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7 Tips To Prevent Data Breaches And Help You Stay Secure7 Tips To Prevent Data Breaches And Help You Stay Secure

Security starts with the little things. It starts at home, with your mobile device and inside your office. Before focusing on the global security of your business data, make sure you have your own covered.


2016 was the worst year for data breaches, as published by Bloomberg. This was the year adult dating website Adult FriendFinder’s hack, stealing over 412 million records. According to the Breach Level Index, FriendFinder “hacked database appears to be one of the largest ever single data breaches in history.” 

Each theft is different but there’s always something to learn from it. How did the breach happen? Did someone inside your company take part? Which security flaw have they taken advantage of? What can you learn from it?

It is also worth checking this graphic from Breach Level Index. You can see live stats (bare in mind this blog post was written on 23 January 2017):

Data Records are Lost or Stolen at the Following Frequency

Source:, Breach Lever Index, Gemalto NV

These are scary stats. Data security is crucial for the functioning of your business so to prevent any future data breaches, there needs to be a change of mindset.


It only happens to others

Many companies suffered big data breaches. From the likes of Yahoo, Mossack Fonseca, Philippines’ Commission on Elections and even Clinton’s Campaign. We can no longer afford to say these things “only happen to other people”. Being the target of a data breach is not something you are immune to. Accepting that this can happen to you and prevent it from happening is the best way to stay secure.


Stop and think before answering that email

Email hackers are getting clever as we speak so we need to be aware of phishing attempts. If you receive a suspicious email with strange attachments or links, do not open or click any anything.

In January 2017, news article started to rise with a new phishing attempt for Gmail users - you can read more about it here. Here’s how it works. You receive an email to your Gmail account from a familiar address, with a subject line and a thumbnail picture of an attachment. This may look like a preview but you won’t be given any. Instead, a new tab opens, asking you to sign in once more to your Gmail account.

Here’s an example of how it looks:



Always double check the sender and the content sent to you. Make sure to read the email carefully and look out for spelling mistakes - that is a clear sign of fraud. 


Good grief, just stop using the same password

We are all guilty of using the same password for every single website at some point in our lives. But please, please, please stop doing this. The best way to protect yourself from future scams is to use good passwords practices.

A US security firm revealed the worst passwords of 2016. And yes, “123456” is on the top of the list. Again. Here are the top ten:

  1. 123456
  2. 123456789
  3. Qwerty
  4. 12345678
  5. 11111
  6. 11234567890
  7. 1234567
  8. Password
  9. 123123
  10. 987654321


Please know that these passwords are easy to crack, especially for hackers. Here are some tips to create safe passwords:

  • Use strong combination of characters- capital and lower-case characters and at least one number
  • Do not - I repeat, DO NOT - use the same password for every website/ account.
  • Use very complex passwords, provided you can remember them


It is critical to not share passwords with others. make sure you don’t write it down somewhere easy to access (i.e. your smartphone note app) and refrain from writing it and keep next to your monitor.


Don’t access sensitive websites on a shared device

When accessing your banking platform or any other website with quite sensitive data, do it from your personal computer and not via a shared device. While browsing for these websites, make sure your network is trusted, secure and pay attention to changes in behaviour. Open or shared devices include library computers, friends or family devices and public cafe’s free WIFI.


Ignore that unknown caller

We are talking offline theft of information here. And we have a winner here in the UK. Everyone’s favourite: calls misselling PPI compensations. It is important that when you receive a call or email asking for personal details like your bank account, you do not give them away. Saying no to give out your most sensitive information is OK (and recommended). Instead, why not call the company directly to verify background before giving any details?


Back up your data regularly

I cannot stress this enough. Regularly backing up your data is crucial for the security of your data, and your sanity. Trust me, losing 30GB of unbacked up data is something that will take you a long time to recover. Make sure you backup the data on your computer, back up that data to your drive and then back up that data to an external hard disk.

Have I said how important this is?


What can Ashley Madison's data breach tell us about data security?


Your social media profile is public

Be aware of what you post online, especially on your social networks. Things like this are strictly forbidden - unless you want your bank account to be hacked right this second:

Don't share personal information online


Be also wary of who you are friends with and which personal information you share. Scammers can befriend you and have all sorts of personal details from you: where you work, where you live and where and when you go on holiday. The last one is crucial, don’t post on social media that you are going away. You never know who’s reading it.


Bonus tip: How to secure your most sensitive data

The above tips are safe to apply to your with your personal data routine. But your most sensitive data needs to be handled in a different way. Here’s what Breach Level Index recommends securing your sensitive data:


Three Step Approach to Data Security

Source:, Breach Lever Index, Gemalto NV



We have designed one infographic with stats and helpful information to always have on hand. You can find it on AccountingWeb's website.


Hope you enjoyed this post and find it useful. Did we forget any tips you think are important to mention? Comment below and let us know what you think. 

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