Today, the competitive business environment is data-driven. Data provides key insights into your customers and business performance that helps you make better decisions and improve processes. However, the sudden influx of employees working remotely exposes your organization’s information to several security threats.
According to the FBI, cybersecurity complaints increased from 1,000 to 4,000 complaints daily during the COVID-19 pandemic.[i] The growing number of data breaches only validates that data security should be a top priority.
Data Security Versus Data Privacy
A well-crafted data security policy is critical to protecting your organization’s data from unauthorized access. It is important to understand the difference between data security and data privacy to develop a clearly defined data security policy. Data security is the process of securing sensitive information, such as company and customer data, from unauthorized access and exploitation. On the other hand, data privacy, also known as information privacy, is the process of managing how information is collected, used, stored and disseminated by an organization.
Risks and Consequences of Not Having a Data Security Policy
Despite the growing number of data breaches, most small and midsized businesses do not have well-established data security policies. The lack of a data security program opens the door to a wide variety of security risks, such as data theft, data tampering and unauthorized access to sensitive information. The impact of a single data breach can be much more devastating and result in huge financial loss. It can also have the following serious consequences:
Damage Brand Reputation: A security breach can tarnish your brand’s image and drive away potential customers. Your customers will lose trust and confidence in your company.
Disrupt Business Operations: The period of downtime from the moment a security incident occurs, right up to restoration, significantly affects business operations, leading to low productivity, revenue loss and unhappy customers.
Legal Implications: Organizations that fall victim to data breaches face serious consequences including fines, legal action and compensation to customers.
Loss of Intellectual Property: A data breach not only puts your company and customer information at risk, but you also run the risk of losing patents, blueprints and other certifications.
Proactive and Preventative Strategies to Protect Your Data
The truth is anyone can become a victim of data breaches. The costs of recovering your compromised data can be greater than taking proactive measures to prevent breaches from occurring in the first place.
Protecting your organization’s most valuable asset requires far more than an IT security program. Having a well-documented information security policy in place is an important step to protect sensitive data and minimize threats. Apart from setting up the policy, you should constantly communicate guidelines and best practices for data protection across your organization.
Understanding the Key Elements of a Data Security Policy
It is critical to identify both internal and external risks that could disrupt business operations in order to establish a robust data security policy. Here are some key elements your company’s data protection policy should include:
Password Management: According to the 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, over 80 percent of data breaches due to hacking are password-related. It is vital that you implement a strong password management policy for all users who have access to your company’s resources so as to mitigate the risks of security breaches. The policy should state the importance of periodically updating passwords, how to manage and secure passwords, and the implications of not adhering to the policies and procedures.
Internet Usage: Businesses today rely heavily on the internet for their day-to-day operations, which also makes them vulnerable to several security risks. Therefore, it’s important to have an internet usage policy to guide your employees on how to securely access the internet. Your employees should be made aware that browsing restricted sites and downloading unnecessary files are prohibited and failing to adhere to these rules can be detrimental.
Email Usage: In the 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 94 percent of malware was delivered through email. A carefully outlined email policy will protect your employees and organizations from threats related to malicious emails. Training programs on email etiquette will ensure corporate emails are responsibly used and confidential client-related information is secured and protected.
Company-Owned and Personal Employee Devices: The sudden shift to remote working has dramatically increased the level of security risks. Having a company-owned device policy will help in managing, monitoring and securing both the device and the information on it from unauthorized access and data theft.
As personal employee devices are used for both recreational and business purposes, it’s difficult to monitor and control personal devices, which can be easily exploited. By outlining a comprehensive information security policy, such as using up-to-date software, connecting to the network through secure VPN and immediately reporting if the device is lost or stolen, you can minimize the risks of data breaches.
Software User Agreements: Every software user should comply with the end-user license agreement. Breaching this agreement could result in lawsuits and fines. A software user agreement policy will ensure your employees are using only those software applications that are legal and approved by your company.
Reporting Security Breaches: A security incident can occur when you least expect it. Data breaches should be immediately reported to minimize negative impacts and prevent further attacks. A data breach policy will guide your employees on what actions need to be taken to manage data breaches. It will also ensure your employees follow appropriate procedures while reporting such incidents.
Conquer the Challenge of Data Policies
For any organization, data is a valuable asset that needs to be protected at all costs. Adding to the challenge are the constantly evolving and complex data privacy regulations that every business should comply with.
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