Who can see your data?

It’s not always outside hackers who are the biggest threat to your computer systems – it could be your staff. Tips to protect your info…


Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

Evil geniuses hacking into computer systems make good headlines, but the reality is most deliberate data loss comes from within your office. A story over the weekend of a lady in the United States who deleted all her employer’s data is reminder of this.


Luckily the architect she worked for had good backups, otherwise he would have lost seven years of work worth more than $3 million. That’s the way to raise your stress levels, and it could send many businesses broke.


While malicious intent gets the attention, most cases where staff delete data is accidental – and it’s often done with the best intentions. My own personal favourite was when a bored temp decided to “clean up the hard drive” at our work and wiped all the accounts data. Luckily we also had a backup on hand.


All of these stories show the need to restrict who can see data on your computer network. Restricting access only to those who need to see specific files reduces the opportunities for people to delete data, and makes it harder for hackers to access important information should they get on to your network.


Deleted data aside, there’s another reason to restrict access. You don’t want pay details or quotes leaking across your entire company; HR doesn’t need access to the sales department’s quotes and the stock room doesn’t need to see the operations manager’s expense account.


On your computer network, users should be members of various groups and access to specific folders restricted to the groups that need these files to do their jobs. For instance, the warehouse staff doesn’t need to have access to the sales files. Individual staff can be members of as many groups as necessary.


Companies with properly setup networks should be able to introduce this quickly and easily, as this is a basic feature of all server software. If you’re a smaller business and you’ve resisted buying a server, this alone is a good reason to buy one.


Incidentally, the US lady deleted all her employer’s data because she’d seen a job advert similar to her position and thought she was about to be sacked by the architect. It turned out the ad was for a similar job at his wife’s business.


Paul Wallbank is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on technology is sues. He founded national support organisation PC Rescue in 1995 and has spent over 14 years helping businesses get the most from their IT.

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