Protecting your company

Prevent risks

The best way to secure your company is to set up a risk management process. This will identify protective measures tailored to the company’s situation and values, while simultaneously protecting the most important assets. See: “Why manage risks?” and “Why pool risk analysis?

Risk can be defined using the following calculation: risk = vulnerability * threat * impact. It is made up of a ‘probability’ factor (arising from the threat) and a ‘damage’ factor (arising from the value of the compromised asset, or corresponding to the value of the indirect damage suffered). The vulnerability used in this function takes into consideration the security measures that have been implemented.

It is practically impossible to prevent a risk by acting on existing threats. We can, however, act on the risk by reducing the ‘vulnerability’ and ‘impact’ factors:

  • Reduce the ‘vulnerability’ factor by implementing targeted security measures
  • Reduce the potential impact through the implementation of data redundancies (this has no effect on data confidentiality)

An organisation that is just setting up its data security may opt to introduce best practices without necessarily deploying processes specific to risk management.

“Threats” are all elements which could compromise the IT resources of an organisation. A list of threats that could affect a company is given in a dedicated article.

“Vulnerabilities” are all the human and technical weaknesses that could be exploited by threats, with the aim of compromising them.

The “impact” is the result of the exploitation of a vulnerability by a threat, and therefore the damage caused.

The combination of these three factors make up the “risk”.

Protecting data

As with data, business processes are known as primary assets (Classification of assets; risk management. The first priority for making an IT setup secure relates to the protection of these primary assets.

All entities have a particular interest in protecting their corporate data, especially with regard to information about the performance of their economic plan. Legal requirements, and even client expectations, also represent reasons which lead companies to protect specific data.

Different types of data that should be protected:

  • intellectual property
  • manufacturing secrets
  • client data
  • process data, such as logistical, accounting, supplier data, etc.

Loss of data generally has harmful consequences for any entity.

Classification of data

Before implementing protective measures, the entity should carry out at least a summary classification exercise over the data it processes. This classification is important to gain an awareness of the true value (confidentiality, integrity and availability) of the data. Depending on the value of the data, with regard to the expected impact in the event that data becomes compromised, the entity will be able to decide on the investment to set aside for data security.

Note: the classification applied to information should also be applied to the containers, meaning the physical locations and media holding the information. The term container should be understood in its broadest sense.

SME security policy:

Data backups

All data identified within a company as having an availability requirement must be backed up. By creating a backup copy, the loss or destruction of primary data can easily be offset. However, backing up data can become more problematic when the data to be backed up has confidentiality or integrity issues.

Data with a confidentiality requirement needs to be protected against any illicit access, regardless of the media on which it is found, and regardless of the location in which it is stored.

Data with a major integrity requirement needs to be protected against any modification by unauthorised persons. This is just as true for the backups. Furthermore, with regard to the original digitised papers, electronic archiving conditions need to be respected.

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Data destruction

Data no longer required by the company, meaning data which has to be deleted, must be destroyed in such a way that its confidentiality is not infringed.

The definitive and secure destruction of data must respect certain security criteria. There are methods which enable disks, or even the computer, to be reused.

For strictly confidential data, it is strongly recommended that data storage media, including hard disks, are destroyed by crusher or degausser.

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Transmission of data

The technology used to transmit data must respect confidentiality and data integrity criteria (and more infrequently availability criteria).

The use of cryptographic measures is strongly recommended to protect the data to be transmitted against loss of confidentiality and integrity.

Any communication over the Internet (downloading, FTP) should therefore be encrypted, at least via SSL or preferably via a VPN network. Transmitting confidential data unencrypted via email should be strictly avoided.

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Data transport

The technology used to transport data must respect confidentiality, integrity and data availability requirements (especially for originals).

The use of cryptographic measures is strongly recommended, along with physical security to protect transported data against loss of confidentiality, integrity and availability.

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Protecting a machine

The machines used to perform business processes and to process organisation information are known as secondary assets, or support assets (see: classification of assets; risk analysis). To protect business processes, or information, the support assets used to process such information must be protected.

If a computer or a server is compromised, this could obviously lead to a loss of confidentiality, availability and integrity in the processes or information they use.

For secondary assets, risk treatment measures should therefore be introduced to prevent harmful impacts.


Most organisations have at least one office computer for the management of the organisation. This computer must be protected against the commonest threats. Basic security measures are strongly advised.

Depending on the criticality of the data being processed, or the business processes supported, the protective measures should naturally be expanded.

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Laptop computers

Some organisations also use laptop computers as support assets for business processes or to process certain types of data. These laptop computers are often taken outside the secure office area and carried on private and public transport, and even used in private or public places. They are often connected to networks outside the organisation. The potential threats to laptop computers are many, and any organisation wishing to use laptop computers should at least follow basic security measures.

