Protecting important business information and systems along with customer data is vital in the digital world organisations operate in today.
It is equally important to protect the personal and sensitive information of employees, as the same heavy penalties can apply if this data is breached, stolen, or misused.
Every company should treat data protection seriously and adopt methods to ensure business, customer, and employee data is also secured from intrusion and theft. Here are some of the ways that you can ensure staff information does not fall into the wrong hands:
Adopt Strong Password Policies
Ensuring there is secure password sharing across your organisation is the first critical step in protecting employee data. This is vital when you consider that over 80 percent of hacking-related breaches occur because of stolen or weak passwords.
When a cybercriminal gains access to your business network, shared passwords make it easier for them to access more important information including employee data. For example, if one employee has a simple Word or Google Doc file containing many passwords, it could turn a minor breach into an enormous security issue for the entire company.
Strong password management is essential in the first instance. Each password in a company should contain at least 14 characters including letters, numbers, and symbols. They should also be periodically changed.
When it comes to shared passwords, they should not be sent via email or messaging platforms. Instead, secure password-sharing software should be used to ensure these vital login details do not fall into the wrong hands.
Get a Handle on Your Sensitive Data
Understanding what information you have is the first step to effectively protecting it. You must be aware of not only where sensitive data is stored, but also what exact information you have on each employee, current and former.
The amount of data the businesses are producing and holding is growing exponentially every year. According to a recent report published by International Data Corp. (IDC), the world’s collective data will increase by 61 percent annually over the next few years, reaching 175 zettabytes by 2025.
In addition, your data is now stored on a wider range of devices than ever before, whether it’s a cloud service, mobile device, local machine, or company network.
Using data identification software, you can also scan your system for any sensitive data that you have forgotten, lost, or misplaced in addition to reorganising your files.
Make Data Available Only to Those Who Need It
It is not necessary for an employee to know any information HR has about another employee. The responsibility of maintaining confidentiality falls on management as the keeper of sensitive information. Unless a specific business requirement requires it, even HR staff do not require access to certain employees’ files.
By limiting access to employee data to only those who have a direct business purpose for viewing it, you are reducing the possibility of this information being misused, leaked or stolen.
Use Data Encryption
Data encryption protects the confidentiality of digital data while it is stored on computers and transmitted via the internet or other computer networks. Today’s IT systems and communications should be protected by modern encryption algorithms that have replaced the outdated data encryption standard (DES).
Authentication, integrity, and non-repudiation are some of the key security initiatives provided by these algorithms. Authentication confirms the source of a message, and integrity ensures the message’s contents have not been altered since it was sent.
Identify and Develop Formal Policies and Procedures
Specify the type and method of protection of sensitive information in a formal data security policy. Instruct employees to immediately inform you of any unauthorised access to protected information if they suspect it has occurred.
Collect employee data only for legitimate business purposes. In addition, indicate that unauthorised copies, transmissions, viewings or uses of sensitive employee information will result in discipline, including termination.
Ensure That Records Are Disposed of Properly
Employee records must be disposed of so that they cannot be read or reconstructed, generally, at the end of the retention period. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Records can be destroyed, shredded, or burned so they can’t be reconstructed or read
- Destroying or removing electronic media that contain employee information.
- The records can be properly disposed of by a reputable third party vendor in accordance with federal regulations.
Training Should Be Provided
Educate employees and supervisors about your organisation’s data security policies. It is also important that employees who have access to sensitive information be trained on how the organisation prevents unauthorised access to confidential information responds to security breaches, and disposes of employee records in a secure manner. Identity thieves and hackers also use social engineering and phishing to gain access to sensitive information, which should be covered during the training.