All data that your business collects, handles, or stores that relates to an identifiable individual needs to be properly protected. From financial information and payment details to contact information for your staff, to customer details and transactions, protecting personal data is not just a legal necessity, but it's crucial to protecting and maintaining your business.


Data Privacy vs. Data Security

When it comes to data security and data privacy we can frequently hear or read these terms being used interchangeably. Although one cannot exist without the other, they are not one and the same.

Data privacy is governance concerned with the proper handling, storing, collecting, deletion, and retention of personal information. Worldwide, countries are coming to the realization that strict guidelines designed to protect personal data privacy are in the best interest of both an organization as well as individuals. In 2012 the state of New York introduced the data protection law Shield Act, but regulations such as NYDFS 500 and HIPAA were also developed with an eye on data privacy.

Data security on the other hand is focused on protecting and securing personal data from unauthorized third-party access or malicious attacks and exploitation of data. It is set up to protect personal data by using different methods and techniques to ensure data privacy.

An example of the difference between the two would occur when using Google Email. If you are using a Google email account, your password would be a method of data security, while the way Google is allowed to use your data to administer your account, would be data privacy.

The distinction is important, and your company security policies should address both.

Proactive and Preventative Strategies to Protect the Data Entrusted to You

When tackling data privacy concerns, the focus is on making sure your clients know which data you collect, why it is needed, and who you might share it with. Transparency is key as your clients should be offered a choice as to what information they are okay sharing before you are allowed to collect and handle the personal information they entrust to you.

Once collected, data security measures can help ensure that the personal identification in the collected data is protected.

Understanding 8 Key Elements of a Data Security Policy

The first step in addressing data privacy and security is to identify and classify what information you collect and where the files that contain personal information are stored. Not all PII is the same. First name, last name information can be considered public knowledge and does not need the same level of security as financial and medical information.

The next step would be assessing which security measures to implement. Many business owners forget about the human element in data protection. They don’t think beyond technical safeguards, such as anti-virus/malware software, firewalls, encryption, etc. However, implementing administrative safeguards, policies & procedures outlining data privacy and security, is just as important and adds a crucial layer of protection to your security stack.

This blog post covers 8 elements your data security policies should include to help protect the privacy of the data entrusted to you:

  • Safeguard Data Privacy: Employees must understand that your privacy policy is a pledge to your customers that you will protect their information. Data should only be used in ways that will keep customer identity and the confidentiality of information secure. Of course, your employees and organizations must conform to all applicable laws and regulations.
  • Password Management: According to the 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, over 80 percent of data breaches due to hacking are password-related. It is vital that you implement a strong password management policy for all users who have access to your company’s resources. Doing so will mitigate your risks dramatically. The policy should state the importance of updating passwords when needed, how to manage and secure passwords, and the implications of not adhering to the policies and procedures.
  • Internet Usage: Businesses today rely heavily on the internet for their day-to-day operations, which makes them vulnerable to specific security risks. To limit risk exposure, it’s important to have an internet usage policy to guide your employees on how to securely access the worldwide web. Your employees should be made aware that browsing restricted sites and downloading unnecessary files are prohibited and failing to adhere to these rules can be detrimental.
  • Email Usage: In the 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 94 percent of malware was delivered through email. A carefully outlined email policy will protect your employees and organizations from threats related to malicious emails. Training programs on email etiquette will ensure corporate emails are responsibly used and confidential client-related information is secured and protected.
  • Social Media: All users of social media need to be aware of the risks associated with social media networking. A strong social media policy is crucial for any business that seeks to use social networking to promote its activities and communicate with its customers. Active governance can help ensure employees speak within the parameters set by their company and follow data privacy best practices.
  • Company-Owned and Personal Employee Devices: The sudden shift to remote working has dramatically increased the level of security risks. As personal employee devices are often used for both recreational and business purposes, they become difficult to monitor, control, and secure. By outlining a comprehensive information security policy that includes such things as using up-to-date software, connecting to the network through a secure VPN, and immediately reporting if the device is lost or stolen, you can minimize your risks of something bad happening to your network.
  • Software User Agreements: Every software user should comply with the end-user license agreement. Breaching this agreement could result in lawsuits and fines. A software user agreement policy will ensure that your employees are only using software applications that are legal and approved by your company.
  • Reporting Security Breaches: A security incident can occur when you least expect it. Data breaches and attempted scams (phishing emails) should be immediately reported to minimize negative impact and prevent further attacks. A data breach policy will guide your employees on what actions need to be taken to manage data breaches. It will also ensure your employees follow appropriate procedures while reporting such incidents.

Despite the growing number of data breaches, many small and midsized businesses do not have well-established data security policies. Unfortunately, the lack of a solid data security program opens the door to a wide variety of risks, such as data theft, data tampering, and unauthorized access to sensitive information.

To find out how you can secure your data and stay compliant with regulations, contact Meeting Tree Computer now. Meeting Tree Computer is a complete technology solution provider and the leading IT Support and Managed Service Provider for businesses in the Hudson Valley area. We're located in Orange County, NY, but service all the surrounding areas, including Westchester, Rockland, Ulster, and Sullivan County.

Learn more about Meeting Tree Computer here!