Navigating The Complexities Of Data Security And Compliance

Written by on 13th February 2020

As the world becomes more digitized, the amount of data available has risen exponentially. Among the biggest beneficiaries of such data are the marketing departments of organizations.

Limited access to information has, for a long time, limited the growth potential of businesses. Today, organizations not only access vast amounts of data, but it is also more accurate and more reliable. As such, companies can target consumers with the goods they want, and at the moment they are ready to make a purchase.

However, as much as data is empowering businesses, it also presents organizations with their greatest challenge: securing customer data. The frequency of cyberattacks and data breaches in recent years, exposing billions of files, has seen several data security measures put in place to curb this menace.

The amount of data companies handle increases by the day. As technology advances, the measures taken to protect such data should also evolve as the threats are also changing.

Though the security standards set by regulations such as the CCPA and the GDPR may seem too strict, they’re necessary and maybe an opportunity for your organization.

Even without such regulations and the risk of hefty fines that come with non-compliance, it is in your company’s best interest to ensure consumer data is secure. This is because any data breach, however small, can create a lot of mistrust and ruin your brand’s reputation.

Therefore, when it comes to customer data, you should not take any chances. Read on to find out all you need to know about data protection and how to get compliant.

Understand The Data You Have

Data is a broad term that encompasses a lot of different types of information your company may be using. The kind of consumer data your business collects will determine the regulations you are subject to. Other than the CCPA and GDPR, other regulations you are required to comply with depending on your industry include:

  • PCI DSS-  The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of policies developed by major credit card companies to protect the personal information of cardholders
  • HIPAA-  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a legislation that requires medical practitioners to safeguard the integrity and confidentiality of patients’ health information

By understanding the type of data your organization handles, you will not only know which regulations you should comply with but also the best security measures to take.

Where Is The Data?

Even with the knowledge of what type of data you handle, your data security measures will not be effective if you do not know where the data is located. To help you with this, you should consider the following:

  • Where is the data located?
  • Does your security team receive alerts when sensitive data changes location?
  • Are there systems that can track unauthorized access, transfer, or storage of data?

For your data security plan to be effective, you must know where data is at all times. This will help you manage risk and improve security.

Develop A Clear Data Security Plan

To address the new data security threats, regulations have put in place strict measures that must be observed. For your company to be in compliance at all times, physical and technical measures must be supported by administrative ones.

This means that your administration must come up with a framework and policies to guide your data security protocol. In fact, most of the complexities involving compliance result from disjointed security measures. This often happens because overall business objectives are not aligned with IT needs.

If the IT department does not have administrative support, its data security efforts will ultimately become futile. The first step should be aligning business and data security objectives through a joint effort by the administration and IT department.

Begin by assessing all your data and security needs before developing your data protection policy. Set clear but flexible policies to ensure that they are effective and beneficial in the long run. With flexible policies, you will be able to adjust to new compliance requirements with ease.

The key, at this point, is to develop a streamlined data protection system from the moment data is received and to how it’s being processed, stored, and secured. This will increase business efficiency while reducing costs.

In addition, with such a data security framework in place, the downtime caused by cyberattacks or system failure is significantly reduced. As such, even in the worst-case scenario, you will be able to resume operations in a short period.

Internal sources cause a significant proportion of data breaches. Once the framework is in place, conduct employee training to ensure that each member of your team knows how to handle customer data.

Conduct Regular Risk Assessments

One of the requirements of data regulations is to conduct regular risk assessments. Risk assessment involves:

  • Identifying potential risks
  • Determining the probability of risks occurring
  • Determining the impact, a potential threat can cause
  • Setting up measures to prevent identified risks
  • Testing the effectiveness of the measures you develop

With risk assessments, don’t just do enough to become compliant but go beyond to guarantee security. Have your IT personnel continually test your system for any weaknesses. On occasion, bring in auditors to test your system and offer recommendations. Their expertise will help you fortify your security.

Why You Should Go Beyond Compliance

When it comes to matters of data security, the words ‘compliance’ and ‘security’ are often used interchangeably but do not necessarily mean the same thing. Your organization may be compliant but not secure and vice versa.

Compliance refers adhering to the data regulations your organization is subject to, and on the other hand, being secure means that your security measures are enough to protect you against present security threats.

As time goes by and new threats arise, current compliance requirements may not be able to guarantee data security. Therefore, even if your organization meets compliance requirements, your security team should continuously assess and improve your security measures to address evolving and emerging threats.