Why Your Startups Should Care More About Data Security
By: Eleanor Hecks
Running a startup is not easy. Many people who face the task find it challenging to decide where to put their resources. As you’ll soon see, numerous compelling reasons exist for startups to emphasize data security during operations.
Consumers Increasingly Prioritize Data Security
Knowing what customers value can guide a startup’s decisions. A 2020 study of Americans found that they’re becoming more concerned with data security. More specifically, 97% of respondents considered data security important. Moreover, 68% of those polled did not trust companies to behave ethically when selling their data.
People are becoming more likely to assume that companies will fall short in protecting their data. A startup can prove them wrong by explicitly explaining what they do to safeguard data and why it matters. Clarify things in easy-to-understand language, and consider devoting a whole page on your site to the company’s data security strategy.
Inadequate Data Security Could Hold You Back
Some leadership teams at startups make the mistake of deciding they’ll prioritize data security “eventually” after deeming other aspects of the company more important. The problem with that approach is that such organizations often keep overlooking the matter until a problem emerges. Then, they scramble to fix the issue when a preventive stance would have saved time, money and hassles.
Imagine if news of your inadequate data security breaks just before your product arrives on the market. That scenario could substantially reduce stakeholder interest and leave you trying to repair a damaged reputation. Consider creating a data governance team in the early days of your company’s existence. That group can set policies and practices for how you treat data, reducing the chances of problems occurring later.
Following Best Practices Avoids Fines
It’s not sufficient for company representatives to promise that their organizations do everything necessary to keep data safe. Depending on where a startup operates or has customers, it may need to abide by specific data security rules. Breaking those standards can prove costly. Take the example of Grab, a startup in Singapore that facilitates various services, including food delivery and ride-sharing. The company recently had its fourth personal data violation in two years.
Reports say the most recent event was a data breach stemming from an update the company did not test before letting users install it. The problem resulted in a $10,000 fine. That penalty came at a terrible time because the company is engaging with investors to raise millions in funding for the business. Keeping data safe supports the bottom line. Plus, this example emphasizes the importance of careful testing before pushing an update to the public.
Unnecessary Access Can Cause Preventable Breaches
Working at a startup often means people wear many hats. Unfortunately, that characteristic may mean some individuals have too much access to sensitive data. When that happens, they’re more likely to make mistakes that could lead to accidental breaches. Also, if everyone or almost everyone has the same data access level, it becomes difficult to get to the root of problems that make information less secure.
Deploying an identity and access management (IAM) tool is a readily available option. Then, all access decisions get concentrated in one location. For example, an authorized person could log into an interface and provide a worker with the precise access they need for their job. They could also alter those privileges as an employee’s role changes.
A Data Security Focus Keeps Companies Productive
Investing in data security can also give companies more resources to put toward the things that will help a startup grow and succeed. One smart tip is to assign specific roles and responsibilities to the people who oversee safeguarding data. Neglecting to get details like that could lead to a situation where everyone admits, “I thought that was someone else’s job.”
Creating a business structure where every worker bears some responsibility for data security and knows exactly what it entails should avoid most catastrophes associated with prolonged ignorance of shortcomings. Moreover, if a startup has an upcoming regulatory audit of its data, a team approach to preparing for and handling it should limit any associated disruptions.
Data Security Efforts Can Become Competitive Differentiators
Numerous factors combine to help startups get attention in the markets. Some companies secure media attention and investment funding for their innovative technologies. Others make waves for having disruptive business models that promise to make life more convenient and enjoyable. Maintaining a commitment to data security can also make a startup more competitive in a challenging business environment.
For example, it can convey a company’s value by bolstering public trust. Suppose that people learn a startup goes above and beyond to keep information safe. Then, they’ll likely become more interested in supporting it than other organizations that are not so diligent about safeguarding data. Similarly, paying attention to data security can facilitate attracting business partners that could help a newer company succeed more than it would independently.
Keeping Abreast of Data Security Requirements Can Make It Easier to Expand
Companies of all sizes and types face state, national and regional requirements for handling data. The good news is that, provided you already take data security seriously, your company can probably avoid time-consuming efforts that may otherwise accompany plans to expand into a new market.
Even if a country demands you apply new practices to keep data safe, complying with those rules should become less arduous if your techniques are already solid and regularly utilized. Regardless of where you plan to expand and when, consider hiring a third-party specialist to assess your current data security methods and recommend areas for improvement. Building a strong foundation makes it less likely your company will become overwhelmed while attempting to comply with new rules.
You Can Establish Data Security as an Early and
One of the advantages of prioritizing data security at your startup is that you can choose it as one of your company’s defining principles from the beginning. Many long-established companies now treat data privacy as a trend they must follow. Unfortunately, people almost inevitably find evidence that companies did not consistently care about data protection as much as they apparently do now. Consider how you could show the public that you’ve always cared about data security.
One possibility is to take a compare and contrast approach when explaining your stance compared to competitors. Avoid solely focusing on what other organizations do when deciding how you’ll keep data safe. However, it could pay off to break down precisely why you’ve made data security an ongoing point of concern. Not all startups have success in their futures. However, taking data security seriously could be one way to set yours apart and make it well-positioned.
Treat Improved Data Security as an Ongoing Goal
Data security is not something to tackle with a box-checking approach. It’s okay to use checklists and similar guides to ensure you cover all the bases. However, make sure you don’t view data security as something to achieve in a relatively short time.
You may do meaningful things such as encrypting data at rest and in transit, using tools to limit which employees access sensitive information and following all data privacy and protection regulations. Those actions matter, but you should never see them as something helping you get to an end goal.
It’s unrealistic to think you’ll reach a stage where your startup has done everything necessary to keep data safe. As you apply the suggestions here, look at improvements along a continuum where the potential for more progress always exists.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a prominent digital marketing agency prior to becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.