Not sure what you consider appropriate protection.
The problem could be, that what you consider appropriate protection is.... not... appropriate.
As far as I know being relatively new myself. Goon Squads are your only protection. They will only protect you once from a direct attack so that may have happened. (It protected you from one attack and then you were hit by a second)
You can also mutiny a mutinied tile, although, there may be better targets to mutiny instead.
Or... you could just learn to love debt. I love debt. And I am fine, really... well as long as I make sure Zultar doesn't commentate any of my games that is.