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Data Security Best Practices for ITAR Compliance
Martin Horan

By: Martin Horan on October 9th, 2019

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Data Security Best Practices for ITAR Compliance

Government Compliance

If you’re running a company that’s subject to ITAR compliance regulations, you know how important data security can be. ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) guidelines are provided by the U.S. government to ensure that sensitive materials don’t fall into the hands of foreign or nefarious parties, and contractors play a big role in aiding the government in its efforts.

Making sure that your data practices are in line with ITAR mandates is important both from a security and a consequence standpoint. You don’t want to compromise your data, but you also don’t want to face the risks of high fines and lost business if you fail to comply with ITAR. Using the following best practices will help you align with ITAR regulations and protect your data from the growing cybersecurity threats companies face every day.

Ensure Your Technical Data Doesn't Fall Into Foreign Hands

Check out our free guide to learn ITAR guidelines, requirements and responsibilities.

Guidelines for ITAR Compliance and Sharing Your Technical Data

1. Create a Data Security and Compliance Policy

The first ITAR best practice you should implement is creating a data security and compliance policy. This policy is the foundation for all of your security efforts. Creating this policy, with guidelines specific to ITAR compliance requirements, gives your employees a reference for how to manage their digital behavior. Compliance is not an effort exclusive to the IT team; everyone has his or her own part to play. 

This policy should be viewed as a living set of documents, regularly being updated based on changes in your company and to ITAR policies. Because threats to data security are regularly maturing and growing in sophistication, ITAR compliance regulations have to be updated to reflect those changes. 

What should be included in your compliance policy? First, you should set guidelines on data, both physical and digital, and how it should be protected. You should identify the roles that employees play in keeping this data safe, so everyone understands the expectations. 

Next, you should create an Incident Response Plan to be included in your security policy. No data security initiative is going to work 100% of the time, so it's important to decide what to do when these plans don’t work. You need to outline how incidents will be detected and the process for reporting these incidents when they occur. 

2. Classify Your Data 

Classifying your data helps you prioritize what needs to be protected immediately. Because ITAR outlines policies for how data on the United States Munitions List (USML) should be handled, this list is a good place to start. Look up the items covered in this list, and identify which of your files falls under the USML umbrella. 

Once you’ve identified and classified this data as sensitive in nature, you should isolate it for better protection. It’s much easier to protect data that’s in a single location or a few locations than it is to protect data scattered across your entire network. 

3. Implement a Data Leakage Prevention Plan

Data leakage is the intentional or unintentional loss of data. When your data is exposed to outside or unauthorized parties, it becomes impossible to protect. This makes it imperative to have a strategy in place on how to prevent data leakage. While you still need to maintain a continual and uninterrupted flow of data across your organization, contractors, clients, and beyond, you also need to think about how to best protect that data. 

There are three groups that could be the source of data leakage. By identifying these groups, you can come up with a plan to mitigate the risk of leakage due to their actions. 

  • Innocent employees who make a mistake
  • Employees with malicious intent who use their access for nefarious purposes
  • Malicious outsiders like hackers, enemy states, competitors, etc.

When you identify the potential threats, you can take action to prevent their access to sensitive data. One way to track the sources of data leakage is by having a secure file sharing solution in use. This solution can generate activity logs, allowing you to identify the source of any data leakage that occurs within your company.

4.  Control Who Can Access Data

Another best practice is the use of access controls to limit who can get their hands on sensitive data. Granular access controls enable you to limit access down to a single file. Only employees who need access to your most sensitive files should be granted it. Ensuring files are only accessible on a need-to-know basis allows you to maintain higher levels of security and grants you better control over data.

Digital access isn’t the only type of access to consider. You also have to think about how nefarious parties could gain physical access to your data. A careless employee who accidentally leaves their laptop unattended at a coffee shop could put your entire organization at risk. Physical access to your facilities and your devices should be limited to specific, authorized parties. 

One of the best ways to control access to your data is to use a secure file sharing solution for your sensitive data. This offers a way to safely share data between internal and external parties. Also, if you choose a top solution, it will have built-in access controls giving your administrators the power to determine who uses which files and how they can use them. 

To help you align with these best practices, try a secure file sharing solution with your most sensitive data. You can even adopt a top file sharing solution that has security measures that already align with ITAR compliance policies. This means you can stay in compliance with minimal effort and trust your secure FTP vendor to update security measures as needed. You won’t have to worry about data compromises when you have a solution with this level of security on your side.


Do you want additional help with meeting ITAR standards? Download this comprehensive guide on ITAR compliance to learn more.

itar compliance guidelines

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.

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