Data has value, and anything valuable is at risk of theft or loss. Some breaches are intentional assaults on your company’s data security; others are inadvertent holes in your security perimeter, lapses from your organization’s own personnel. Whether dealing with external threats or internal risks, maintaining good data security is a must for your customers, their trust in you, and your company’s integrity. Here’s how to prioritize security while retaining the flexibility and mobility technology affords.
Draft a Rapid-Response Plan
Just as you keep important papers and other necessities together in case of an emergency at home, having a quick, effective plan of action to put into effect in the event of a data leak or breach is a must. Some CIOs are reluctant to build a strong plan of action for worst-case scenarios because no one enjoys thinking about the nightmare scenario, but it’s an important part of data security to act quickly. Your plan doesn’t have to be a complicated or difficult; in fact, it’s best if it’s simple enough for everyone involved to take immediate action. A cascading contact list, for example, works best if each person along the line has contact information memorized and can act on it from anywhere.
Know When It’s Good Enough
It’s impossible to create a universal failsafe that covers every contingency. Such a plan would be unnecessarily complex, leading to breakdowns in implementation just when you need everything to work as intended. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good when designing your rapid response plan to a data breach. Speed and efficiency can matter more than thoroughness during the earliest stages of a security lapse, so work on a plan you can implement quickly and completely. Err on the side of caution and make your plan simple to put into action; if you find it was a false alarm, it’s always easier to step back from emergency status than to wait too long to move. Waiting until you’ve already fallen off the edge of the cliff could be too late.
Practice the Plan
When was the last time you went through a fire drill? Most people have never faced an actual fire in their school or workplace, but almost everyone recalls the drills, even if they have to go all the way back to their grammar school days to remember them. There’s a reason why those stick in your memory – they’re meant to be automatic if you should face a genuine emergency. Your data security plan also needs to be drilled so everyone involved knows his or her role in the plan. Through drills, you can also spot inefficiencies in your plan and find ways to eliminate steps or find a more effective solution. Sometimes simple answers are best, so consider making tried and true security measures such as two-factor identification part of your plan.
Monitor In-House Issues First
The majority of your data security concerns won’t be from third-party threats but from in-house lapses. Shadow IT that goes through channels you don’t monitor and secure is a significant source of data leakage for many organizations; bring it into the light with open discussions that discover why your personnel are going outside the organization to find the tech solutions they need and find ways to close data loopholes that can occur with shadow IT. Ensure that everyone in your company knows how to secure passwords and assist them by making regular password changes easy.
Keep Risk in Perspective
Security risks are very real, but they don’t need to be blown out of proportion. The major data breaches some retailers have had are newsworthy not only for their size but their rarity. Catastrophic data loss is not common; most data breaches are small and not directed. Think of it as the difference between being robbed and accidentally dropping a bill from your pocket – one is direct and traumatic, while the other is exasperating; however, both can cost you. Explaining the need for better data security calmly and rationally yields better results than alarmism.
Assess Risks Accurately
Depending on your current data security status, there may be unique avenues for security compromise that don’t exist in others. Your company might be better-protected in certain areas than others in your industry or region. Whatever the case, assessing risk accurately helps you focus on what’s most important for your organization. Not all data is equally attractive or valuable to third-party breaches, and not all in-house security flaws are equally dire. Payroll information and customer credit card data, for example, are highly sensitive, while purchase orders for office supplies may not be as much of a priority.
Minimizing risk doesn’t mean eliminating it entirely, so focus on your rapid response plan and make it as efficient and effective as possible while reducing sources of in-house and third-party risk.