The workforce is the single most dynamic resource a company has. Unfortunately, it is also responsible for around 50% of data breaches as reported by Verizon’s 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report. 30% of leaks occur because of human error including mistakenly handing over personal records to the wrong receiver or inefficient data disposal methods, virtual or physical. Information leaks also occur when employees lose devices that contain sensitive data while 20% of the breaches are a result of fraudulent activities when workers steal and misuse the information they are given access to.

Since that you cannot conduct your company operations without employees using data provided by customers and business partners, you need to take the proper steps to minimize the risk of workers losing or misusing the information they have. Conduct the proper training programs and institute usage protocols to protect your company. Here’s how:

1. Eliminate the BYOD Policy if You Have One

Many companies allow their workers to use their own devices for company operations in an attempt to economize on the cost of equipment. This factor puts businesses at risk of data breaches because they cannot control the usage of those devices. Employees use their electronics for emails, shopping, downloading and playing games, and any other activities. They may share their devices with friends and family members and use unsecure networks to access the internet.

Not only are employees at risk from phishing attacks but the data stored in their laptops, tablets, and other equipment is fair game to any hacker who can get his hands on it. The best solution is to buy company equipment and assign it to your staff. By choosing and allocating refurbished laptops, tablets, cell phones, and desktops, you can secure the company from data leaks and control usage of the devices and the information stored in them.

2. Hire an Expert IT Security Team to Assess Your Digital Systems

Invite a professional IT security team to assess your technical systems for weak links and possible sources of data breaches. Use their recommendations to install the necessary software such as firewalls, login pages, multiple security steps for signing in, and restricting the number of login attempts. Security experts can help you train your employees in the precautions they must take when working with online data. They can also educate them on how to comply with the mandates laid down by the federal government and other regulatory bodies with respect to handling sensitive data.

3. Lay Down Strict Protocols for Using Company Devices

Make a clearly defined list of the activities that employees can do on company-assigned devices. You can program the equipment with spam filters so that downloading applications and opening emails and attachments from unknown sources is avoided. Get your IT security team to install programs that restrict the browsing of any websites not cleared by the company. Further, issuing strict instructions for the use of cellphones, tablets, and pen drives that contain information can help prevent data breaches. To make sure that employees remain updated on the latest developments in the field of digital security, you could conduct workshops at regular intervals, say, every six months.

4. Pick Out Robust Passwords

Pick out hard to decipher passwords that have at least 12 characters. You can also consider using online resources to help you set complicated passwords that cyber criminals cannot crack. Two-step authentication is another useful tool to deter data breaches.

As CEO and Co-Founder of Nerds On Call, Andrea Eldridge advises, “It’s particularly risky to use the same password across multiple accounts. For example, if your Facebook password is compromised, the hacker would be able to take control of your linked email account if you use the same password for both accounts. This would allow him or her to find other logins that you have tied to that email, submit “forgot my password” reset requests and gain access to other your accounts like banking, shopping, etc.”

cyber security

5. Train Workers on Fail Safe Measures

Instruct your employees to backup and save all the work they do. While you can always install applications to record work done as it progresses, training workers is a good thing to do. You can also have protocols to follow in case data breaches occur. For instance, they can initiate a self destruct program remotely so that the information stored in a stolen device is automatically wiped. Or, use GPS tracking to locate a lost gadget. Changing passwords immediately in case of any suspicious activity also helps. Email providers offer the facility of alerting you in case your account is accessed or device used in an unfamiliar location. Get your employees to use these facilities for data security.

6. Train Workers to Identify Cyber Attacks

Train your employees in the symptoms that indicate a cyber attack. For instance, delays in processing times, unexplained errors, slow loading time on computers, moved files and tampered programs, and employees locked out of their devices by new passwords they did not set. Make sure that your staff informs you right away in case any of these signs are spotted. If you assign them company email addresses, instruct them not to use them for signing up for mailing lists. These lists are often sold in the open market and can be used for phishing.

7. Screen Workers Before Hiring

At the time of hiring employees, make sure you conduct detailed verification of the information they provide to you. Contact previous employers and check references. You must also take the time to scan credit ratings and screen candidates for the possibility of having criminal records. By using these strategies, you should be able to ensure that you have trustworthy workforce.

Data breaches and information leaks are fast becoming ever present threats that companies must be prepared to face. By training your employees and instituting protective measures, you may be able to minimize the risk to your business and ensure its continued success.