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File servers

Some organisations use file servers to facilitate cooperation between different agents or to increase the level of resilience of stored data. Like other machines used by the organisation, file servers are support assets for business processes. But they often represent the single point of failure for a small or medium-sized company.

Requirements in terms of confidentiality, availability and integrity in file servers are therefore much greater than for other support assets owned by the organisation. It is therefore crucial to apply basic security measures on this type of machine.

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Email servers

Mail servers are always connected to the Internet. There is a large probability of being exposed to a threat, and is often easy to exploit new vulnerabilities. Securing the mail server requires a degree of care, and sometimes even monitoring on the part of the organisation. Email is often the leading means of communication within a company (integrity) and very often contains files with sensitive content (confidentiality).

Small-scale organisations rarely have mail servers. It is too complex to manage and protect them within small operations.

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Web server

Web servers do not always contain confidential data. Because of this, they are less affected by confidentiality issues. They are, however, supposed to operate constantly (availability) and must be able to withstand potential attacks or infection. Because of this, it is recommended to follow the recommendations for securing web servers.

Protecting the network

The network is a secondary asset supporting the business processes of the organisation, and transmitting the information processed within this organisation. It plays an essential role, as when compromised it often leads to machines connected to it also being compromised.

Local (fixed) network

Most organisations connect their network, or part of their network, to the Internet. This exposes it to a huge number of potential threats. But the network can also be endangered by threats coming from within the organisation.

The installation of a firewall is an essential protective measure for the network, as it enables certain parts of the network to be partitioned.

Follow basic security measures to secure your local network.

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Wifi network

Many organisations set up a wifi network. It presents a number of benefits, but one major downside is that wifi waves travel through the air and are usually also accessible from outside the organisation.

Basic security measures for wifi networks are therefore strongly advised.

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Remote working

Enabling secure access from outside the organisation can be done in different ways, based on the needs of the employees.

A mail access server is often enough and is easy to set up.

For greater access, it is strongly recommended to set up access via VPN.

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Training and awareness

Training and awareness-raising in relation to the security of information and communications systems is crucial to ensuring that security becomes a reality within our society.

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Getting organised

The security of a company in large part depends on its business processes. It is very difficult to apply security rules to a process that hasn’t been designed with security in mind. Because of this, it is easier – and therefore cheaper – to keep security in mind from the very creation of the company structure.

Analyse processes and try to change or eliminate those which are sub-optimal – for example those requiring a password to be shared.

The allocation of specific roles is essential: responsibilities for certain assets should be allocated, officers responsible for managing incidents should be appointed and good internal communications should be implemented

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Protecting the premises

Most organisations have their own premises or establishment to host their offices, warehouses, archives and IT rooms. They may therefore limit certain risks arising from threats that are environmental in origin, deliberate and accidental, compromising confidentiality, integrity or availability needs over important or vital assets.   The introduction of secure areas, as well as restricted access to these areas, and therefore to assets found within them, significantly reduces the risk arising from deliberate or accidental threats.

Premises hosting important or vital assets must also be protected against environmental threats, such as fire (SMEs: see Fire), water damage, pollution, dust, corrosion, freezing temperatures, electrical damage or major incidents.

Please refer to the chapter devoted to the physical security of the organisation.

Physical access

The more important the asset, the more physical access must be controlled. The organisation will therefore have a “public” area, accessible to clients, and an internal area, only accessible to employees, as well as one or more secure areas only accessible to authorised personnel. Depending on their importance, the assets will only be deployed in the areas which correspond to their degree of protection. The security measures implemented should prevent physical intrusions.

So a file server containing critical documents for the organisation should not be located in a room with open access. The probability of malicious actions or accidents would be too high. (SMEs: see Aggravated theft and Infiltrating the premises).

Communications and social networks

Social networks now form a part of our daily life. For companies and organisations, they present previously unheard of opportunities. Many companies have already turned them into an effective communications and marketing lever.

Although they present many benefits, it is important not to ignore the risks, including:

  • risk of loss of reputation
  • risk of infection by virus or malicious code circulating on social networks
  • risk of loss or disclosure of data
  • risk of phishing, scam or form of social engineering through social networks.

Some simple measures can be set up to prevent this.

Find out how to develop your presence on social networks without taking any pointless risks: Social networks, applications and web services: to be checked regularly.

Business trips

Business data (commercial or strategic data, search results, expertise, etc.) must also be protected during any business trips which may take place.

If laptop computers, removable media or paper media holding this type of data leave the secure enclosure of the company, specific precautions must be taken.