A data security breach can cause businesses significant loss in legal fees, investigation costs and customer loyalty. Though a business may think they’ve secured against all hazards, third-party security is often overlooked. Yet, 63 percent of all data breaches are directly or indirectly caused by a hacker gaining third-party access to data.

Hackers involved in the infamous Target data breach of 2013 gained access to millions of customers’ personal information and credit card numbers by compromising the security of Target’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) vendor.

Has your company considered safeguards from third-party data breaches? Tips to avoid such a catastrophe are below.

1. Check Ancillary System Security

From the outset, protect your business from threats that could be posed by supplementary vendors. Properly research and prepare before implementing ancillary systems to avoid opening your network to hackers.

  • Secure systems from the start. Assets, such as HVAC or point of sale (POS) systems, can be liabilities if they are housed on your network without proper security. From the moment they’re installed, they should be secured.
  • Vet third-party vendors. Especially if their products or services will be on your network or if they will have access to your network, ask the tough questions to your third-party vendors about their security practices and safeguards. Inquire about whether their employees are required to have background checks, what their history is with security safeguards and how they stay abreast of new security threats.

2. Keep Your Network Free From Threats

With auxiliary systems living on your network, it’s even more crucial to have strong safeguards in place. A well-protected network makes third-party data breaches less likely to occur because the safeguards to stop hackers are already in place.

  • Install network monitoring and antivirus software. Ensure that your network is being continuously assessed for potential threats. Before implementing, evaluate your options, such as intrusion detection systems, with your IT department and security provider.
  • Utilize a secondary network. It’s best to house sensitive data, such as customer information, on a second, secured network. You can also back up that information in the cloud to avoid information loss in the event of a data breach.

3. Plan Ahead

Your company should be actively preventing data breaches at all times.

  • Conduct a security audit. Determine how secure your system is and where weaknesses may exist in your network, followed by a plan to address them.
  • Train your employees. Hackers can gain access to your network in a number of ways, so ensure employees are aware of your security policies and know to look out for suspicious activity.

Abiding by the tips above can keep your company safe from a disastrous, third-party data breach.