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Checklist: How to Prevent a Data Breach

  • Limit the places you store data by consolidating (if possible) into as few places as possible and encrypting data when it is not in use.
  • Delete old, irrelevant data and properly dispose of old hard drives and physical technology that might have personal records. (Note: you may have to wipe these clean before you dispose of them.)
  • Invest in Cyber Liability Insurance, which covers the cost of notifying affected customers and monitoring their credit after a breach, which helps minimize the damage of a data breach and prevent full-fledged identity theft.
  • Train your employees on proper email and password security, and standardize these policies in an employee handbook. If you don’t have employees, review best practices for yourself.
  • Replace outdated software and technology with new, more secure versions, and update software as patches become available. These patches close gaps that hackers have exploited in the past – known entry points to your data.
  • Hire an IT security consultant to perform a security audit at your company if you aren’t very tech-savvy. This can save you the time and headache of trying to sort through recommendations yourself.
  • Write a Data Breach Response Plan (see Checklist: How to Respond to a Data Breach) that satisfies your state’s data breach laws and outlines the steps you need to take when a data breach occurs.
  • Reduce bring-your-own-device (BYOD) liability by limiting the access employees' personal devices (e.g., mobile phones) have to your business network. If you don’t have employees, invest in a separate mobile device for work to reduce entry points to your customers’ data.
  • Change laptop and mobile device settings to encrypt data when you are logged out.
  • Review state and industry regulations concerning data security and the protection of customers’ financial, medical, or personal data (see State Data Breach Laws for more).