Data is at the heart of every business, helping your team do their jobs effectively every single day. The data you might be responsible for can include PII (Personal Identifiable Information), sensitive customer information or healthcare data. But how do you make sure you can keep that data safe?
Having a data security strategy in place can be just what you need.
A data security strategy helps to protect your data and stops it getting into the wrong hands or being exposed through leaks or data breaches. It works by reducing the risks to your business, rather than completely eliminating them. After all, who can say where the next data breach is coming from?
While a data security strategy can’t help you control the security crises that may hit your business, it can help you control the data you have access to and minimise the damage to your organisation, in the event of a data leak or breach.
First and foremost, a data security strategy brings you peace of mind, knowing that you are doing everything you can to minimise the risks to your business. In doing so, you’re protecting your company from potential financial losses and reputational damage too.
Having this strategy in place also provides the entire team with the knowledge they need to keep data safe within the business. Plus, it can help the security team have more visibility and control over sensitive data that may be shared daily between their colleagues.
It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to data security, as the amount of sensitive data you’re working with can be overwhelming. But when you begin to implement your strategy, your first step in the process should always be:
Understanding what you’re currently doing (with your data security posture) to look after your sensitive data can help you gain clarity on what it is you’re working with.
For instance, do you know where your sensitive data is living? Is it shared freely among colleagues on Slack or Google Drive? And how are you currently protecting it across all of these locations, whether it’s in the cloud or on-premise?
It’s also a good idea at this point to understand your duties as a business under regulations like GDPR, and the level of security you’ll need for the types of data you hold. Even if you’re not bound by specific laws, you still have a duty to your customers to secure their data. Playing too fast and loose with their data could result in you losing their trust which could diminish your business.
Once you have an understanding of where you’re starting from, you should determine a goal that will help to define your strategy.
Your primary focus should be on the most high-risk areas of your business. Are you concerned about data being shared with external parties, for example? Or is it more that you need to focus on your data retention policies to comply with GDPR?
Having a set goal in mind can bring some clarity to your situation and remind you why you need a data security strategy in the first instance. It can also help you to prioritise the critical risks to your business.
Head of Product at Metomic, Sheree Buller Lim, says: ‘A data security tool can help your team to control sensitive data quickly and easily. But you should find a tool that works for everyone, and does what you need it to do effectively.
Look out for false positives/negatives that can waste your team’s time and cause unnecessary stress. You should also agree on a tool that doesn’t flood your team’s dashboard with alerts, but highlights the risks that matter to them.
It’s key that you invest in a data security tool that supports the team, rather than works against them. Make sure you do your due diligence and ask for a free trial (we offer a free risk review) first so you can understand how the product works.’
You don’t want to overwhelm your team so automating your processes as much as possible is key. A great data security software an help give you peace of mind that sensitive data is being detected around the clock, while also saving you time and resources in the long run.
Setting up automatic retention or redaction rules can help make everyone’s jobs a lot easier. Choose the processes you should automate vs the ones that require a professional eye to see how you can claw back some time for your team.
Your security team needs to understand their roles when it comes to data security so you know all bases are covered.
Work out who will be responsible for what, particularly if you encounter a troubling event such as a cyberattack. A strong data security strategy will lay out your crisis plan, as well as what you’ll need to be doing daily to prevent data being leaked or breached.
The people behind your security team are one of the most important assets to your business. Educating them effectively about data loss prevention will help you produce a human firewall that can fend off any attacks and alert the relevant security heads if they spot something suspicious.
The key to building a security-first culture is engaging them with training. Rather than a one-off training session, your focus should be ongoing, and where possible, included in the context of each individual’s role. Will your finance team remember their annual training session where they were told about the dangers of sharing sensitive data or will it stick with them more if they’re alerted the moment they share a freelancer’s bank details in Slack?
Keep communication lines open too - let everyone know what you’re planning to do next on your data security rollout and how it will impact them.
You’ll also need to think about whether you want to implement a zero-trust strategy, and ensure only the people who need access to sensitive documents are able to see their contents.
The final step is to check in with your strategy regularly to see whether it’s working. In the cybersecurity world, new threats are appearing all the time. It’s not enough to put a data security strategy in place and let it run its course.
You need to monitor and adapt your approach, particularly for emerging threats that you may not have considered before.
There are a couple of common misconceptions when it comes to creating your data security strategy.
The first is that it has to be an all or nothing approach from the very beginning. That’s simply not true. You can start taking small steps towards data security like taking a look at access controls without implementing a zero trust approach or locking down documents across the business.
Secondly, a data security strategy doesn’t have to halt productivity. You can implement it in such a way that everyone is aware of what’s happening. For instance, choosing a data security tool that prioritises the risks that matter can help you reduce alert fatigue so your team aren’t bombarded with security notifications all day long.
A data security strategy Metomic can automate your processes and show you the most critical risks to your business, focusing on the risks that matter to you.
With a built-in dashboard, you can quickly see:
- Your most critical files and assets
- Who has access to files containing sensitive information
- Where sensitive data is stored
- If any sensitive data is publicly available
- Who is sharing sensitive data regularly
- Plus lots more
You can then set up automatic rules to minimise sensitive data being shared freely in the future, with retention and redaction policies in place to reduce the risks to your business.
Here are a few more tips to help you protect your sensitive data within your business:
1. Classify your sensitive data. See where your data lives and categorise it so you can understand what types of sensitive data you’re storing.
2. Encrypt your data so if hackers get into it, they still won’t be able to decipher it.
3. Keep on top of software updates to address any vulnerabilities that might need fixing.
4. Automate where you can to free up your time and help you focus on other issues that might need your attention.
5. Measure effectively. Decide the key cybersecurity metrics you’ll focus on and consistently measure against them to see whether your data security strategy is working.
To see how we’ve helped Zego manage their data security strategy, take a look at our recent case study with their Director of IT, Cary.