learn more about what led to the choice you had to make to let someone go. Being able to air complaints might reduce the possibility of an employee talking about how much they hated their job with you once they leave.

When you take the time to do an exit interview, you will be able to get some information about the experience that this person had while working for you that can lead to improvements in training and other processes. Maybe onboarding, team interactions, benefits and time off, and other factors led to the employee being dissatisfied and behaving in a way that led to their release from their contract. You need to know about this to fix the problems, which can prevent future issues.


Improper Offboarding Can Lead to Major Difficulties

You should always make sure that you take the correct steps to offboard employees. This will help prevent damage to your reputation, data and intellectual property theft, and cybersecurity issues. Making sure that you do not forget the critical steps that need to be taken to offboard an employee that has been let go for any reason can help you learn from former mistakes and avoid difficulties that can crop up when an employee is fired, or layoffs take place.

Offboarding is a necessary evil for any company owner, but you will find that the process is far less painful when you handle the process correctly from the start. Planning in advance can make a big difference, as can removing access to programs and cloud features your company uses daily. No matter why you need to let an employee go, taking these steps and using these tips and tricks when offboarding employees will prevent issues that can lead to major trouble for you as the employer.

Having a plan to offboard properly can seem like a daunting task, but Edge Networks is here to help! Let us take care of your company’s IT, including employee offboarding, so you don’t have to. To asses your risk, take our free, self-guided IT Security Risk Assessment, or contact us today for a free, 30-minute consultation.

The Future of Passwords and Password Management

The Best Password Managers to Keep You Protected

Passwords have been around for a long time as one of the first layers of account protection. Still, many businesses and individuals are not adapting best practices for password creation and management, making their accounts easy to get ahold of. The internet has become a dangerous place, filled with cybercriminals waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. A password vulnerability could lead to an exploit, one where customer and company data are exposed. That’s why it’s crucial to choose a good password management strategy – one that helps both individuals and organizations keep their data, accounts, and online infrastructure safe.


What is Password Management?

Password management is a set of practices meant to organize, store, and manage passwords. This is a huge necessity for large companies, who must keep the possibility for a password to lead to an exploit low. With the right kind of management plan, updates are automatic and no one can use the same password twice.

Managing passwords alone can be difficult, but companies with lots of employees can be more protected with the help of a password management system.


Password Breaches: How Often Do They Happen?

According to the 2019 Breach Alarm, 1 million passwords are stolen every week. One of the most common means of execution is Password Dumper, a kind of malware that randomly guesses hundreds to thousands of passwords in just a matter of seconds, attempting to find the correct one.

The Ponemon Institute Cost of Data Breach Study estimates that the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million, something that could throw a company out of business. Protecting passwords is essential, as it is a pretty juicy target for cybercriminals.


How Easy Is It to Crack a Password?

A lot of web surfers out there think that it’s fairly complicated to crack a password. However, that’s not entirely true. As a matter of fact, the shorter your password is, the easier it is to crack, taking an experienced hacker little to no time at all. For instance, let’s take a password with five characters.

If you think about the most common passwords, you could come up with 100 different combinations per character. This means that a password with just five characters could have up to 10 billion combinations. It sounds like it would take a long time to crack, right? Wrong. A hacker with the right software and expertise could get into a password like this in less than a minute.

The longer your password, the less chance that hackers have to crack it, or should we say, the more trouble they will have. Some ways that you can decrease the chances of a hacker simply guessing or taking multiple guesses are to:

  • Capitalize random letters
  • Add numbers
  • Put special symbols around one word or multiple words
  • Jumble it up after you create it
  • Use a password manager that offers strong password suggestions 

As you can see, there are many ways to get hacked, so taking care of your passwords is key to keeping them away from hackers. One way to do that is with password managers. Below, we have 5 of today’s popular password management programs to check out, along with the key features that make them shine above others.


Top 5 Password Management Programs for 2021

1. Dashlane

When it comes to doing everything that a password manager should do, Dashlane has it figured out with basic to advanced features that spot weaknesses in passwords and even highlight ones that have been compromised.

They offer an app that sits on your desktop where you can take a look at stats and get everything you need to create a better password than ever before and keep them safe. The only downside is that most of their high-tech features come with a price tag, and the more protection you need, the more it’s going to cost you.

Pros 👍

  • Compatible with all systems, including macOS, Windows, and Android
  • Free versions with basic password management needs
  • Comes with optional VPN protection
  • Keeps an eye out for compromised passwords

Cons 👎

  • Some of the options come with a high price tag
  • Some say it tends to have a hard time with multiple logins
  • Storage is not upgradable

Star Quality ⭐️

Features of all kinds with built-in security at every point. No matter if you’re looking for solo protection or something for the whole squad, Dashlane has something to offer.


2. 1Password

With 1password, users will have protection across all devices, no matter how many there are. It has a way of organizing passwords and implementing a two-factor authentication that helps to keep passwords dually protected. This is a great and affordable option that works to keep all passwords safe, though it lacks some expert features that would take it to the next level.

Pros 👍

  • Compatible with all systems
  • Has great password organization, even for multiple people
  • It’s easy to use
  • Works as a two-factor authentication

Cons 👎

  • Some say it is limited compared to other password managers
  • Doesn’t have features for password inheritance

Star Quality ⭐️

This password manager is easy to use and has a killer feature that syncs all passwords across all devices. It doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but it does get the job done, and then some.


