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Actions and Procedures to Consider When Establishing a Data Security Policy
Does your company have a working and enforced data security policy? While you may have a few rules that you try to enforce here and there, it can be difficult to keep data safe without a comprehensive and coherent data security policy.
As you’re coming up with the data security policy for your company, it’s important to keep a few key actions and procedures in mind. Explore the following actions and procedures that should be incorporated into your data security policy.
Train Your Employees
Data security isn’t the sole responsibility of your company. Your employees have a major role to play in the process, too. Employees are, in fact, the source of many data breaches. So, as part of your data security policy, it's imperative that they be well informed about the risks and how they can do their part to prevent data breaches.
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There are a few areas where your employees need to be trained when it comes to data security:
When it comes to passwords, there are a few best practices your employees should follow:
- Employees should never share their passwords or write them down somewhere that might be seen by another person.
- Passwords should be changed regularly, like every 30, 60, or 90 days, depending on what you state in your company policy.
- Passwords should be complex, with upper and lowercase letters, number, and symbols. Also, long words or phrases are best to use.
- Employees should never use the same password for multiple logins. If one password is compromised, then they all could be.
Remote work is becoming a common perk companies use to draw in top talent. But, there are some data security responsibilities that employees should be aware of before working from their local coffee shop. First, they should never leave their device unattended in public. Anyone could take a peek at their screen, or just take their device altogether.
Employees should also avoid using public Wi-Fi connections. When you’re at a coffee shop or other workspace that offers public Wi-Fi, using this connection could expose your employees to hackers. Using public connections, hackers can pull a “man-in-the-middle” scam, where they create a fake Wi-Fi connection designed to seem legitimate. The unsuspecting internet user attempts to log on, but is intercepted by the hacker, who now has access to their data.
While remote work is a big perk, your employees need to take on this privilege knowing their responsibility.
Since emails are a common way hackers dupe employees, you need to talk to your team about phishing scams. Advise employees to never click suspicious links in emails, since this is a common way hackers infiltrate systems.
Also, your employees should never share sensitive files via email, which is why it’s wise for your company to adopt a secure file sharing solution. Email accounts are vulnerable to being hacked, so any sensitive data you send in an email could easily fall into the wrong hands.
Talking to your employees about their responsibilities when it comes to data security is a key aspect of your data security policy. And, while it might be an uncomfortable topic to broach with your employees, they should be made aware of the consequences they could face for not aligning data security policies. If the offense is serious enough, termination of employment should be considered and possibly legal action if needed.
Develop Secure Networks
To ensure your data remains protected, you need a network that’s secure and relatively impenetrable to hackers. If your employees shouldn’t use public internet connections (as mentioned above), then they should be using your secure, private network. Evaluate the following network security policies you should apply to your company:
- Website Access – Internet access should be limited to trustworthy sites only. Pop-ups on some website could lead to viruses and network infiltration, so you should make sure your employees are only on websites that don’t pose a threat to your company.
- Firewalls – Firewalls keep access to your network limited to approved parties. To keep your network secure, you need a highly secure firewall protection.
- BYOD Policy – Many companies are allowing employees to bring their own devices (BYOD) to work. These devices should be held to the same standard as company computers. Employees should only be using approved devices on your network.
Restrict Data Access
Not every employee in your company needs the same level of access to all data. You need a means to restrict access to your most sensitive files. The best way to do this is with a secure file sharing solution. This grants you with the administrative capabilities to determine who can view, upload, download, and delete specific files and folders. The power to do this on a person-by-person basis will play a valuable role in keeping your data secure. And, the access restriction capabilities protects your employees, too, taking the burden off them to align with best practices.
With a top secure file sharing solution, you can also restrict access by IP address. This means only approved computers or devices can have access to the solution where you store your data. Top file sharing solutions sometimes offer country access restrictions, too. So, if your business only operates in the United States and Canada, you can restrict access to your file sharing solution to just those countries. This ensure hackers abroad aren't able to use your solution.
Use and Regularly Update Secure Software Defenses
As part of your data security policy, you need to adopt security defenses like anti-virus software to avoid data breaches from those sources. Computers exposed to viruses from links that shouldn’t have been clicked or sites that shouldn’t have been visited pose a huge threat to your data security. Per your policy, the standard security software you’ve chosen should be downloaded on all devices used by your company.
Downloading these software defenses is only the first step. You should also regularly update any software you used to ensure it’s current with developing threats. Hackers are constantly coming up with new methods to stealing data, so you always need the best defenses in place.
Outline Transparent Data Collection Procedures
With stories about companies like Facebook collecting your data regardless of whether you have an account or not, data collection has become a hot topic in the news lately. And, while many companies have data collection policies, they’re often overly complex and hard for the end user to understand.
The data that your company collects comes from numerous sources. Whether it’s customer payment data or client health records, your company has been trusted to keep this data secure. Because your clients are trusting you with data, you need a transparent policy regarding how that data is collected, stored, and transferred.
Outline and define your data collection policy in clear language. Make sure you’re transparent regarding every source you use to collect data, and what security measures you have in place once that data has been collected.
Create Reporting Procedures for Data Breaches
Unfortunately, the worst does happen sometimes. While you may have every safeguard in place, a data breach can still occur. In the event of a data breach or compromise, you need a policy regarding how you will report this compromise to your stakeholders, clients, and other impacted parties.
- Identify the Source of the Breach - With a top file sharing solution, you can easily gather reports showing who accessed what data and track the source of a breach.
- Determine What Data Has Been Impacted - Identify the scope of the breach and how many people may have been affected.
- Alert Impacted Parties ASAP - Those who have been impacted by the data breach should be informed quickly, so they can take action to protect themselves. Also, if you’re subject to government compliance regulations, there may be a deadline for informing impacted parties.
Data security policies are the best way to ensure data is safe, so creating your data security policy is an essential step for your company. If you don’t have one currently in place, if you’re not enforcing the one you have, or if you haven't recently updated the current one, it’s time to take action.
Do you need to create a data security policy for your company? Download this template to help you create one today.
About Martin Horan
Founder of FTP Today and an expert in secure file transfer and Internet protocols. A software and IT geek since a young age, Martin has successfully led his companies through the digital age by spotting market niches and filling them with quality IT services.