In the digital age, much of the conversation surrounding cybersecurity, data protection, and other measures of security involves threats of access from an external source. While hackers, data thieves, and other outside individuals certainly pose a risk to your company’s financials and customer data alike, you may be missing a serious threat much closer to home – your employees. In fact, a recent report released by GetApp indicated that employees and contractors may be a major source of information leakage.
The report reveals a full 48% of the 700 employees surveyed have access to more company data than is necessary to complete their jobs. Worse, 12% of businesses report allowing their employees full, unrestricted access to all company data, leaving their company and client information vulnerable to any employee who walks through the door. If this scenario sounds familiar to you, it’s time to begin assessing steps you can take to protect yourself, your business, and your clients.
Why Should You Have a Data Classification Policy?
If you’re a niche business that holds proprietary technology information, a data breach can seriously harm your potential for revenue. In addition, no matter the size of your business, the reputation hit and resulting market share and financial damage you’ll encounter can plague you for years. Instituting a data classification policy can:
- Establish sensitivity levels. The obvious benefit of a data classification policy is that it allows you to classify your information according to sensitivity levels. Then, you can focus your efforts on securing your most sensitive information first.
- Track data. A key component of securing your data is knowing its whereabouts at all times. With a data classification policy, you can keep assigned employees accountable for data protection and track sensitive data within your network.
- Plan for the worst. Establishing a data classification policy means you not only know the location of your most sensitive data but can build a plan for action should a data breach occur. Implementing a plan now means quicker action when a leak happens and reduces your damage.
- Ensures compliance with regulations. Depending on the nature of your business, you may be subject to HIPAA, GDPR or PCI regulations. Protect client personal information, payment records, health records and more by restricting and encrypting each, and you’ll comply with the various regulations.
Save money and resources. Employing measures to safeguard your most critical data is a part of operating a business. Identifying your most crucial data can help you make sure your data loss prevention dollars are spent on the most critical information instead of using your resources on public data.
How Can You Protect Your Business?
So, what’s next? How can you institute safeguards to ensure your employees aren’t able to access the entirety of your business and client data? These steps can help you get started:
- Gather your team. Start by identifying management and other leaders at the various levels of your business. These individuals have excellent insight regarding the level of information necessary to achieve the day-to-day operations of their particular departments. In addition, they may already have department level access policies in place.
- Identify business risks. Assess the different types of data your business currently produces and identify the types that pose a risk to your business should a leak occur. Data like customer profiles and proprietary information can harm your business’s reputation or potential revenue if revealed and should be flagged as a potential risk.
- Identify regulatory risks. Leaks of certain types of crucial information can result in fines and regulatory violations. Information like client health information, biometrics, social security numbers, and more should be properly protected by encryption and authentication methods.
- Build a data classification system. Depending on the types of data you have, you’ll likely need to build in a three or four-tiered classification system to begin sorting and tracking. Most businesses begin with these categories:
- Public – reserved for data available to the public that can’t result in financial, reputation, or market share loss to you or your clients
- Business – this data should be available only to employees, since release could be a detriment to the business’s ability to compete (company policies, emails, training data)
- Private – this data is the confidential information regarding employees and clients that could result in financial or reputation-based harm if it is leaked (SSN, customer payment information)
- Restricted – reserved for highly restricted data that could result in a permanent loss of the business’s reputation (proprietary information, strategies)
- Restrict access. Employ the use of restricted administrator accounts but use them wisely, only offering access to those who truly need the information for day-to-day operations. In addition, monitor these accounts to check for compliance and identify attacks and breaches early.
- Reinforce login security. Implement strict login controls, such as two-step authentication, for all employee accounts. Add biometrics or other firm controls for accounts with access to restricted or private information.
- Encrypt sensitive information. In the event of an inadvertent breach, your most sensitive information should be encrypted. This way, unauthorized viewers will not be able to read or transfer the data even if it is leaked.
- Train employees. Once your data is classified, promote awareness regarding data handling rules. Provide training sessions to allow employees to determine which type of data they’re accessing and the proper procedures for handling it.
- Invest in PEAK. Utilize a service or appliance like the PEAK productivity suite that restricts employee access to blacklisted sites and social media, common outlets for sharing sensitive information. Similarly, block employee email accounts from transmitting unauthorized data types with fine-tuned privacy controls.
Need more insight on how to protect your most sensitive data? Avelera has developed the PEAK cloud software package and appliance, designed to not only provide you with the most current data regarding your business but help you safeguard your most crucial information in the background. Contact Avelera today to see what PEAK can do for your business.