11 Data Privacy Practices Every Company Should Adopt

With more and more rules and regulations regarding data privacy coming into effect, it is vital for your organization to know and implement best practices regarding data privacy. Here are 11 important data privacy best practices your company should know (and follow).

1. Keep your Digital Records Safe

The Sabarnes-Oxley Act can protect shareholders, the company, and the general public from fraudulent practices and accounting errors. If you hold electronic records, then you should use the SOX compliance guidelines as your roadmap.

SOX compliance makes IT departments responsible for the creation and maintenance of your business records. You should find affordable ways to comply with the rules set forth by the act.

The rules under SOX govern the destruction of and changes made to electronic records. It details the penalties leveled on companies that intentionally falsify, fraudulently alter, or destroy electronic records and requires companies to maintain and store records securely for a minimum of five years. The best thing about SOX compliance is that you are given a set of best practices that you can use for your data retention and privacy efforts.

2. Make Regulatory Compliance your Roadmap

Speaking of compliance, you should really refer to data privacy regulations and be sure to comply with them. There have been a lot of changes in the world of data privacy. For example, Europe’s General Data Privacy Regulations took effect in 2018. Let’s go through the GDPR European privacy law in NYtimes.

In the United States, a federal data privacy framework is gaining traction, and compliance with applicable regulations is crucial. For one, the associated penalties for a data breach are quite staggering. But you should be more concerned with your reputation and trustworthiness.

Studies show that customers will hesitate in buying from you again if their data was stolen because of your negligence. And who can blame them? They are the ones who are at risk of identity theft, account cancellations, and fraudulent card activities.

Read more>>How to Prevent Identity Theft If Information Has Been Hacked

3. Know Your Data

Get a team together with members representing your company’s various departments. This team will help you know what types of data your organization is getting, how these bits of information are used, and what applications use them. You can also discover how and where these data are stored and where it lives.

4. Know the Vulnerabilities that Need to be Addressed

This process will give you a full appreciation of the different types of data that you have. It will also allow you to create a map of where everything is. Furthermore, you can have a full grasp of the types of security holes and vulnerabilities your organization is exposed to, allowing you to address these issues first. It will also show you where potential security weaknesses are.

What’s more, knowing what kind of data you have and how you store it will help you know what tools, infrastructure, and software are needed to keep your data safe. Some great tools are mentioned by business.com to keep your data safe.

5. Keep the Communication Lines Open

Once you have a full grasp of the types of data you gather, how you store them, the security vulnerabilities you are facing, and the solutions you have in place or need, then you can use the same team to disseminate information to their respective departments.

It is this two-way communication that will help make your security and data privacy initiative effective.

Read more>>Awesome Tips To Ensure The Privacy Of Data

6. Encrypt Everything

Data encryption is the method of translating or converting your data into another code or form. With encryption, only authorized people are able to read the data. This means that even if a hacker is able to steal a physical hard drive from your company, it would be useless to them because the data stored on it is not readable.

Facebook stores its users’ passwords in plain text. Now imagine, you being able to access that file; you can read and use all users’ credentials in any way you choose, even locking users out of their accounts by changing their login information.

With encryption, even if somebody gives you that file, you won’t learn anything from it. Instead of saying that the guy’s password is “password,” you will only see gibberish. Even if you try to input that string of text, it wouldn’t work.

What’s more, you can encrypt just about everything. You should be encrypting all data – whether it is at rest or while being transmitted, including storage devices.

Encryption is not 100% foolproof; there are ways to decrypt even the toughest encryption. But why should you make a hacker’s life easier? Even the toughest door locks can be broken into, but that doesn’t mean you should leave the front door unlocked. Moreover, you can use virtual private networks to encrypt data outside of your firewall. Lifewire has described some great reasons for using VPN for private and secure web browsing. It is also possible to encrypt network traffic within your firewall.

7. Fortify Authentication

The difference between getting hacked and being safe might depend on whether you have a good enterprise password management tool. These solutions can ensure that you and your employees use strong passwords, instead of “12345” or “password.”

These tools can also require your employees to change their passwords often and allow you to implement two-factor authentication. A password management software is both easy to use and inexpensive. There is practically no reason why you should not use these tools for devices that are accessing your corporate network.

Another avenue to explore when it comes to stronger authentication techniques is biometrics. These authentication schemes use retinas, fingerprints, and even activity patterns to verify a user’s identity before granting access.

