Self-storage operators give the physical security of their properties plenty of attention, and rightfully so; however, they should also be giving thought to cybersecurity threats. The reality is businesses of all types and sizes should be concerned about cyberattacks.
Just think about all of the digital tools you use to operate your self-storage facility, such as management software and a website. These handle everything from customer contact and payment information to your own financial records. It’s more important than ever to protect this sensitive, private data. Following are some cybersecurity best practices to help mitigate risk.
What It Can Cost You
A cyberattack not only compromises your self-storage data, it can cost your business in several significant ways, direct and indirect:
- Data recovery: If data is lost, you may need to invest in recovery services, which can be expensive.
- Legal fees: Cyberattacks can result in legal action and fees against your business, including lawsuits from customers.
- Notification costs: In many jurisdictions, you are required to notify customers if their data has been compromised. These alerts can be costly to send.
- Ransom: Cybercriminals may demand a payment in exchange for restoring access to company data. This can be significant and may not guarantee a positive outcome.
- Public standing: A cyberattack can damage your business reputation, leading to a loss of customers and revenue.
- Business disruption: If a cyberattack disrupts your operation, it can result in lost revenue and productivity.
- Increased security: You may need to invest in additional cybersecurity measures, such as software upgrades or hiring additional IT staff.
As you can see, the potential fallout from a cyberattack can be significant, so it’s critical to take proactive measures. Over the years, security professionals have identified common ways that cybercriminals gain unauthorized access to digital infrastructure. These have been used to develop the following prevention practices.
Protect Your Passwords
Passwords are the primary defense against cyberattacks, and those that are weak or compromised can put your data at risk. To keep your self-storage operation secure, use strong and complex passwords that are at least 12 characters long and include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid common words or phrases, and don’t reuse passwords across multiple accounts.
Also, change your passwords regularly, at least every three to six months or immediately if there’s a known breach. They’re often easy to guess and can leave your systems vulnerable, especially if you tend to use the same ones across various platforms. Though it can be challenging to keep track of unique passwords, there are management tools that can generate strong ones for you as well as store them securely and autofill them when needed. Many can also notify you if passwords get compromised and prompt you to change them.
Safeguard Sensitive Data
As a self-storage operator, the customer data you collect and store likely includes names, addresses and payment information. To protect this information from cybercriminals:
- Use encryption.
- Store it in a secure location with restricted access.
- Regularly back up data to a secure offsite location.
- Limit access to only those who really need it.
Update Your Software
It's also important to regularly update your self-storage software and firmware to ensure these systems are protected against known vulnerabilities. Make sure that all your operating systems, antivirus programs and other applications are regularly updated with the latest security patches. Review your default settings and adjust them to meet the specific needs of your business and align with security best practices.
Defend Your Digital Network
Your self-storage facility’s WiFi network is a prime target for cyberattacks. Here are some ways to keep it secure:
- Use a strong WiFi password and change it frequently.
- Implement two-factor authentication for all login credentials.
- Use a firewall to control traffic to and from your network.
- Regularly monitor for unusual activity.
- Secure physical access to equipment such as routers, structured cabling, switches, etc.
Train Facility Staff
This is a critical aspect of cybersecurity since employees are one of the most common ways hackers find their way into digital infrastructure. Just a single mistake can lead to an attack, so everyone on your self-storage team should be aware of the risks and trained to follow best practices.
Educate staff on how to identify and avoid common cyberthreats, such as phishing scams or malware. For example, phishing attacks often come in the form of an email or text message that appears to be from a legitimate source, like a bank or credit card company. It’s smart to conduct regular training sessions that use simulated exercises to test employee awareness. Implement policies and procedures that require staff to report phishing attempts and verify any suspicious emails or links with IT personnel.
Establish clear measures for handling sensitive data and accessing digital systems. Limit employee access based on job responsibilities. Conducting regular security audits can help ensure that controls are working effectively, and team members are following company guidelines.
Finally, foster a culture of cybersecurity within your organization. Regularly communicate about the importance of best practices, then incentivize their use and empower employees to report potential security incidents or concerns.
Safe, Not Sorry
In today’s Digital Age, cybersecurity should be an essential part of any self-storage security plan. By implementing the above best practices, you can protect your business from cybercriminals. Remember, prevention is always better than a cure. Investing in cybersecurity now can save you from costly damage down the road.
Patrick Chown is the owner and president of The Network Installers, a California-based business that specializes in network-cabling installation. Services and solutions include structured cabling, voice and data, audiovisual, WiFi and fiberoptics for industrial and commercial facilities. For more information, call 888.365.3021.