How to Stop Data Theft: 10 Simple Tips

Want more content?

By subscribing to our mailing list, you will be enrolled to receive our latest blogs, product updates, industry news, and more!

Data theft due to breaches, leaks, exposures, and other compromises of an organization’s security systems are all too common in today’s digital landscape. The ultimate cost and consequences of it can be far-reaching and permanently damage a company’s reputation, underlining the importance of knowing how to stop data theft.

However, some see it as an inevitability—a matter of when, not if—and focus on formulating plans for recovery rather than implementing measures to help prevent them. Although there is some credence to this position—there is no single surefire or foolproof way for how to stop data theft, and it’s crucial to maintain a detailed plan for recovery—attempting to prevent breaches offers many solutions for slowing hackers down and minimizing the negative effects of a breach.

Today we’re going to talk about how to stop data theft and specific steps you can take to help reduce the likelihood of a breach and mitigate the potential impact of one. Many of these suggestions are proven security practices that align with industry standards and requirements for regulatory compliance. We hope this post will serve as a primer to help you begin to build a strong cybersecurity strategy for your organization and ultimately provide you with a solid understanding of how to stop data theft.

1. Prevent Data Theft By Locating All Sensitive Data

Known as data discovery, this process will enable you to determine the extent of sensitive data you possess and are therefore responsible for protecting. Using tools for data discovery and classification,  you can streamline this process and help map the sensitive information within your environment.

After you’ve mapped all of your sensitive data, you can begin to identify items that could potentially affect the security of that data. For instance, if you share data with a third party or if multiple employees have access to the area of your network where that data is stored, you should ensure those third parties or employees are operating securely and in compliance with any relevant regulatory compliance obligations. Ideally, you would minimize the number of individuals and systems that come in contact with sensitive information to reduce the risk of it becoming compromised or being handled improperly.

2. Remove Sensitive Data From Your Systems

We have a phrase we like to use to explain the value of tokenization: no data, no theft. Because cloud tokenization removes sensitive data from your environment and exchanges it for a nonsensitive placeholder token, a breach of a tokenized network reveals no sensitive data—only tokens, which are worthless to cyber criminals. Hackers can’t steal what isn’t there. No data, no theft.

In reality, there’s no single guaranteed way for how to prevent data interception, but by minimizing the amount of data you store, you can minimize the potential impact of a breach. Our platform accomplishes this while simultaneously helping simplify regulatory obligations for credit card and payment tokenization use cases, such as PCI compliance and NACHA compliance, and personal data.

Tokenization is a proven method for preventing data theft and data breaches. It provides reliable data protection, promotes regulatory compliance, and facilitates positive business outcomes via its flexibility. Built by data security and compliance experts, TokenEx’s nimble Cloud Security Platform functions as the fabric of a unified digital ecosystem for security, privacy, and compliance—empowering you to build for tomorrow as well as today.

3. Ensure All of Your Systems are Password Protected

Requiring passwords for individuals to access your environment—and ensuring those passwords are sufficiently strong and complex—is another essential security control for preventing data theft. Passwords should contain different types of characters (letters, numbers, and symbols where allowed), and the best ones are phrases or series of words that aren’t easily guessed.

It’s also important to avoid using the same password for more than one account, as credential stuffing is a popular form of cyber attack that uses stolen login information to gain access to multiple accounts. To prevent this, you can use a reputable password manager such as Keeper or LastPass to generate and safely store unique passwords.

4. Prevent Data Theft With Your Employees By Limiting Access

A lock isn’t very useful if everyone is given a key. The same idea goes for employee access. If too many employees are given access to sensitive data and/or systems, the risk of someone mistakenly or intentionally revealing that data increases. More accounts with access also present more potential entry points for hackers, so it’s best to limit access to only employees who require the data in question to perform everyday tasks or other specific job duties.

In the event of a data breach, it can be easier to detect unauthorized access and determine where the breakdown in security occurred when only a few users are given permissions to use sensitive data. If the number of employees with access is too great, it can be difficult to monitor and ensure the proper use of each individual account.

Learn how removing sensitive data eliminated risk and obstacles to help Orvis simplify complex systems and modernize their payment operations.

5. Implement a Firewall

The installation and maintenance of effective firewalls and routers can help secure your network by implementing appropriate security mechanisms. These mechanisms safeguard your internal systems by tracking and monitoring network traffic and determining who or what is allowed to access your environment.

Firewalls are a foundational element of many security systems as they establish security rules for what are considered trusted networks and traffic. However, because firewalls can only dictate traffic that passes through them, they can be circumvented by savvy hackers and undermined by poor cybersecurity policies or employee practices.

6. Ensure Your Wireless Network is Secure

Network security is a top priority for how to stop data theft, but preventing unauthorized access can be easier said than done. The first step here is to ensure you’re using a private network with a sufficiently strong and complex password—don’t use default settings or the username and password included on the router.

It’s also important not to use unsecure employee routers, mobile devices, or hotspots, especially ones with public connections. These introduce unprotected access points that can cripple even the strongest networks. Remember: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. 

7. Utilize Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is a popular and effective form of additional security that requires multiple forms of identification to confirm the identity of a user. It often leverages knowledge factors (something a user knows), possession factors (something a user has), and inherent factors (something a user is) to verify a user’s claimed identity. In practice, these can be secret questions, security tokens, and biometric data.

Although this method for authenticating users isn’t perfect, it can thwart would-be hackers by providing additional layers of security. It is, however, still susceptible to certain types of phishing and Trojan horse attacks.

8. Deploy Antivirus Software

Up-to-date antivirus software can help detect and remove various types of malware, preventing it from attempting to penetrate your systems or otherwise disrupt your network. However, antivirus software is not a perfect solution for how to stop data theft.

Although the latest software combined with layered security and best practices can stop many common types of cybersecurity threats, it is often a step behind the latest techniques and technologies for cyber attacks. It’s still a good idea to deploy antivirus software—just don’t rely on it to completely protect your environment.

9. Maintain an Information Security Policy for Employees

Most organizations have some sort of IT or information security policies for employees. Common rules include not using personal devices for work, exercising caution when clicking links embedded in emails, maintaining a clean workspace void of sensitive or confidential information, and other similar guidelines.

In addition to these best practices, you should control and monitor employee permissions for certain systems. For example, the ability to access sensitive employee or customer information should be restricted to only individuals with a compelling business need to view it. Otherwise, you risk unnecessarily exposing this data, making it more difficult to ensure it isn’t being shared or handled improperly.

10. Only Store the Data You Absolutely Need

If a set of data doesn’t add value to your organization or enable essential operations, then you probably shouldn’t be storing it. This can be a bit of a judgment call in some instances, but the idea here is to evaluate the risk of storing sensitive data versus its utility for analytics and other business purposes.

If you do decide to store data, be sure that you’re protecting it in line with industry best practices and satisfying any relevant regulatory compliance obligations. It can be helpful to leverage additional security measures such as format-preserving encryption or tokenization, which can keep elements of the original data to retain its usefulness.