14 Jun 2019

3 Tips to Destroy Sensitive Data & Information

Data destruction used to be simple. You’d take your files to the office shredder, toss them in, and they’d be effectively destroyed.

Unfortunately, it’s much harder to destroy electronic files. You might think you’ve completely destroyed your files by emptying the trash folder, but that’s usually not enough to permanently delete files from your computer. Emptying your recycling bin appears to delete sensitive information, but really, all you’re doing is erasing the file’s “easy to find” location. It still exists on your computer.

 

Why Can You Still Recover Files?

Have you ever felt that moment of panic when you accidentally delete an important document? Or when you can’t find Monday morning’s presentation? We’ve all accidentally deleted files before. That’s why our computer systems are designed to protect our files. According to How to Geek, this is how it works:

Your operating system keeps track of the files you have on your computer with pointers. These pointers show your computer where each file lives. When you delete a file, there’s free disk space where the old file once lived. That space can now be used to store a new file. However, until your computer saves another file in that free space, the previous file still has a footprint there and can be recovered.

 

Why is it Done this Way?

For speed and recovery. Deleting a file’s pointer and marking the space as available is a much quicker process than rewriting or writing over large files. It also means we have the chance to recover files if they’re accidentally deleted.

So how can you permanently delete documents from your computer?

 

  1. Overwrite It

When you delete sensitive files, they can still be recovered from your hard drive. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to prevent recovery: by overwriting your sensitive data.

Overwriting is usually done with a specialized program or software. When you’re overwriting, you’ll be literally writing over sensitive information with unimportant, meaningless data. The more times a file is overwritten, the harder it is to decode. There’s still some debate about how many times you need to overwrite to effectively wipe the file, but it’s generally recommended that you overwrite a file 3 times, if not more.

 

  1. Degaussing

Degaussing is a process where your hard drive is passed through a powerful magnetic field to make it completely unreadable. While this method doesn’t actually delete your files, the magnetics scramble the magnetic fields of your electronics to the point that data recovery is nearly impossible.

Unfortunately, you can’t just run a fridge magnet over your hard drive. This method requires you to use a trained professional to ensure the magnetic fields are properly shuffled. Which means it probably isn’t the go-to method for most small businesses.

 

  1. Destroy It

If you store sensitive information on a hard drive there’s one sure fire way to permanently destroy the data: physically destroy the hard drive. It’s kind of like shredding a paper document – except you’ll be shredding the electronics inside your hard drives.

Some companies offer this service for you, but it’s simple enough to do on your own. All you need to do is stop the electronics from running completely. You can do this by nailing through the drive, crushing it, or cutting it into pieces – however you can safely manage it. And this can be done for any electronic device, including memory cards or flash drives. The only downside? You’ve lost your entire storage device in the process!

It’s not the ideal destruction method for files, so if you’re about to head in this direction as a last resort, come see the professionals at Alt-Tech for a security consultation first. We can save you money and make sure all your sensitive files are securely stored or deleted.

 

To learn more about securely deleting files from your hard drive or if you need help recovering a file, schedule your free consult. We’re ready to help you with all your managed cyber security needs, big or small.

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08 Mar 2019

5 Best Practices to Improve Data Security

Cyber security starts internally. From new security solutions to software updates, there are plenty of ways you can help keep your company safe. So where to begin? We’ve put together the 5 best practices for you to implement to secure business data and give you some peace of mind.

1. Always Update!

When your computer gets that pop-up saying it’s time to update, it’s tempting to simply push the ‘later’ button. But you need to stop ignoring those updates! Updates improve information security by responding to current threats and fixing bugs. They address all the different security issues present in your computer. So by updating your computer, you’re actually keeping data protected without having to do any of the work.

2. Protect with Strong Passwords

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to keep your data safe is to have a strong password. Having simple or common passwords makes it easier for cyber criminals to access sensitive data. Fortunately, these data breaches are preventable by having your employees create strong passwords and regularly update their passwords.

There are a few easy ways to improve the strength of your password. For example, you can increase the length, include numbers, or include special characters. If you want to learn more about which passwords to avoid and creating strong passwords, check out our post on The Worst Passwords of 2018.

3. Keep an Eye Out For Phishing Scams

Phishing scams, ransomware, and other cyber attacks are something that all businesses have to deal with. You can’t stop these cyber threats entirely, but you can help reduce the risk of actually having your data stolen. The best way to stop sensitive information from being stolen through a cyber attack is to learn what to look for.

