In the digital age, every business has become a tech business in one way or another. We’re more reliant than ever on digital technologies to help our businesses do what they do more efficiently.
This means using passwords, storing of employee, business and customer data and the storage of potentially sensitive information. There’s a whole lot more to security needed in the (almost) 2020s than doors, padlocks, fences and chains. Today, the more reliant you are on digital technology, the more vulnerable you are to a cyber attack.
Even if your business is not particularly heavy in the It industry, you still need a comprehensive approach to data security. This starts with a comprehensive data security policy. Here we’ll look at why it’s important to have one, what it should include, and how it can (and should) be implemented.
Why Your Business Needs a Data Security Policy
As previously stated, failing to have a data security policy in place opens up your business to vulnerabilities. A comprehensive policy is integral in combating the threat of ransomware and other destructive malware attacks which, in 2019 are up 200% from last year, with a 55% rise in Internet of Things related attacks.
Having a clear and consistent policy in place will ensure that your cybersecurity is always ready for the evolving challenges it faces. But encryption alone should not be the sole concern of your data security policy.
It should also account for human error which is the basis for 90% of data breaches. If your employees aren’t sufficiently trained in the proper way to access, handle and disseminate data (as well as being trained in how to spot phishing emails and other scams) this could prove a serious security vulnerability.
No matter where you operate, what you do and how far your business reaches (local, state, national or international) there’s a good chance that you’ll also have some sort of compliance issues to consider.
From Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and, of course, broader data protection laws.
These can be at the state, national and international levels. For instance, GDPR is an essential consideration for those who sell or market goods and services in Europe, without a comprehensive policy, you could open your business up to some serious sanctions for non-compliance.
What Your Data Security Policy Should Cover?
It’s all well and good telling you that you need a comprehensive data security policy in place, but what does that policy look like? What will it need to include or cover?
This can vary a great deal depending on the size, scope, and nature of your business, but there’s certainly a framework that data security policies should incorporate.
Broadly speaking, your policy needs to address the specific data security threats of your business and industry and outline employees’ individual responsibilities in protecting your data.
A data security policy should have 3 core objectives:
- Confidentiality– Protecting your data, network, and IT assets from unauthorized access.
- Integrity– Ensuring data is accessed, modified, stored, and handled in a way that is specific and authorized.
- Availability– Making sure continuous access to your data is there (either locally or remotely) for those who need it and are authorized to access it.
This applies to all data pertaining to your business and your employees (internal data) as well as all data which pertains to your customers, clients, and other outside agencies like partners or vendors (external data).
Data security policies should be multifaceted in order to reduce the risk of vulnerabilities and blind spots. Now, there are a number of areas that any workable policy will need to address. These include:
- Acceptable Use Policy
- Email / Communications Policy
- Password Policy
- Network Security Policy
- Wireless Access and Guest Access Policy
- Confidential Data Policy
- Mobile Device Policy (e.g Bring Your Own Device or BYOD)
- Incident Response Policy
- Physical Security Policy
These represent the bare bones of a data security policy for any kind of business which can be fleshed out depending on the specific nature, needs, and concerns of your operation.
How to Create a Data Security Policy
So, now you know what your policy needs to cover, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re well equipped to put your own into place. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you to create a comprehensive and fit for purpose data security policy of your own…
1. Identify your specific risks
A policy should start with a full audit of your business’ vulnerabilities. Is regulatory compliance a big issue for your business/industry? Is there potential for inappropriate data use? Can confidential data conceivably be leaked? Your best bet is to have an outside consultant carry out this assessment for you.
2. Learn from others in your industry
Whether you reach out to other similar businesses or regulatory bodies, there’s likely to be someone who can help you compile an industry specific policy. There are lots of online resources available that provide guidance, recommendations, and even templates.
3. Verify your legal requirements
Get to know your legal responsibilities in terms of how you handle the kind of data you use.
4. Train Your Staff
A policy is only as effective as the people enforcing it. Make sure your team is involved in the formulation of your policy. They will often be able to bring a working perspective that lends your policy useful insights. Also, employees need specific training at the point of onboarding and beyond to help them incorporate your policies in their day-to-day duties.
5. Formalize the Process
Implementation and accountability depend on a formal document outlining your data security policy. This needs to be read and signed by every member of your team at the point of onboarding to ensure that they adhere to your policy and can be made accountable for any lapses, which brings us to our next point.
6. Enforce Penalties
While nobody wants to think that an employee might breach their data security policy, it is important for business owners to ensure that they know what to do if these policies are violated. They need to work with HR departments to ensure that there is a sufficient and appropriate system of reprimand and/or retraining in place.
7. Review and Monitor
Data security threats are ever-changing. Your policy needs to be subject to change, too. You should ensure that your policy is reviewed regularly and monitored constantly. This is the key to ensuring that your policy holds up against security threats.
Your data is precious. Make sure you have a policy to give it the appropriate level of protection!
The Physical Security of Your Building
In addition to protecting your data and sensitive information, you also need to physically protect the building or buildings that hold all of your equipment. You can have all of the data security in place that you need, but if an unwanted intruder comes into your building and steals expensive equipment, this is just as dangerous to your business.
Click below to contact the access control experts at TED Systems in Kansas City and learn more about how you can better protect your organization’s building or campus with the latest technology.