Why businesses must address physical data security

Modern businesses allocate considerable resources toward enterprise-grade data defenses. In fact, worldwide enterprise information security expenditures are expected to reach $96 billion by the end of 2018, according to researchers for Gartner. IT teams are likely to funnel the majority of these funds to digital defense projects centered on bleeding-edge software. While online-only projects of this nature certainly yield results, they often fail to address the issue of physical data security. On the surface, this sounds like an immensely dated concern. This is not the case.

Journalists covering the summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore recently learned the importance of old-fashioned physical data security. The members of the foreign press in attendance received gift bags containing device-powered miniature cooling fans that plugged into stock USB ports. Reporters who shared photographs of these items on social media immediately received feedback from cybersecurity experts, most of whom advised the media not use the devices, fearing they could harbor data-harvesting malware. This advice most likely protected huge amounts private information, yet involved no complicated security software. Here, device discipline was enough to stop multiple large-scale data breaches.

Businesses navigating today's marketplace would be wise to copy this approach and equip their employees with the tools and strategies they need to defend their devices physically. Here are some of those physical data security best practices and methodologies for proper deployment:

Provide employee training
As demonstrated above, simple data security awareness can go a long way. However, a surprisingly large number of businesses fail to equip workers with the tools and strategies they need to defend themselves against hackers and other cybercriminals. An estimated 70 percent of modern professionals do not possess even rudimentary data security knowledge, according to analysts for Media Pro. This widespread lack of awareness creates immense risk for both employees and businesses as personal and work-related information is often intertwined due to bring-your-own-device policies and other similar efficiency-boosting measures.

The solution is simple: Businesses must provide data security awareness training for employees at all levels. There are, of course, numerous instructional options. That said, more engaging teaching tools such as hands-on scenario-based simulations and easy-to-consume video series aimed at executive officers tend to work better than traditional classroom training, the International Data Group reported.

Bolster workstation security
Most offices experience considerable foot traffic, with clients, employees and maintenance staff constantly moving throughout these spaces. This sort of environment is often a hallmark of good organizational health. However, workplace hustle and bustle can also shield uninvited visitors intending to steal sensitive information from unattended workstations. In most cases, these individuals target the desks of employees off on vacation or communal computers. Some even attempt to enter company databases via reception, according to TechRepublic.

The solution for addressing this risk is fairly straightforward. IT teams should disconnect any unused computers and advise employees to lock their office doors when leaving the premises. All company devices should be password protected. Should any assets need extra protection, smart card or biometric access might be ideal.

Businesses must prioritize physical data security practices.
Businesses must prioritize physical data security practices.

Address communal assets
Modern workplaces are IT epicenters, boasting numerous digital tools that leverage data and internet connectivity to help streamline back- and front-of-house processes of all kinds. Printers are among these transformative devices. Most store documents involved in past print jobs and feature LCD screens through which users can access company servers. Of course, the physical documents these machines produce are also valuable. Due to this state of affairs, hackers often target printers through various means, TechRepublic reported.

To address this issue, businesses must ensure all printers placed in secure areas and are subject to strict document management procedures that offer employees guidelines for securely picking up and disposing of documents.

Deal with lost or stolen devices
Lost or stolen enterprise assets create significant risk. More than one-quarter of the data breaches that unfolded between 2006 and 2016 were traced back to misplaced devices, according to research from Bitglass covered in SC Magazine. Another report from TrendMirco painted an even more damning picture, estimating that more than 40 percent of all the breach events that occurred between 2005 and 2015 were the result of lost or stolen devices. On the surface, this issue may seem difficult to address from an enterprise IT perspective. In reality, businesses do have considerable recourse here.

Training is, of course, the most obvious solution, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. When employees understand the dangers that come with device loss or theft, they are less likely to act negligently.

Embark on digital and physical integration
Holistic enterprise data security strategies function most effectively when digital and physical components are tightly integrated, analysts for Cisco found. What does this entail? For instance, IT teams attempting to restrict system access might do so by maintaining demanding credential issuance programs while also leveraging physical security protocols to protect communal or unattended devices. These methodologies go hand-in-hand to facilitate robust data security.

This integration requires foresight on the part of IT administrators responsible for planning. It also necessitates the development and deployment of cutting-edge software that effectively supports an integrated, two-pronged data security approach with both digital and physical aspects.

Here at the Inventu Corporation, we help businesses of all sizes protect their data via secure application development tools. Our innovative Flynet Viewer simplifies screen integration, easing the IT modernization process and facilitating secure application development while meeting employer and staff expectations in a way that feels both familiar and simple. Review our product page to learn more about the Inventu Flynet Viewer and the other solutions in our extensive portfolio.