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General Data Protection Regulation

Here you can find the official content of the Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (General Data Protection Regulation) in the current version. All Articles of the GDPR are linked with suitable recitals.

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8 Ways To Improve Data Security and Data Compliance

how to improve data security and data compliance

Data has become one of the most valuable business assets within the modern digital landscape, so it is no surprise that data breaches are occurring cross-industry.

Regulations such as GDPR and US-based laws have been set in motion to ensure how companies collect and handle personal data. Hence, the users and consumers are as safe as possible regarding data breaches, thefts, misuse, etc.

Although these regulations prioritize the protection of individuals, they have a significant side-effect as they force companies to re-evaluate how they treat or have treated data security and data privacy in the past.

[RELATED TOPIC: Data Privacy vs. Data Security- definitions and comparisons]

Some companies have data privacy policies and a team of lawyers and tech experts to avoid facing fines, penalties, and unwanted attention. 

However, there is more to compliance than just focusing on current regulations and meeting the bare minimum requirement to avoid legal consequences.

A proper approach to data security and data compliance also lays the groundwork for a safe work environment, improved business workflow, and the overall cost-efficiency of your business strategy.

[RELATED TOPIC: Why are companies investing in privacy & GDPR compliance]

That said, let’s go over some of the basic yet often overlooked steps toward reaching optimal data security and compliance levels. 

1. Educate Your Employees 

Most companies spend big chunks of their security budget on legal teams and high-end firewall technologies.

Although those are essential for safely running a modern company, the number of data breaches in the past few years shows that additional measures need to be taken. 

The approach to data security needs to be multifaceted instead of simplistic and single-sided.

No matter how much money is being spent on this issue, it can go to waste if you do not bridge all the security-based gaps your organization may have.

The first step toward this is educating your staff about the importance of data security and compliance. 

It is impossible to fully implement your data protection policies or resolve privacy and compliance issues if your staff is not properly educated.

Every employee needs to be aware that a compliance failure could have a devastating domino effect on the entire company. 

Without effective training and adopting a security and compliance-focused mindset across all your teams and departments, all your prior investments and efforts may prove futile.

[GDPR training & awareness: Promoting privacy within the organization]

2. Limit Employee Access To What Is Necessary 

Naturally, a work environment based on trust and mutual respect is crucial. However, we mustn’t forget that we are human, and to err is human.

Most inside data breaches come from human error, so it’s important to know who has access to which type of data.

Always be mindful of which staff members need access to sensitive data, as well as who should monitor and manage that access.

Your employees should only have access to essential data for their everyday tasks. The fewer employees have access to personal data, the lower the risk of errors and potential data breaches.

3. Be Prepared For Potential Audits

Even if you think your company is completely compliant, auditor visits could take quite a toll on a business.

This process is often time-consuming, and the amount of resources needed to pull together all the records the auditor needs is not to be taken for granted.

Implementing a privacy solution can help you keep everything documented and in one place.

Such audits can cause both short and long-term disruptions to your work environment. This is why you should always be prepared for potential compliance audits.  

4. Improve Your Email Security And Compliance

When we consider that email is still the main source of communication within most modern businesses, it is alarming to see how many of those businesses neglect sensitive data transfer via different email platforms.

The importance of email security can not be stressed enough as these platforms tend to hold data and information on personal data, sensitive business secrets, strategies, confidential client information, and so on.

Leaking these data sets could be devastating, especially if a certain extremely sensitive data gets used for malicious purposes. 

This is why encrypting your emails is important; by doing so, you are not allowing users outside of your network to view or tamper with your emails. 

Using a reliable email archiving solution and strong email retention policies not only saves you a lot of time while dealing with a surprise audit, but it can also help you be more compliant with current regulations, as well as help you with data storage optimization since not all email-based data needs to be stored for longer periods of time.

5. Be Prepared For Data Subject Requests

Some of the most important rights granted by the GDPR are the individual’s right to see what personal data about them is being used and stored and ask for the data to be deleted, rectified, or transferred

Additionally, the individual has the right to obtain this information easily and within a short period of time.

[RELATED TOPIC: What is Data Subject Access Request (DSAR)?]

Your company is expected to respond to these requests within a month after the request has been made.

Depending on the request, you’ll need to provide data subjects with the following:

  • Whether or not their personal data is being processed
  • Why is it being processed
  • Which types of data you’re processing
  • Whether there is any automated processing in place for the data processing
  • Whether anyone else is getting a copy of that data
  • How long you’re planning to store their data
  • What the source of the data is in case you didn’t get it from the customer
  • Correct or erase the data you have on the request of the data subject

Most of the time, you will be expected to respond to these requests free of charge.

However, if the data is overly complicated or repetitive, you might be allowed to charge a fee or take longer than the usual one month, but it is not recommended unless you have documented reasons behind your decision. 

Counting on these benefits when developing your response procedure is not recommended. The best approach is the automation of the data subject requests

6. Use Compliance Automation 

The rules, regulations, and laws regarding compliance can be quite complicated. This is why ensuring full compliance can be challenging, especially if you do everything manually.

Making sure you or your staff know each aspect of these convoluted laws and regulations  – and paying close attention to them while working on your daily tasks, can be very inefficient and time-consuming.

No employee can have data security and compliance in mind whenever he or she sends an email or uses any other communication channel. As we already mentioned, it is human nature to make mistakes. 

This is where automating processes, eliminating human error, and streamlining compliance and data retrieval can alleviate stress during business communication, regardless of the channels used. 

7. Make Sure To Protect Both Your Software And Your Hardware

Modern data privacy laws and regulations assign almost all responsibility and the burden of protecting sensitive user data to the companies themselves.

This leads to businesses having to tighten up their security and compliance policies and strategies in terms of both – the very process of data collection and the hardware where this data is being stored.

It is now quite clear that almost all businesses are susceptible to breaches, which is why all companies must ensure that the sensitive information they are storing is safe from harm and protected as much as possible.

Think strong passwords (and no password sharing or re-use), anti-malware software, encryption, firewalls, third-party security products, etc. Regarding cybersecurity attacks, it is pretty much all hands on deck.

On the other hand, software-based protection for cyber threat prevention is not the only security layer you need to worry about. Be sure also to keep your hardware secured.

Hardware damage, power outages, physical data theft, or any device failure can all result in sensitive data loss. 

[RELATED TOPIC: How To Improve Password Security In The Workplace]

8. Always Know Where (All) Your Data Lives

Businesses often forget that “data” accounts for both their own in-house data and the data generated by third-party software they are using.

Making sure your in-house data is safely stored is rather easy. You simply opt for a cloud storage solution that suits your needs and budget, and you’re all good to go. 

In reality, this data management ecosystem is much more complex, especially regarding compliance issues.

Most data compliance laws and regulations depend on where data is located and hosted, who can access it, and how it is transferred from one server to another – which often means going across national borders

This needs to be taken seriously while choosing your cloud provider, especially if your business handles consumer data and your own and processes EU citizens’ data.

Summary 

Data security and compliance are definitely not the most fun aspects of running a successful business, but these issues are never something to be taken lightly.

Regardless of how up-to-date you are with compliance and data protection trends and standards, testing your system and re-evaluating your approach to these issues is always a good idea. 

Bio: Damian is a business consultant and a freelance blogger from New York. He writes about the latest tech solutions and marketing insights. Follow him on Twitter for more articles.

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