When you receive a phishing scam, it’ll probably look legitimate, but beware because they can cause a lot of damage. Typically phishing scams are emails that appear to be from a trustworthy source. They will ask you to follow a link or to provide some form of personal data. These attacks are often filled with grammatical errors, so keep an eye out for mistakes or strange wording. They’ll also want you to ‘act fast,’ claiming that your account has been hacked or is expiring. Don’t believe these emails – take the time to read them through and verify them before you click any links. Whenever unsure, contact the company by phone to verify that the email is legitimate. Stay vigilant and always double-check suspicious emails to prevent falling victim to phishing scams.

4. Secure and Encrypt Data

A lot of companies are encrypting their information. Encryption takes your data and converts it to codes. Only someone who has the ‘key’ can unlock the codes to access the information. If you don’t encrypt your information, you leave it more exposed to online threats.

By using encryption, you’re making it impossible for a hacker to read or make copies of data. So, while the information may be lost, you don’t have to worry about someone else having access to it. If you’re interested in other methods of protecting your information, you can also look into data masking or data erasure techniques. Alt-Tech has plenty of encryption options that have helped companies secure their data more easily and thoroughly.

5. Educate Your Staff

You can’t implement any of these practices if you haven’t taken the time to educate your staff. When you take the time to help them understand the different security threats and how they can counteract them, they’ll know why it’s important and how to manage threats. Make sure you explain your company’s online practices and procedures, hold sessions on how to recognize phishing and other scams, and make sure to update your staff on policy changes or new threats. This will make all the difference when it comes to protecting your business online. 

Want to improve your business’ cyber security? Alt-Tech is here to help! We offer data backup and recovery, system security services, and around the clock monitoring. To learn more check out our services page.

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18 Jan 2019

Start 2019 By Building a Cyber Security Culture

As we move into 2019, we continue to rely on automated programs and technology in our day-to-day lives. With this growing reliance comes a growing concern about online safety. From personal information to threats of national security, our advancements affect us all. As we continue to rely on computers, the threat of cyber attacks will only continue to grow. 

The risk of cyber attacks and viruses is more than a threat; it’s a reality for many companies. That’s why it’s become so important for organizations to begin promoting a cybersecurity culture in the workplace. Keep your company safe online this year, follow these simple steps to help build a lasting cyber security culture.

Create a Plan

Creating a Cybersecurity Program means you need to start with a comprehensive plan. This plan should include everything from a risk assessment, to a list of current practices, to achievable goals. This will give you a framework for how to address your organization’s current state of security and an outline for how to get to where you’re aiming. To protect your company, make sure you take action by building a comprehensive cyber security plan.

Engage and Inform All Employees

Many people believe cyber security is the job of the IT (Information Technology) team. In fact, cyber security is actually the job of everyone in your organization. However, many employees are still unaware, so it’s your job to instruct and engage them.

The weakest link in cybersecurity is people. Most of the online threats your company faces will come from everyday interactions and actions online. Your cybersecurity professionals can help take care of threats as they arise, but at the end of the day, preventative security is everyone’s responsibility. To lessen the risk people pose it’s absolutely necessary to continually educate and inform your employees. You need every employee to be aware and engaged in keeping your company safe.

Continually Educate

Cyber security education is the best way to make sure everyone in your company is aware how to stay safe online and what to do in case of a cyber threat. Related to the previous point, this education should be encompassing of everyone in your organization from the top down.

You have two goals in continuing education. One is to make sure everyone is aware what his or her role is in cyber security. The second is to keep everyone up to date as online threats and your responses change. Make sure to engage your online security professionals to help create the cybersecurity education materials and to help present them. Remember you need to continually raise awareness. People need to understand the risks in order to prevent them. 

Maintain a Dialogue

It’s not enough to constantly educate your employees. You also need to give them a chance to apply new practices in their work and to continually learn. As this happens, you need to remain engaged with them. Keep conversations going and continue to inform while also leaving room for employees to explore.

Remember, your employees need to feel comfortable asking questions about cybersecurity, or looking for guidance if they’ve encountered something suspicious. Should they encounter a cyber attack, they need to feel comfortable approaching a supervisor or cybersecurity professional. In order to keep your company safe you need to build and maintain an open dialogue about cyber security.

The most important thing you can do to create a cyber security culture in your company is to make sure all of your employees are engaged, aware, and taking action to prevent attacks. Building a culture of security starts with action. You’re responsible for taking action to protect your company. 

So why not start 2019 by promoting cyber security in your business? Begin building your culture of cyber security now. Alt-Tech can help you set up a protective plan for your specific business and employees. 

If you want to learn more about cyber attacks and how to identify them, you can also check out our post from cyber security awareness month.

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