Given the ongoing news reports of online security breaches that have plagued companies of every size, it’s hard not to wonder about the level of data security in yours. About 14 million U.S. businesses are estimated to be at risk of a hacker threat, and startups constitute a major percentage of that total.

If you’ve researched the options for protecting your sensitive data and your company as a whole, you’ve likely experienced shocked over all-inclusive data solution pricing. Fortunately, your startup doesn’t require a massive cyber-security budget.

There are ways to protect your firm’s data without having to go to great expense.

1. Use Encryption

Encryption is one of the most affordable and effective ways to minimize the chance of a data breach. If your data gets breached, encryption ensures it will be unreadable by any unauthorized user.

It’s a smart move to encrypt the transmission of all sensitive information over the Internet, whether credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, or similar data. More and more consumers expect site encryption, and if your online activities lack the proper security measures, this could hurt your business.

Email encryption is also critical. It’s relatively cheap for such a valuable investment, and it’s easy to install. If you use Microsoft Outlook for your email, a basic email encryption package is available, but you might also explore third-party options to find the best protection for your money.

2. Train Employees on Security

Perhaps the greatest investment for business security is simply training. This costs very little beyond some time, and it can be administered during regular operating hours so you don’t have to pay your employees extra to attend the meetings.

Workers are often the source of data breaches due to simple ignorance or negligence. Missteps such as using simple passwords, not changing them on a regular basis, or handing over sensitive data to unauthorized personnel can result in security problems.

If you train employees often on issues like password security, common causes of data breaches, and other cyber-security measures, your firm can significantly decrease its risk.

3. Require Password Changes

According to research from a 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report, 63 percent of data losses throughout the year were attributed to weak, stolen, or default passwords. A major portion of your training should focus on the importance of changing passwords often and using only strong ones.

Training doesn’t always result in employees who listen and obey, so you might go a step further and program your website and email systems so they require employees to include capital letters, numerals, and/or special characters in their passwords. You could also require office-wide password changes every six months or so to limit the odds of attacks in this area. 

4. Devise a Data Security Policy

As you go through employee training, try to develop a policy that your employees can abide by. The policy should consist of basic rules and guidelines that help each staffer remember what might cause the most damage to a company.

Your data security policy should also feature a data breach response policy that outlines a process for employees to follow in the event that your company suffers a breach. Being ready to respond quickly and suitably to an invasion is the best way to nip it in the bud and stop it from spreading further.

Quick-thinking employees who are armed with an all-inclusive response policy can better protect your business following a cyber-attack or breach.

5. Outsource to a Cloud-Based Security Platform

Most startups can only dream of possessing their own internal threat intelligence department that serves not only to prevent threats, but to detect and mitigate them when they occur. This can expensive for a small firm, and may not even be necessary.

You could outsource to a cloud-based service that offers similar protections. Storing data on the cloud is generally regarded as much safer than hard backups or data centers, and you can often store your information for free until you reach a certain storage capacity.

These tools usually have a built-in security monitoring system that will protect your documents without involving the cost of a private service. Tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive will provide a certain level of free data storage that provides a layer of protection for your documents.

6. Conduct Penetration Testing

In its basic form, penetration testing assesses the likelihood of a successful attack on your company. A variety of methods range from digital testing tools to undercover customers who try to obtain sensitive information from your employees.

Penetration testing can be expensive, but at a basic level, it’s affordable and not difficult to perform. You may select from a variety of digital tools such as Wireshark, Nessus, and Acunetix that will detect vulnerabilities before they become an issue.

This is a great low-cost service that could potentially save your company thousands. Thanks to research in the last few years, we know that protecting data in any size of business is essential to remaining profitable and respectable.

It’s 2018; if you haven’t implemented these data breach protection measures yet, trouble could be coming your way soon.