5 Tips to Protect Personal Information and Data Privacy

5 Tips to Protect Personal Information and Data Privacy

Today all organizations need to protect the personal information they store that identifies either employees, customers, clients, or business partners. Some of this information is usually important to conduct operations on a daily basis and a necessary component to business relations. 

For this reason, it is paramount that all organizations know how to protect the data that they store, transmit, or process. Here we look at the five tips to help you protect personal information and data privacy at your business. 

  1. Data Inventory

Start by understanding the personal information data that your organization holds. You can do this by creating a data map and inventory which is essentially a single source of insight into the data that you collect and store. A data map can provide you with information on the flow of data while an inventory can offer insight into what that data is.

You may be unaware of the sources of data that your organization has in its possession. Take stock of your servers, devices, and any cloud storage that you may be using to store your data and what third-parties may have access to your data. This means inventorying the information on all asset computers held by employees as well as mobile devices and other forms of storage such as flash drives. 

Some digital data sources that contain personal information include Office 365, GSuite, Slack, CRM software, website forms, and other team collaboration tools. As well, this is also where you’ll want to keep in mind any paper data that you have not yet committed to a digital form.

Do your best to get a complete picture of what personal information you collect, where it comes from, how it is stored, what you do with it, and who has access to it. 

  1. Data Minimization

This involves limiting data collection and retention. Only necessary data should be kept for its intended purposes. This personal information should also be kept only for as long as necessary to complete its intended task. A good best practice at the outset is to collect just the information needed. Do not collect any additional personal information that isn’t essential to your project or goal.

Another practice is to employ the use of role-based access control within the organization so that the workforce only has access to the personal information needed to complete their duties. This means ensuring that there is a segregation of duties, granted access to least privilege, and information is provided to employees on a need-to-know basis only. 

There are a few benefits to data minimization including avoiding a pile-up of useless information and cost-efficiency. Keeping personal data for longer periods of time also increases the likelihood of major losses in the event of a data breach. One of the biggest benefits that come with minimization is mitigating the risk of identity theft and fraud. 

  1. Data Protection With Controls

One of the most important aspects of protecting personal information is employing safeguards that minimize and mitigate risk. This means ensuring that there are appropriate physical, technical, and administrative controls installed to protect the data that you store. These safeguards are meant to reduce any damage, loss, or alteration that may occur to the data as well as to minimize the chance of unauthorized access. 

Compromise can start at the ground level and begin with physical access. It can be as simple as a breach of security that allows the attacker access to stored documents or files from an unlocked cabinet. Or a dishonest employee who watches to see how other employees enter their passwords into the system. Or it can be as complex as a natural disaster which fully compromises the integrity of the physical infrastructure. 

Physical controls are put in place to mitigate these risks and include storing physical drives and documents in locked cabinets or storerooms, requiring employees to keep their computers locked at all times when not in use, and ensuring limited employee access to certain facility locations. Technical controls use software and technology to mitigate risks such as employing encryption and multi-factor authentication. Meanwhile, administrative controls consider the use of policies and procedures towards employee training and best practices in security and privacy. 

  1. Data Destruction

The old adage goes “one person’s trash is another’s treasure” which absolutely stands true for information security and identity theft. For this reason, it is important to ensure that any personally identifiable and protected information is stored securely, retention periods comply with regulations, and the data is properly disposed of.

Businesses must have proper disposal of physical copies of sensitive information either via shredding or burning before discarding. In addition, all data must be wiped from external and computer hard drives before computers are dismantled and disposed of. Any computer that is being refurbished must also be wiped and overwritten, to ensure that old files are not recoverable. 

  1. Incident Response

Because of the significant costs associated with a data breach, it is important to have a plan for incident response in place in the event that a breach or security incident occurs. The plan should be kept within a written document and act as a contingency plan to keep operations running smoothly while the incident is being tended to. There should also be a senior staff member designated to coordinate all response efforts.

Employees should have designated roles and responsibilities with regard to the preparation of the plan. In short, the first step is to identify if a breach has occurred already, or if it is a matter of security incident and you can still prevent a breach. Next, you would want to contain the incident or breach and then remove it. Once the incident has been removed, recovery efforts can be initiated and a debrief of lessons learned can occur after recovery points have been established. 

Incident response is important as it protects your business from many losses including revenue, reputation, and the important data that you store. The faster you respond to a security incident, the less impact that incident will have on your data protection and on your business operations. 

Start protecting personal information at your business by using the Carbide platform to quickly build out your information security program, safeguarding the data that you transmit and store. Talk with our team to learn how Carbide will save you time and money by getting secure.