As a side note, please do not do what Facebook did. Never leave passwords in a plain text file. Some employees record their new passwords in a Notepad file. That’s worse than using the same password everywhere over the years. This content from Chron will let you know the importance of changing password.

Read more>>Advantages of Implementing a Database Management System

8. Know All the Endpoints and Secure them

Each device that connects to your corporate network should be managed by software or tool that can enforce the company’s security rules. It used to be very simple: you only secure the computers on your company’s network. However, with the advent of BYOD initiatives, where employees can use their own devices to access their work files, and therefore the corporate network, this has become a problem.

Remember that hackers and cybercriminals only need one point of entry. A device that is not adequately protected will be the weakest link in your network. If a hacker is able to compromise that weak link, it can gain access to the entire network.

One very good example is the 2014 incident with JPMorgan Chase. The bank required all users to have two-factor authentication; however, they missed one server. Hackers were able to use that one server to steal the data of around a million users.

9. Consider Taking Your Data Offline

This item might sound ridiculous, but hear us out. Hackers and cybercriminals will not be able to steal data if they cannot see it. If you have old data that you no longer need, consider destroying or taking it offline. If it is still legally required for you to keep it (such as under SOX regulations), then be sure to secure it properly.

In the same manner, you should not create files that you do not want others to see. In 2014, Sony Pictures fell victim to a hack. Soon, the world was reading private e-mails between executives. These e-mails were mean-spirited, sometimes making disparaging remarks about celebrities. In digital security, these are known as smoking guns. Bits of information, pieces of communication, and snippets of data that are incriminating enough for a hacker to use in blackmailing you. If you cannot be nice about it, then take the conversations offline.

10. Create a Comprehensive Security Policy

All the tools, software, and reminders in the world will not help you have an effective security strategy if you do not document them. Your data privacy policy will have all the rules and procedures that govern the security of your information. It will detail what you expect from your employees and what they need to do to keep data safe.

It will explain why such rules exist, as well as the tools needed for everything that must be done. The data security policy will communicate directly what you want to happen, why it needs to happen, and how to make it happen. It will give your employees a guideline of what to and what not to do. It will also outline procedures to follow in the event of a data breach and other security lapses.

In creating a data privacy policy, you should take everything that you have learned about your organization’s data, how it is used and stored, and the tools you have to protect it. You can check out what other companies in your industry are doing and learn from them.

Writing a data privacy policy will also help you ensure that you’ve met all the legal requirements set forth by regulations. For instance, your privacy policy should take into consideration the various regulations that are being enforced in GDPR or SOX.

Further, communication with your staff is very important in this process. A data privacy policy should have input from everyone. Your employees should feel like they had a say and a hand in creating the data privacy rules, instead of letting them feel that it was crammed down their throats.

That sense of inclusion will help you gain advocates who will help you promote the new set of rules to their peers.

11. Train Your Employees on Everything about Data Privacy

What is the most crucial part of any IT security and data privacy strategy? Is it the tools, such as firewall management or the anti-malware software that you use? Is it the training materials? Is it the expensive hard drive or hardware you bought to store your data in?
Nope. It is your people!

Every best practice you see here will eventually be carried out by your employees. An antivirus program means nothing if your employees do not use it. Having the best password management system will go to waste if your employees try to defeat it by using weak passwords every time. And your data privacy rules will not mean more than the sheet of paper they’re printed on if your employees do not even take the time to read it, much less implement the things written on it.

This is the reason why you should train your employees. They should know why it is important to keep your information private and secure. They should know the different tools they can use. They should also know the different strategies employed by cybercriminals to get unauthorized access to files that they should not get their hands on.

Take, for instance, social engineering attacks where having the best anti-malware, firewalls, and other software and hardware will not help you much. These tools are ineffective for combating social engineering because hackers are tricking your employees into giving them passwords and other ways to gain access to the system. Other times, hackers even pose as you and ask your employees to give them specific files.

It is only when your employees are sufficiently informed about the various types of threats, and how they could prevent it, can your organization be truly safe. Training and educating your employees is one best practice that you should never neglect. With data breaches becoming more and more expensive and competition heating up across every industry, customer trust is more important than ever before. These data privacy best practices will help to keep your company’s data safe and your hard-earned reputation intact.