3. OneLogin

For an affordable option that won’t leave you empty-handed, this app has it all. Compared to the competition, you can find advanced features that help you manage your passwords, no matter how long your list is. Plus, enjoy a multiple-factor login, something that helps to secure your passwords better than ever before.

Pros 👍

  • Comes with HR-style services
  • Perfect for the management of many passwords
  • Tons of features and support if needed

Cons 👎

  • Pricing can get high
  • The highest-priced option is pretty limited compared to the competition 

Star Quality ⭐️

OneLogin has an HR quality password management platform that makes it one of the best around. With tons of options to keep your passwords safe and out of virtual harm’s way, this is a good choice for solid protection.


4. Chrome Password Manager

Google’s version of a password manager is everything you’d expect it to be. Advanced features and super fun interface with the solid protection you need.

Pros 👍

  • It’s free!
  • Super simple setup
  • Allows for smooth transition between multiple log-ins for the same site
  • Optional capture and auto-fill for passwords
  • Compatible with all systems

Cons 👎

  • Not a lot of extra features like some of the others
  • No multiple or two-factor authentications
  • Cannot be used offline, so if something happens, you might need to let your memory kick in

Star Quality ⭐️

Chrome Password Manager is free. That’s not its only star quality, though, coming with lots of features that are meant to keep your passwords secure and even help to keep them far from landing in the wrong hands.


5. Apple Keychain

Everyone knows that Apple usually doesn’t disappoint when it comes to its newly released products and software. Like all the rest, Apple Keychain is tearing up the competition, coming with many advanced features. When it comes to password management, though they are advanced, they are still super simple to use, something that most users boast about when they first use this system. 

Pros 👍

  • Super simple to use
  • Has an auto-fill feature that doesn’t disappoint
  • Has a two-factor feature to keep your passwords safe

Cons 👎

  • Only works with Apple devices
  • Password auditing system is weak when put head-to-head with the competition
  • Cannot be used if you’re offline, needs a solid Wi-Fi connection

Star Quality ⭐️

Apple’s name is a good one. It is known for some of the best software that rises above the competition. There is not only space here for passwords but also for other things that need protection like credit card numbers and shipping addresses too.


Risks of Weak Systems

It’s no longer just your account and personal information on a social site you have to worry about. These days, hackers could get ahold of your banking information and even change the information or corrupt it so  you can no longer get access to it. If you have a weak password, you could be at risk for any of the following attacks.

  • Spoofing – Using a database of stolen passwords
  • Sniffing – Using software like key loggers
  • Brute Force – Trying out various combinations

None of these are fun, especially when it comes to your data, so keep it safe and create a solid password that hackers will have a hard time accessing.


Password Management Best Practices

When it comes to keeping passwords out of the wrong hands, there are a few things that individuals and businesses should adapt. Hackers know a thing or two about getting ahold of passwords and look for weak authentications and weak passwords wherever they can find them. When setting up your password, be sure to include the following best practices:


1. Strong Passwords

As a rule of thumb, you should aim for a password that has a good length and features a mix of numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and special characters. Some websites will require you to use each of these in your password, which helps you create a more secure password. Avoid adding any information that’s too easy to guess, like your name, date of birth, or favorite color.


2. Get and Keep a Reset Schedule

Keeping the same password for long periods is in itself a vulnerability. Over time, hackers can hone in on an account and use software to try and guess all kinds of passwords. That’s why you should reset your password regularly, keeping it from being guessed too easily.

Cybersecurity experts recommend you change your password once every 30-90 days, or less if you’re an avid surfer. The more you’re on the web, the more you should change up your passwords, as someone could be watching.


3. Use Two or More Authentications

You’ve probably heard of two-factor authentication, but if you haven’t, it’s the pop-up that requires you to enter a code sent to your phone before you can log in. The account checks that it’s you logging in by making sure you have an alternate device that matches. Though often feeling inconvenient and eliciting eye rolls, this is a great way to keep hackers away and helps to prevent your password from getting stolen.


4. Ditch the Sharing

Sometimes, we share our passwords with our friends, coworkers, or our parents. Data in motion is very sensitive on the web, especially if you’re not taking care to secure it before you send it out. Don’t share your passwords over the web unless it’s absolutely necessary, keeping them protected from advanced hackers. If you need to share a password for some reason, consider using a site like Privnote to help protect the data in motion. Privnote allows you to type sensitive information onto a virtual sticky note and then provides you with a link to send to a recipient. Once that link is opened, the note self-destructs.


5. Keep Storage on Lockdown

If you’re dealing with many passwords, you should store them in one place and take steps to keep that place secure. Limit access and never share where you’re keeping all your passwords.


6. Keep up to Date

Last but not least, you and your company should do what’s necessary to keep up to date with all the latest best practices out there. Those trying to prevent attacks are hard at work, looking for better ways to manage passwords and increase their online security.

Click here to download our free Passwords Best Practices E-Book!


Keep Your Passwords Protected and Manage them Correctly

The web is a dangerous place, especially if you’re not careful. To keep your accounts and devices safe, you need to create solid passwords and change them often, reducing the chance that a hacker could come in and steal them from you.

Using a password manager and following suggested password-creating tips, you could have a solid password that’s hard to get into, keeping your accounts and sensitive data safe. Choosing a top-rated password manager will help you keep on top of managing your passwords and help you keep them secure. When online, remember to protect your accounts and information and keep them far out of the wrong hands.

Are you concerned about the cybersecurity of your business? Edge Networks can help! Take our free, self-guided IT Security Risk Assessment, or contact us today for a free, 30-minute consultation.