With cybercrime on the rise and businesses hitting the headlines almost every day for losing tons of customer data, there’s a good chance that you’re here because you’ve seen the damage losing sensitive data can do.
The truth is that every business thinks it has a good handle on its sensitive data until they suffer a data breach. And, unfortunately for you, not every data breach is met with a slap on the wrist and a demand you do better next time.
In the modern world, managing your sensitive data is just as important as having locks on your office doors. Here’s why.
What is Sensitive Data?
Sensitive data is any data that you need to ask for explicit consent to collect and store. In some cases, this data might be information that can be used to identify an individual, whether that person is a customer or an employee.
Examples of sensitive data include:
- Personal information, such as someone’s racial or ethnic origin, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation
- Financial information, such as bank details and financial statements
- Protected Health Information(PHI), such as diagnoses, test results, or health insurance details
- Education records, such as where an individual studied, test results, or scholarship information
- Customer information, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and purchase history
- Proprietary information, such as trademarks, trade secrets, or confidential information about business activities
This is by no means a definitive list, as many countries have their own data regulation laws that define what constitutes sensitive data that you’ll have to bear in mind when you do business in or with that country’s citizens.
Why Do We Need to Manage Sensitive Data?
The first things that come to mind when we talk about sensitive data are legal data protection requirements like thePrivacy Act, GDPR in the EU, and HIPAA in the US.
Almost every country in the world has its own state requirements in regards to data governance, and many of these laws require businesses to have certain safeguards and regulations in place to remain compliant with these. More often than not, businesses that either work in that country or collect data from that country’s citizens, are also subject to those regulations.
Because you have a legal obligation to protect the sensitive data you collect, the regulating body can - and will - hand out fines for not complying with regulations. Fines can vary depending on the data you’re collecting and the degree to which you’re found to be flouting the rules, but they can run into millions of dollars depending on the infraction.
The other key thing you need to remember is that sensitive data is called sensitive for a reason.
Every item of sensitive data you collect corresponds to a person and, depending on how much of that data someone gets their hands on, that data can be used to identify a person. If a criminal can use the data you have to build up a picture of your customer or employee, it makes it extremely easy to target that person with cyber-attacks or scams.
If these people are victimized as a result of a data breach at your company, your business can potentially be held liable for that.
Finally, if your business is the victim of a cyberattack and that data leaks, fines are the last thing you need to worry about.Not only will you have to spend a ton of time and money fixing your systems and repairing the breach, but you’ll have lost a lot of trust and confidence with both your customers and employees.
Protecting Your Company’s Sensitive Data
With your business being at risk of hefty fines and irreparable damage to its reputation, you need to understand that investing in sensitive data management isn’t a nice-to-have - it’s a necessity.
With that in mind, here are a few ways you can improve data governance in your organization.
Document How and Where Sensitive Data Moves
In larger companies, it’s easy to lose track of where specific data sets are stored and what protections are put in place.However, this isn’t a defence that’ll get you out of a fine for not complying with regulations, so you need to have a clear idea of where sensitive data is stored, how it moves, and who can access that data.
By having a documented procedure in place for handling data privacy, you can easily spot if employees flout the rules or if there’s any unexpected activity on your network.
Introduce a Removal and Destruction Policy
When sensitive data is no longer needed by your organization, you need to have a policy in place to destroy it completely.Not only is this a requirement of many data handling laws, but it also greatly reduces your liability and the potential for a data breach.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply hit“delete” on a file, as it’s surprisingly easy to retrieve data from a hard drive. Your business needs to have a policy of shredding or destroying hard drives that have handled sensitive data, and this needs to be a documented process.
Sensitive Data Management: In Summary
In the modern age, nearly every company across the world handles some form of sensitive data. Whether you have customer names, addresses, and phone numbers on file for your small eCommerce business, or you handle employee records for a large corporation, you’re legally and morally obligated to ensure that the data you handle is as secure as possible.
At Data Sentinel, we make it easy for you to handle your data privacy compliance and governance in real-time. Our proprietary deep-learning technology works to perform deep data audits on your business, allowing you to see where your data handling needs to improve.
Not only that, our software can automatically flag if you’re not complying with applicable data governance laws, giving you the chance to fix the holes in your security before they can be taken advantage of.
To learn more about what Data Sentinel can do for you, give us a call or drop us a line -we’d love to hear from you.