7 Essential Data Protection Steps Every Business Should Take
When the General Data Protection Regulation first came out, a lot of businesses dreaded having to implement the measures required for compliance. However, they should have seen it as a blessing in disguise.
For one, GDPR focused the spotlight on the privacy and protection of consumers’ information. Plus, it provided guidelines on what to do, from the time companies gather information to keeping it safe, as well as what to do when there is a breach.
But as a business, you really don’t need to wait for a regulation to take effect to tell you what to do. Most companies will probably strive for regulatory compliance, but that’s not what drives them to ensure data privacy.
They know that they will lose customers if a breach happens. Who would trust a company that will eventually expose their financial and personal information?
Your customers will blame the company for any data breach. In fact, more than half of customers surveyed by RSA Security say that they hold the company responsible for any breach and theft of their data.
But that’s not all. Consumers will not stop at blaming you;many will take their business elsewhere. Around 78 percent of respondents to a Ping Identity survey say that they will no longer engage with a brand over the Internet if a data breach occurs.More than one out of three people will drop a brand entirely in the event of a breach.
Data Privacy: The Essentials
The thing with data privacy is that the steps you need to take are nothing new. In fact, most businesses and individuals have been doing the essentials for years.
But even so, you cannot be too confident when it comes to data privacy. So what are the essentials when it comes to data protection?
1. Know the laws.
There are several regulations that protect data privacy. These include the GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act, and several others. Understanding current regulations will help you get a full appreciation of what information you need to protect.
Moreover, you should know the penalties that come with non-compliance. A breach can be very costly. For instance, in January 2019, Google was fined 50 million euros for GPDR violations.
In some cases, the applicable laws depend on what industry you are in. For example, financial institutions should know the Safeguards Rule of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Red Flags Rule of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation also has guidelines on data privacy.
On top of industry-specific rules, you also have to know the state and local rules in the area where you operate. For instance, Massachusetts requires businesses to maintain a written information security program. Meanwhile, in Oregon, you should train and manage employees in data security.
2. Know the details.
You should know what kind of personal data you are collecting, as well as where you are storing it. You should also know who is responsible for securing the data.
Take all measures to secure the personal data you have collected. This includes protection against cyber threats. It also involves securing data physically, such as making sure the server or computer that stores the data is password-protected and kept in a secure location.
The reason why this is essential is that you cannot protect what you don’t know exists in the first place. For instance, if you have an old signup form that asked for financial details, and you forgot you have it, then you will not be able to secure the replies submitted through that form.
It also helps if you can reduce risk as much as possible. This means that you should try to collect as little data as necessary. If you don’t need their social security numbers, why ask them for it?
Your customers should know that you are collecting data about themand how you intend to use the information. They should also know how you’re collecting and storing the data, and who will be able to access it.
4. Follow best practices in securing your IT resources.
What are the security basics you have right now? Make sure that you have the latest security software, such as antivirus programs. You should also keep your web browsers updated, as well as your operating system.
You might also want to make sure that all applications and programs you have on your machines are patched to the latest versions.
More than that, you should make sure that you restrict access to information from within your organization. Give access only on an as-needed basis – limited to those employees who need the information to do their work.
Furthermore, you should not rely on just one layer of security. On top of passwords, antivirus programs, and updated versions of every software and operating system you use, you should also have spam filters in place to fight ransomware and phishing schemes. This will help make e-mail more secure.
Another best practice is to scan all devices before you connect them to your network to ensure that there are no vulnerabilities or risky files, such as Trojan programs, on the devices that could breach your network.
5. Make someone responsible for data privacy.
While data privacy is something that the entire organization should uphold, it helps to have a point person that will oversee everything regarding protecting customer and employee information.
You might want to call this person the Chief Privacy Officer. He or she should have the authority and experience to make things happen. This person will be working with the Security Officer and the Chief Information Officer to ensure that all adequate security measures are in place when it comes to data privacy.
6. Don’t forget your backups and copies.
One an area of data privacy that is often overlooked is making backups and copies of your data.
First, you should make sure that the data you keep is encrypted. Some people might be horrified that this is a key step in protecting data privacy, because they think that it’s difficult to do.
But encryption is no longer just for geeks and nerds. There are now software solutions and tools that you can use to encrypt your files. For instance, there’s FileVault for Apple OS machines. There’s also GPG for e-mail.
Secondly, back up your files. You should have a copy of your files so that in the event that your data is stolen, you can recover your customer list and other important information. However, be sure to secure these backups as well.
Consider storing your backups in the cloud. Cloud storage keeps your information off-site, which is excellent for disaster recovery.
The thing is, you cannot ignore having backups of your data. Some people will argue that having copies of your customer list, for instance, will mean more files to secure. It will also mean more chances for a hacker to find your client roster.However, the threat of losing important information forever is also a real possibility for many businesses. Your office can burn down, or your computer can get corrupted. Hackers can come in, steal, and delete your data – or hold it for ransom.
Keeping backups butsecuringthem properly is the best course of action. You should also destroy old and outdated backups.
7. Train your employees.
Sometimes, successful hacking attacks are not carried out online; they are done in real life, perhaps in a coffee shop or in a cab. These real-life incidents often happen when a careless employee leaves his or her smartphone containing access to your customer database orinformation about your employees in a restaurant, on the train during their morning commute, or in their unlocked vehicle.
In healthcare, for example, 81 percent of successful data breaches are due to employee error.Because humans are the weakest link in cybersecurity, it helps to educate your employees on the importance of data privacy and their responsibilities for keeping company and customer data safe.
Some topicsto educate your employees about include:
- The various rules and laws on data privacy, such as the GDPR.
- The processes that they have to follow in order to secure personal and financial data.
- What to do in the event of a data breach.
- How to identify phishing e-mails.
- The tools they can use to help them secure customer data.
The Essentials of Data Privacy Are Just the First Steps
If you are currently following these seven best practicesto ensure your company’s data privacy, then congratulations: you are well on your way to keeping your customers’ and employees’ information secure and safe.
However, you should know that data privacy is an ongoing process. You will need to constantly monitor, evaluate, and revise things as you go along. Threats are constantly evolving, and so should your data privacy initiatives.However, with the essentials in place, then it will be an easier journey.
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