Today’s competitive business environment is driven by data.
Data provides valuable insights into your business performance and customer experience, helping you improve processes and make better decisions. But in the new world of remote work, your organization’s data could be exposed to a wide range of security threats if you don’t have the right protections in place.
According to the FBI, cybersecurity complaints increased from 1,000 to 4,000 complaints per day when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And with many businesses maintaining a remote or hybrid work environment for the foreseeable future, the risk of data breaches isn’t going away anytime soon.
To protect your organization from this growing threat, implementing a data security policy should be a top priority.
Data Security vs. Data Privacy: What’s the Difference?
A clearly-defined data security policy is a crucial part of protecting your company’s data from unauthorized access. But to develop an effective policy, it’s important to first understand the difference between data security and data privacy.
Data privacy is the process of managing how information is collected, used, stored, and disseminated by an organization.
Data security, on the other hand, is the process of securing sensitive information — such as company and customer data — from unauthorized access and exploitation.
Without a Data Security Policy, Your Company is at Risk
Despite the growing threat of data breaches, most small and midsize businesses do not have well-defined data security policies in place. Without an effective data security program, your business is left vulnerable to a wide variety of security risks, including data theft, data tampering, and unauthorized access to sensitive information.
The impact of a single data breach can be devastating, resulting in massive financial loss. It can also have the following consequences:
- Damaged Brand Reputation. A security breach can tarnish your brand’s image and scare away potential customers. In addition, current customers can lose confidence in your organization, opting instead to do business with a company they can trust to protect their data.
- Disrupted Business Operations. The period of downtime from the moment a security incident occurs to restoration can significantly affect business operations, leading to low productivity, revenue loss, and unhappy customers.
- Legal Implications. Companies that fall victim to data breaches face serious consequences including fines, legal action, and customer compensation.
- Loss of Intellectual Property. A data breach not only puts your company and customer information at risk, but also puts you at risk of losing crucial patents, blueprints, and certifications.
Be Proactive: Implement Preventative Strategies to Protect Your Data Now
The reality is, anyone can become a victim of a data security incident. And the cost of taking proactive measures to prevent a breach are nothing compared to the cost of recovering compromised data.
Protecting your organization’s most valuable asset requires far more than an IT security program. Implementing a well-documented information security policy is an important step toward protecting sensitive data and minimizing threats. Then, once your policy is in place, you must ensure that guidelines and best practices for data protection are communicated clearly and consistently throughout the company.
7 Key Elements of an Effective Data Security Policy
In order to establish a robust data security policy, it is critical to identify both internal and external risks that could disrupt business operations. Here are a few key areas of risk to include in your company’s data protection policy:
- Password Management. According to the 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, nearly 80 percent of data breaches due to hacking were accomplished using stolen passwords. Implementing a strong password management policy for all users who have access to your company’s resources is essential in order to mitigate the risk of a security breach.
Your policy should emphasize the importance of periodically updating passwords, give instruction on how to manage and secure passwords, and explain the implications of not adhering to these policies and procedures.
- Internet Usage. The internet is an indispensable part of day-to-day operations for most businesses today. But this reliance on the internet leaves an organization vulnerable to multiple security risks. Therefore, it’s important to have an internet usage policy that guides your employees on best practices for securely accessing the internet. Make it clear to your employees which uses of company internet are prohibited — such as browsing restricted sites or downloading unnecessary files — and that failing to adhere to these rules can be detrimental.
- Email Usage. The 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report found that 94 percent of malware was delivered through email. A carefully outlined email policy will protect both your employees and your organization from threats related to malicious emails. Training programs on email etiquette can help ensure corporate emails are used responsibly and that any confidential client-related information is secured and protected.
- Company-Owned and Personal Employee Devices. The recent shift to remote work has dramatically increased the level of security risks an organization is vulnerable to. Having a company-owned device policy will help you manage and monitor each device and secure the information it holds from unauthorized access and data theft.
Monitoring and controlling employees’ personal devices is more complicated. But if those devices are used for business purposes, company data is at risk of being exploited, so it’s important to have a comprehensive information security policy in place. Included in this policy should be instruction on methods to minimize the risk of data breaches, such as using up-to-date software, connecting to the network through secure VPN, and immediately reporting if the device is lost or stolen.
- Software User Agreements. Every software user should comply with each software’s end-user license agreement, as breaching these agreements can result in lawsuits and fines. A software user agreement policy will help ensure your employees are using only legal software applications that are approved by your company.
- Reporting Security Breaches. A security incident can occur when you least expect it. When data breaches happen, they should be immediately reported in order to minimize any negative impacts and prevent further attacks. A data breach policy will guide your employees on which actions to take to manage data breaches and ensure that they follow appropriate procedures when reporting such incidents.
Meet the Challenge of Implementing Data Security Policies With Help From SOL-I.S.
Implementing effective data security policies can be a challenge, especially with the constantly evolving and complex data privacy regulations you need to comply with. But your data is your most valuable asset, and it is worth the effort to protect it.
If you recognize the importance of creating a data security plan but feel overwhelmed by the process or have additional questions, we are happy to help! Don’t hesitate to contact us at 952.279.2424.
Article curated and used by permission.