In today’s digital environment, where data is nothing less than gold, any loss of it, whether due to a cyberattack or natural causes, can have disastrous consequences. With cyberattacks becoming extremely notorious, more so after the pandemic, every business, big or small needs a comprehensive data protection plan to keep their data safe.
This problem becomes more acute for small businesses, given the lack of trained staff or the capital to implement sophisticated data protection solutions. SMBs often struggle with complicated backup solutions and expensive equipment costs.
Certain things are important to note:
• What categorizes as digital assets?
• How do you identify them?
• What steps can you take to protect them?
When it comes to your business, it’s essential that you take the time to understand what is considered a digital asset across your business, both internally and externally. These can range from photos of your business and products to workflows, apps, websites, and more. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about identifying and protecting digital assets. Here’s a simplification of what you need to know about identifying and protecting your digital assets.
What qualifies as digital assets?
Digital assets are everything digital that you own, and that lives online. Some may exist on your company’s servers and others may be stored in the cloud. Digital assets can be anything starting from an image, digital content, social media app, coined processes, database, and any corporate material or intellectual property covered by copyright, trademark, or patent. Let’s take a look at some of the most common digital assets:
Any image/photo, illustrations, videos, or any other imagery created for or by your company, either of your business or business processes. This can be marketing images, product photos, illustrated workflow documentation, and more.
The company’s website, along with all domain name information, content, internal materials, and any articles or blogs on the website. It is important to ensure that any third-party licensed content or photos or projects requested by freelancers go through a legal counsel, to make sure you have full ownership of the content.
Your company’s social media presence, which will include all accounts, posts, and content that have been published online, all fall under the social media category as a digital asset.
Professional applications that have been developed for the company, whether for consumers or for use by an internal team only, are often considered high-value digital assets.
Any business process developed by you or your employees that could be recreated and sold, such as a unique workflow, should be treated as a digital asset, with the necessary steps to protect it.
Your company’s customer and contact lists, including email addresses and contact information, are invaluable. If you have an email database and a customer outreach campaign or newsletter, that’s a digital asset.
Registered Company Intellectual Property
Any intellectual property developed by your business that exists in a digital format is considered an asset because it can be stolen or sold. Examples include company logo, any copyrighted material, or trademarked digital material.
Steps to protect your assets
Protecting digital assets starts with studying the business and creating a comprehensive inventory of what it has – and what it might have: you shouldn’t ignore something that might be a valuable resource! Start with identifying all digital assets owned by the company. This step is crucial because many people, especially entrepreneurs are unaware of what their company’s digital assets include. Organizations will be able to develop a robust system to protect their digital assets after having gone through all of these processes and have a deep understanding of your company’s digital assets and their intrinsic value. Here are some steps and practices that you can adopt, in order to protect all digital assets:
1. Make a list
Not all forms of data are vital. Organizations need to have an understanding of what’s important. This will include, any asset that can be used to generate revenue in the future. Images, digital content, social media, applications, proprietary processes, customer databases, proprietary information, and any organizational material like physical or intellectual property protected by copyright, trademark, or patent are all examples of digital assets. These also include digital properties such as customer databases, proprietary information, transactions, interactions, etc are crucial and the ones that help a business generate revenue. Start by listing all the possible digital assets of your business, including the ones we have described above, so that you have a complete picture of your entire digital asset inventory.
2. Take ownership and establish value
In order to protect digital assets, ownership and valuation must be established and enforced. Work with a legal counsel to make sure that ownership of assets has been legally established and create a digital asset reference note. Keep in mind that values will change over time as content and/or client and client output increases, the lists go on – only two possible examples – but a starting point must be established. If necessary, hire a business valuator to determine the valuation of the digital asset.
3. Give out limited access and set up authentication
A critical step in how to protect digital assets is to limit access to digital assets and systems to reduce the risk of loss or theft. Be sure to limit access to digital resources and systems to only those employees who actually need to use them. Authorized users of these systems should use best practices for data security, including password security and authentication, and be careful when using personal devices and other risk factors. You can also reduce your business’ susceptibility to cybersecurity threats by taking steps to prevent data breaches. Using a secure authentication, like two-factor authentication, offers an extra degree of security in addition to limiting and restricting access.
4. Educate employees
Employee training is also important to protect your company’s digital assets. Make sure your employees are aware of cybersecurity best practices, such as what to do and what not to do when using public Wi-Fi, using your own devices, and accessing specific apps.
5. Protective Agreement
Protect your digital assets through agreements with employees and team members and those with third parties who may need access to your information. Companies should have their employees, freelancers, clients, and consultants sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) to protect their digital assets. Asking partners and team members to commit to confidentiality is also a helpful reminder of the importance of the digital data they have access to. The agreement emphasizes to people that digital assets are important and should be handled with care!
6. Backup and encryption
Copying and storing files and data in a secondary location is called a data backup. A solid disaster recovery plan relies heavily on backing up your data. Companies that do not take data backup are often in jeopardy of a software or hardware failure, data corruption, malicious hacking, user negligence, natural disaster, or other unforeseeable circumstances. Backups allow you to recover files that have been lost, deleted, or overwritten. Backups can be stored locally on hard drives or storage devices, remotely in another physical location, or to the cloud. The cloud infrastructure could be either public, private, or hybrid.
Regardless of its state, whether the data is in transit or at rest, it is always vulnerable. Encrypt any incoming data, prior to downloading it. Authenticate endpoints before decrypting and verifying them at the destination. Use security access policies to secure data at rest. Keep control of who has access to what data, and that it is securely stored.
7. Consider Insurance
A cyber insurance policy protects your business from any internet-based risks. If hackers gain access to digital assets, cyber insurance can cover related costs to investigation and subsequent business losses, including any legal action and extortion.
8. Future Proof
Get the full understanding you now have of your company’s digital assets and make sure they’re included in the full picture of your company’s finances and value. Business owners and managers should ensure that digital assets are covered by any partnership agreement and/or succession planning documentation for the business.