7 Tips for Storing Confidential Data
Have you been experiencing the sinking sensation that your files of sensitive, confidential data might have fallen into the wrong hands? You’re not alone—over 90% of companies worldwide have experienced a data breach. Thankfully, there are concrete actions we can take to protect our confidential information as well as steps individuals can take to keep the information they share online private.
Tips for Storing Confidential Data
Protecting your Data
There are a few things you can do to keep your information safe. First, you should make sure the person you’re sharing the data with has authorized access to the information.
Some online services require you to email them a secure link every time you share information, which gives you an added layer of security: no one can just pull up your computer and copy it out of thin air.
Another way to protect data is to use encryption. Encryption hides the sensitive data within an unreadable code. For example, information may be sent in PDF format instead of a Word document.
You can also ensure secure communication using HTTPS (short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), which encrypts your data so that only someone who has a key or password that matches your communication partner’s can get through and read it.
If you’re sending information via email, you can add a ‘digital signature’ to the message, which will tell the recipient that the message came from you.
Keeping your Files Stored Safely
Make sure sensitive data isn’t unnecessarily vulnerable. If you have sensitive files on your computer, make sure they are password-protected and encrypted so that if an unauthorized person gets access to your computer, they won’t be able to access your data just by opening up an Excel file or switching on Word.
If you are storing sensitive files in the cloud, check with your service provider to see if they have a security policy in place. Virus protection software and Internet firewalls can also help protect against attacks by hackers.
It’s also convenient to keep backups of your files. A backup is a copy of all your files that is stored somewhere safe, so that even if your computer were to get deleted or stolen, you’d still be able to access the data within a couple of days.
Most cloud services and online storage companies offer backup services, so check to see if your service provider has this feature.
One final tip is to make sure you’re backing up in a secure location – if the backup is on the same computer as your encrypted files, then it’s not much use! Think about getting an external hard drive or storing everything online.
You should also try to avoid the following practices that lead to exposing sensitive information:
Never post any documents with confidential information in the original. If you need to share documents, always make a copy of them first and then share that.
The same goes for email. When you’re responding to a message, never just reply back with the original message included – change the information in your reply so that it is different than the original.
Never write information down if you don’t want anyone to see it. If you’re ever asked to keep permanent notes on something confidential, make sure you just write down what you have to say and then put everything away.
Finally, don’t use your own email accounts for business or confidential matters. The best way to ensure that information remains confidential is not to put it in the first place.
When you need to send an email promoting one of your products or services that has confidential information within it, use a business account so that there’s nothing personal about it.
Keeping your Information Secure Online
The more you make your information public, the more of a target it becomes to hackers. It’s important to remember that once information is posted on the Web, it’s not as secure.
If you’re sharing data through a blog, message board or social network, make sure it’s behind an account that has a private password and that password is linked to only one computer.
Don’t post any information that can be used to identify you or your company. Be careful about what you share, because it can be used against you in the future.
At the same time, don’t send sensitive data over email if you’re worried that it might end up in the wrong hands. Instead, create a different account to use for private email and use that to write or share sensitive material.
Be sure that you never send sensitive information via the public Internet. For example, don’t include your password or other personal details in an email to an employer or client.
It’s also easy to give private data away by accident. If you use a public computer, always make sure you log out of your session when you’re done so that no one can follow the trail back to your personal activities. It’s also a good idea to avoid saving passwords on easy-to-read notes in public places, because anyone could read them.
Managing your Information So You Can See It
This one is simple: if you want to be able to access your data when you need it, make sure there’s a copy of it somewhere safe. If you’re using a secure cloud service, try checking the settings to see what happens when you leave your computer unattended or lose power – for instance, some services will put all of your information into the cloud immediately and then delete it from your hard drive when the service restarts.
If you use online storage services, make sure you’re using a password that’s different from other passwords and that it can’t be guessed by someone who knows your email address. It’s wise to use different passwords for different services.
Another thing to remember is that if you have more than one person working on a project, it’s easy for information to get shared between people and companies.
Be careful about sharing information online, especially among members of the same team, because cross-company sharing can lead to data being accessed inappropriately.
Changing Your Passwords as Often as Necessary
Most Internet users are guilty of this one. We tend to think that our information is secure, so we don’t bother to change passwords very often.
This is definitely the wrong way to go about it, because the longer a password has been around, the higher the chances are that someone is already aware of it and knows what it is.
Change your passwords on a regular basis – at least once a quarter or once every six months, depending on how long you’ve been using the same password. It can also be helpful to change your passwords when you move offices or even when you move countries.
You might be thinking that this is part of the password equation: change the password and make sure it’s different from regular words, but there’s actually another step to take that can help prevent someone from accessing your information using weak passwords: use different passwords for each account.
This way, even if one password is discovered, it’s still not useful to anyone else.
There are a number of different programs available that can help you create passwords for each service you use. There are also some online programs that will automatically generate random passwords for you.