The Safe And Secure Handling of Sensitive Information

The Safe And Secure Handling of Sensitive Information

Companies today collect data to fill customer orders, personalize marketing offers, pay employees, and more. When unauthorized parties obtain this sensitive data, the business must deal with the associated costs of the security breach. Companies must have a security plan to reduce the risk of a data breach. What should this plan include? 

Know the Information

Many businesses remain entirely unaware of what data they have, which is the first step in safeguarding your personal information. Take time to figure out where the data is stored and what type it is. Many look through file cabinets and computer systems while neglecting other places where information might be found. Employees often work from home and may have sensitive data on their computers or mobile devices. Learn where information comes in and where it goes out. Know what is collected and where it is stored. 

Cut Back

Only collect and store essential sensitive data. Eliminating unnecessary data reduces the risk of a significant data breach. Any data collected must be safeguarded. If there is a legitimate need to collect data, destroy the data the minute it is no longer needed. Adhere to the "principle of least privilege" and only allow employees to see data required to complete their tasks. Businesses must retain specific data. Have a written records retention policy so everybody knows what information they must keep and how to secure it. This policy should also outline how long to keep the data and how to dispose of it. 

Safeguard the Information

Lock down all data that comes into the organization. There are four ways to do this. Physical security remains a priority, as data breaches are often the result of lost or stolen papers. Lock doors and drawers to prevent the loss or theft of these documents and control who has access.

Electronic security is another area of concern. Secure the network and all devices, and encrypt information sent over public networks. Run all security updates, as major corporations, including Equifax, have been the victim of data breaches after failing to implement security patches. 

A data security plan is worthless if employees don't adhere to this plan. Ensure all employees undergo training in the established security protocols and teach them to identify any vulnerabilities. Require employees to undergo background checks and have them sign confidentiality agreements when hired. Limit access to sensitive consumer information and put policies in place for when employees leave to ensure they don't access this data after their departure. 

Data Disposal

Keep only data that is essential to business operations. Dispose of it when it is no longer needed. Shred or burn paper documents and erase data from computers and portable storage devices before placing them in the trash. Deleting files isn't enough to protect this information from unauthorized access. 

Prepare for Breaches

Any business may be a victim of a security breach. It happens. Having a plan in place to respond to the breach is essential.

Put one person in charge of coordinating and implementing the plan. Disconnect any computers involved in the violation from the company network. Notify all required parties, such as consumers, credit bureaus, and law enforcement. Talk to an attorney to ensure all laws and guidelines established by regulatory agencies are followed during recovery. 

Businesses must properly handle and secure sensitive information. Failing to do so can be disastrous for the company and all parties impacted by the data breach. Take steps today to reduce the risk of a violation and have peace of mind knowing the information is safeguarded.