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Your Top Priority: Creating an IT Compliance Policy
Martin Horan

By: Martin Horan on June 6th, 2017

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Your Top Priority: Creating an IT Compliance Policy

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For years, hacking and breaches have become increasingly prevalent. And in this era of uber transparency, media members have shed a bright light on companies that have been comprised. But it’s not just the frequency with which breaches occur that have put greater emphasis on IT compliance policies. The cost of each breach has also grown over time.

According to IBM’s 2016 Ponemon Cost of Data Breach Study, the average cost of a breach has grown 29% over the past four years. A single data breach now costs businesses an average of $4 million.

Yet, as the rate and cost of data breaches have spiked, many companies have been slow to create formidable IT compliance policies and enforce them across their employee base.

In an effort to protect consumers, many regulatory authorities have announced plans to crack down on data security vulnerabilities and mishaps.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has made compliance management one of its top priorities for 2017. More specifically, the SEC plans to evaluate business’ enterprise risk management policies and procedures. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) also plans to commit significant resources to assessing companies’ supervisory, risk and compliance controls.

Now, more than ever, creating and implementing security policies must be a top priority for your business.

Data Security Policy Template:

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Protecting Sensitive Information of All Kinds

Almost all businesses manage digital files that contain sensitive data, including client, financial or proprietary business information. And in the face of rising costs, few can afford to suffer an attack.

Even beyond the rise in total costs of a breach, the average cost per stolen record continues to increase, now at $158 per record, according to the IBM study. And for the organization's handling the most sensitive information, the costs per record are even greater. Healthcare companies – storing data such as patient names, medical histories and Social Security information – lose $355 per stolen record.

But even if your business doesn’t handle such sensitive data, virtually every business handles most of the following:

  • Business plans
  • Financial records
  • Patent applications
  • Market research
  • Customer information

Business owners, executives and technology teams all bear significant responsibility in protecting this critical data. But many wrongfully assume that implementing a file sharing solution solidifies their data security.

To the contrary, technology alone will never protect you against data threats.

Safeguard Your Company’s Integrity

Beyond the financial repercussions of a data breach, history has also proven that such attacks impact your public perception.

According to Fallout: The Reputational Impact of IT Risk, a Forbes insight report, 46% of businesses that were breached suffered damage reputations and brand value. In addition, 19% of companies whose third-parties were breached experienced the same fallout.

Drilling down further, over 86% of consumers reported that they were “not at all likely” or “not very likely” to do business with a company that lost credit card information. And consumers were only slightly less likely to shop or work with a business that lost data on customers’ home addresses, emails or phone numbers.

While the short-term financial impact of a data breach is steep and growing, perhaps damaged integrity is more costly. The long-term impact could represent irreparable damage – permanently lost customers.

Raising Employee Awareness and Understanding

Untrained employees are one of the greatest threats to the security of your data. Third-party partners must also understand how their actions impact your cybersecurity. Look no further than the 19% of customers who could flee. Without thorough and ongoing education, those using your software to upload, download, share and store files could always put your data at risk.

Yet, due to a lack of education, incredibly insecure methods of data transfer are far too prevalent. Many employees work around IT protocols for convenience, using personal email, instant messaging and consumer-grade collaboration tools. But these actions make these users prime targets for hackers.

All of your users need to learn and recognize where threats can come from. And they especially need to understand what actions can create vulnerabilities. Making your IT and file sharing policies a high priority, and investing in education, will demonstrate to your employee the importance of data security. And your concerted efforts can help your employees become more willing to follow best practices.

When developing a training plan, ensure to include topics such as:

  • What methods of transferring files are insecure, and why
  • How to avoid phishing scams
  • Precautions to take before downloading or using an unsanctioned application
  • The requirements for creating and using strong passwords

Creating Your IT Compliance Policy

To protect your company from cyber security threats, you need to create an IT policy that outlines the necessary procedures and requirements your employees must take. With strong support from your IT department, you need to establish controls that will mitigate the risks of data loss.

Consider how every user handles your data, from your interns to top-level managers and executives. Every employee has a role to play in information security. And communicating the critical nature of these policies will encourage everyone to act in the best interest of your company’s security efforts.

Below are several focus areas you should consider when creating your IT compliance policy:

  • Transparent data collection procedures
  • Secure networks that can protect your data and systems
  • Procedures for reporting data misuse or privacy breaches
  • Restrictions and monitoring data access
  • Software, apps or other IT security measures to implement

Every company’s policies will differ based on their unique needs and environment. But you can take advantage of our Data Security and IT Compliance Policy template and take an important step in strengthening your business’ defenses.

data-security-it-compliance-policy-template-free-download

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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