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Thought Leadership & Enablement
February 1, 2023

How to Maintain Data Security and Compliance

Ways to ensure data collection is conducted with emphasis on data security and compliance

Jenna Galletti
Content Marketing Specialist

Data is flying around everywhere. All you need to benefit from it is wave the tech equivalent of a big butterfly net, and you'll benefit big time, right?

So wrong. There are many restrictions placed upon businesses in their attempts to glean customer data, which will limit what you can do with that net of yours. However, with the right approach, you can still get hold of some prize specimens while not contravening the rules. Let's see how. Let's start, though, with the key question. 

So, why do you need to bother about data security and compliance?

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

Two huge reasons. 

1. Statutory restraint

Several pieces of legislation will govern what you are able to do when it comes to data collection. One of the biggest is GDPR, which, although European in origin, is legislation that covers any business anywhere that has dealings with customers located in the European Economic Area and the UK. 

There are also instruments in the US that are pertinent here. These include the California Consumer Privacy Act and the United States Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Most of the stateside legislation concerns more specific areas of activity than the GDPR.

However, some of these apparently specific areas can turn out to be more general than you perhaps thought.

For instance, the various edicts from the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) may ostensibly be for government application only, but, if your business is engaged with any work for the government, then it's likely that you're going to be subject to those NIST provisions too. 

What can happen if you're caught breaking these ordinances? From Apple to, if you're found to have leaked data, you'll get a fine that'll drive you bananas. Break the GDPR, and you'll be in line for a penalty of up to 4% of your business's global turnover or 20 million Euros, whichever is greater. Phew! 

Fines for data breaches hit a new high in 2022. How high? On average, $4.35 million per offending company. If that's not enough to make you get busy with tightening up your security standards, try the next reason. 

2. Profile is everything

Free to use image sourced from Pixabay

That average fine we just talked about? That's just the beginning of it. On top of the financial penalty you'd be clobbered with, you have to face the realization that your business will be tainted by the association with wrongdoing for a long time to come. 

The exact amount of loss of income this translates to is hard to quantify, but one thing's for sure, nobody's going to want to choose you over a blemish-free competitor. Unless they have a desperate need to have their personal info splurged across the globe. 

The point is, that the damage a data breach does to a business's reputation is huge, especially in sectors brim-full with sensitive information.

A prominent example is health, an area characterized by a vast amount of personal details. If your company is found to have breached industry standards in this regard, you may find that you're barred from securing any further contracts. The same with a cloud contact center solution, and its access to a mind-boggling array of contact details. 

At the very least, you're going to need to engage in some pretty high-profile changes of tack, to show that what was wrong with the company in the past, has now been sorted out. Otherwise, customer engagement is bound to suffer.

If it turns out to have been human error causing the compliance issues, then some heads are probably going to have to roll. Sadly, them's the breaks. 

Such reorganization in order to meet regulatory standards is usually not cheap. So, all in all, you're looking at a big stack of cash being required to get you back on the regulatory compliance straight and narrow. How can you avoid having to shell out such a pile? Here's how. 

How do you ensure data security and compliance?

1. Understand the terms

Free to use image sourced from Pixabay

It's unsurprising how many get confused when trying to understand compliance requirements. There's a kaleidoscopic of framework in place, and it's very easy to be tripped up. 

You can make your task easier by understanding the basic terms that apply. Chief among these is the term data security. This relates to the safety of data from unauthorized access. It covers the period from the initial harvesting of the data, through to whatever you do with it.

So, that's the complete lifespan of the operation, from collecting, to processing, to storing, and finally to disposal. It's imperative to understand that a company's responsibility lies in protecting the sanctity of this information right the way through all of these stages. 

2. Understand the threats

There are a number of threats that can scupper data security. With so many digital tools making use of private information, such as social media, email sourcing and b2b contact databases, it’s crucial you understand the potential threats associated with these tools and your operations. These threats can be broken down into two general groups.

a) Unauthorized access by accident

This is where confidential data is, through human error or simple lack of foresight when designing the system, opened up to scrutiny from someone other than the legitimate authority. 

b) Unauthorized access by design

This is where a malevolent party is hacking into the system in order to gain access to confidential data. 

3. Understand the nature of your data

Free to use image sourced from Pixabay

Take time to explore the exact nature of the data that you deal with. Just how sensitive is it? It's only by understanding precisely what you're dealing with that you can be sure that your compliance solutions are sufficient to avoid penalties. 

Most businesses will have some sensitive data stored somewhere. Whether you're a circus delivering clown-based entertainment solutions or a comms specialist delivering cloud-based PBX solutions, you'll need to look and see what you're storing. 

If you have enormous amounts of data and you don't fancy devoting the long period of time it will take to go wading through it all, there are tools you can use to automatically identify and flag up elements of sensitive data. 

4. Develop a privacy policy

Take steps to ensure that the data is kept secure at every juncture. What elements should this include?

a) Encryption

This is obviously of key importance, so make sure it's used throughout, to foil unauthorized ingress.

b) Statutory requirements

Many regulatory requirements set out some key points that any privacy policy should deliver. These include the following.

Firstly, when the data is collected, the subject should be told exactly what the purpose is, and offered the opportunity of expressly opting in or out.

Secondly, there should be clear indication of who's responsible for data security in the organization.

Thirdly, data collected should be restricted to what's needed.

Fourthly, there should be efforts made to ensure data accuracy.

Fifthly, data should only be kept for as long as needed.

Sixthly, all data held should be available for access on receipt of subject requests. 

If your policy contains methods by which these points are clearly addressed, then you'll be on the right lines. 

c) Train

Free to use image sourced from Unsplash

Often, the biggest cybersecurity risks reside in a failure by employees to appropriately prioritize data security and compliance. An obvious password or a failure to sign out of the system can have huge consequences for the entire business.

So, employees have to be trained, in order both for them to understand the importance of what they're doing and for you to show that you've devoted effort to ensuring compliance across the board. 

Once they're trained, don't make the mistake of thinking that will do it. Nothing fades like training in the mind of the experienced employee. Everyday methods and shortcuts can supersede the best intentions. Consequently, training needs to be repeated, at all levels, on a regular basis. 

Legislation like the GDPR is very vague on exact policy requirements - as long as data privacy is protected, it's up to the organization how they actually do it. One of the most effective steps in ensuring the primacy of data security is to inculcate a privacy laws culture through training.

Using this kind of compliance posture, everyone in the business is on the same page, and any slips can be spotted and countered straightaway throughout the company, so that you become a proud member of a business with data privacy stamped right through it, from its textbook data acquisition techniques to its video conference security

d) Assess

The thing about compliance policies is that they're only as good as the security they deliver. And here's the one immutable fact about life: everything changes. This means that you need to assess how effective your current compliance features are, in terms of preventing data leaks.

There are various helps available, including this SOC 2 compliance checklist template.

If you spot a weakness in your compliance practices, then you need to address it, quickly, before it has major consequences for your company. Then you need to revisit the assessment regularly. This is because threats change as often as compliance laws, so you must stay agile and on top of your data security and compliance obligations. 

Staying on top of data security and compliance 

So, it's vital to get a handle on your responsibilities regarding data security and compliance when you’re collecting data. You have to prioritise it, as the penalties for not doing so are massive. And then, once you've got things under control, you need to re-visit them so that they stay that way.

That way, you'll be giving your customers what they require: confidence in your business. Which leads to continued custom. What's not to like?

Jenna Galletti
Content Marketing Specialist

Jebbit Grid Decorative
Jebbit Grid Decorative
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