Technology

PROTECTING SENSITIVE DATA

Businesses are implementing more digital and automated operations due to the increase of remote working environments, social distancing, and the need for faster results. As we introduce new electronic activities into our transactions, our valuable data is transmitted online, via phone, scanned and exposed to any vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.

Organizations are held accountable in how they manage this sensitive information, which can include employee and customer social security numbers, personal identifiable information (PII), credit card numbers, bank account details, and more. Regulatory requirements such as The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) outline how data should be stored and managed.

Inherent risks such as data breaches, data loss, or non-compliance fines can be disastrous for companies that do not properly oversee their information. Not only are there monetary costs, but also intangible costs. The Digital Guardian states that the average cost of a data breach in the US was $3.9 million. A legal defense team for court costs for lawsuits and punitive damages must also be considered. Plus, news of a security breach and loss of information has a negative impact on reputation, which affects a business’ bottom line.

Securing Sensitive Data

With the significant amount of data continually growing, keeping track, and protecting this information can be overwhelming. Encryption is the best method to secure it. And data cannot be used without a decryption key. In order for companies to secure their sensitive data, they need to know what they have and how they secure it. Most businesses do not have a current data inventory for their systems. If a breach occurs with an out-of-date inventory documentation, any information acquired after that file could be lost indefinitely.

“69 percent of survey respondents stated that discovering where sensitive data resides within their organization is the greatest challenge of executing a data encryption strategy.” – Ponemon Study

It is crucial for companies to identify, classify, and secure their information appropriately. By finding all data on a regular data, you can better protect your customers, clients, team, and organization.

How Do You Find Your Sensitive Data?

With sensitive data scanning. It is a software tool designed to find sensitive data throughout your organization.  You can set it up, so it discovers number patterns such as Social Security or credit card numbers.  Usually, you can also automate the software to find other types of data. A baseline scan is done to do a full sweep, then a company can do scheduled scans for newer or updated files. Entire systems can be scanned – such as databases, Macs, Linux systems, desktops, web servers, and file shares.

Once this has been completed, the IT teams can define how each category of data should be accessed, managed, backed up, and protected. This process can help prioritize the most sensitive information and assess any vulnerabilities.

Being proactive in managing sensitive data can help protect your organization from potential cyberthreats or attacks like ransomware. As online activities continue to increase, it is best practice for all businesses to ensure their data inventory and security controls are up to date.

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