5 March 2024

Common Business Security Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Businesses rely heavily on technology to keep things moving, but the same technology that helps to make everything more efficient can also bring things to a grinding halt if something goes wrong. From data leaks and ransomware to human error and malice, there are widespread ramifications for poor company security practices.

And this is only the digital threat to businesses; physical threats still loom large. With many companies offering a hybrid approach to working, their offices are now distributed over several locations – from head offices to coworking spaces, and even employee homes. Maintaining security measures across a diverse type of venues is a challenge for digital security professionals and security guards. 

Unfortunately, many businesses make common security mistakes that leave them vulnerable to cyber threats. In this article, we’ll explore some of these all-too-common mistakes and offer some practical tips on how to avoid them.

1. Weak passwords

One of the most prevalent security mistakes is the use of weak passwords. Employees still sometimes pick passwords that are easy to remember, such as “123456” or “password,” making it simple for cybercriminals to gain unauthorised access to accounts and systems. They might also use the same password for everything, or just capitalise the first letter and add an exclamation mark at the end (this is more common than you might think!).

How to avoid: Encourage employees to use complex passwords made up of letters, numbers and other characters, perhaps using random password generators freely available on the internet. Introducing two-factor authentication also adds an extra layer of security by linking passwords to other devices like phones or tablets.

Neglecting software updates

2. Neglecting software updates

Failure to keep software and applications updated with the latest security patches can often systems vulnerable to exploitation. Hackers target known vulnerabilities in out-of-date software to infiltrate networks and steal data.

How to avoid: Establish a regular schedule for tackling software updates and patches. Utilise automated tools to streamline the update process and ensure that all systems are promptly patched against known vulnerabilities. This will remove the risk that employees will keep hitting the “remind me tomorrow” button and ensure all software is up to date.

3. Insufficient employee training

Employees are often the weakest link in an organisation’s security measures. Without the right training, they may fall victim to phishing scams, inadvertently download malware or mishandle sensitive data, which could put the entire business at risk. 

Human error is nearly always the cause of major security breaches, so it’s vital to empower employees to be more skilled and aware in making the right decisions. It’s also important that they know they can ask for help without fear of judgement or reprimand.

How to avoid: Provide comprehensive security awareness training to all employees, covering topics such as identifying phishing emails, safely handling sensitive information and recognising potential security threats. 

Regularly reinforce training with updates on emerging threats and current best practices. New starters should also be brought up to speed with the latest best-practice measures, rather than waiting for the next refresher training.

Lack of data encryption

4. Lack of data encryption

Failing to encrypt sensitive data leaves it exposed to interception by cybercriminals during transmission or storage. Without encryption, confidential information such as customer records or financial data is easily accessible to unauthorised parties. 

If employees connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks while they are out and about using their company devices, there is a risk that any data transferred could be compromised, but many people are unaware of this common risk.

How to avoid: Implement robust encryption protocols for data both in transit and at rest. Utilise encryption tools and technologies to protect sensitive information from unauthorised access, ensuring that data remains secure even if intercepted by malicious actors.

And make sure that nobody used USB sticks – there really is no reason to do so anymore – apart from the obvious way in which they can easily spread viruses, there’s a data security risk too, with disgruntled employees using this method to steal valuable corporate data.

Overlooking physical security

5. Overlooking physical security

While much emphasis is placed on cybersecurity measures, physical security is often overlooked. Failure to secure physical assets such as servers, laptops and mobile devices leaves them vulnerable to theft or tampering. 

Companies need to invest in on-site security to provide a visual deterrent to thieves and help to assist with recovery and prosecution in the event of a breach. On-site security can also assist in keeping mobile devices such as phones and laptops safe through security tagging and inventory management. 

How to avoid: Implement strict access controls to restrict physical access to sensitive areas and equipment. Employees should use keycards to enter restricted areas, and guests should have a check-in system to ensure they are clearly identified as non-employee site visitors. This will make it easier for security to identify anyone who isn’t supposed to be there. 

You can also utilise security measures such as locks, alarms and surveillance cameras to safeguard physical assets from unauthorised access or theft. 

Closing thoughts

By avoiding these common security mistakes and implementing best practices, businesses can significantly enhance their security measures and mitigate the risk of cyber threats. It’s essential to prioritise security at every level of the organisation and continuously evaluate and update security measures to adapt to evolving threats. With a proactive approach to security, businesses can safeguard their assets, protect sensitive data, and maintain the trust of their customers and stakeholders.

When it comes to security guards, make sure you have the right personnel on the job. There is a significant difference between security operatives who have the SIA licence and basic skills and those who are skilled, experienced and motivated to do the job well. Look to employ security professionals who are willing to go the extra mile and who also reflect well on your company – remember, they are very often the first person your office visitors will meet.