Corporate Data Security Policy: What, Why, and How

Corporate Data Security

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Technology plays a huge role in any organization’s data security. But before that first software solution ever gets launched, it’s important to ensure you have a data security policy in place that promotes best practices. Once created, it needs regular review to tweak it for any gaps or changes in business, and to help ensure your technology investments support your overall data security stance for maximum protection of your valuable, sensitive data. 

A solid security policy addresses a host of protocols, from connecting to the organization’s network, to personal devices, identifying, classifying and prioritizing data, and more. Formal guidelines for employees and their technology interactions can go a long way in avoiding costly legal liability, regulatory sanctions, and PR nightmares that can linger long after an initial breach or mishandling of data.  

Why Corporate Data Security Policies Matter 

Keeping data secure throughout its entire lifecycle is the basic end goal of data security. A well-defined data security policy is how you get there.  

Having a policy in place, reviewing, and updating it regularly allows your IT team, security specialists, and employees to all be on the same data security page. A data security policy also provides a way to enforce the rules set in place.  

What is a Corporate Data Security Policy? 

A documented policy serves as your official guide to all the cybersecurity measures your organization embraces. It should include details on how personally identifiable information (PII), customer data, your organization’s intellectual property, and any other sensitive data is to be handled.  

And, while a company-wide security policy is beneficial as a basic guideline to follow, it can’t, nor should it, cover every single process in each department. Incorporating flexibility into your policy allows individual departments to create their own specific security policies based on the guidance of the central policy to better tailor precautions to unique needs and processes. It is a balancing act that benefits from regular policy reviews to ensure compliance is adhered to and reinforced.  

What Should a Data Security Policy Cover? 

Most organizations today at bare minimum address the basics: Password creation, warnings about opening suspicious emails, etc. However, a comprehensive data security policy details at both a high level and a specific tactical level, diving into the specifics of how data will be collected, how it will be kept safe, and what is done with data when it is no longer needed. Take time to review your current data security policy (and if you don’t have one; consider this your starting blueprint).  A comprehensive policy should cover both the behavior and processes as well as the technological solutions chosen to help enforce set policies surrounding data. 

People-Centric Data Security Policies 

  • Data Privacy: At its most basic, data privacy is defined as the appropriate use of data. When data is entrusted to an organization it is expected that the data be used only according to the purposes agreed upon. With data privacy and protection laws increasingly more commonplace around the globe, ensuring data privacy through your own organization’s policy can help prevent misuse. This policy should address all of the processes, practices, policies, and technology put in place to help ensure sensitive data is not being inappropriately accessed or used by unauthorized individuals. Your policy should spell out what is acceptable use of the data they encounter. Requiring a signed acceptable use policy can be a strong enforcement tool. 

  • Compliance: Some organizations fall under stringent industry compliance requirements and should include auditing and reporting as part of the data security policy details. Other organizations should also regularly monitor how staff actually complies with the security policies outlined.  

  • Human Error Risks: Automating some repetitive tasks can help take the burden off of your employees so they can focus on bigger picture tasks, and it can also reduce the risks that naturally come with manual, human intervention, clunky or outdated homemade scripts, or even vacation times when the “one person who knows that app” is out of the office. Automating processes such as file transfers, data classification, data loss prevention, digital rights management, and more can all help support your corporate data security policy and help drive consistency across controls throughout your systems. 

  • Security Tools Ease-of-Use: If solutions are installed that are complex and hard to use, you run the risk of employees not adopting them as intended. Dashboard-style, familiar interfaces and intuitive processes help make for solutions that actually do get used to enhance data security. 

  • Social Networks: Your employees are most likely checking out Instagram, Twitter, and other social network sites during work hours. Unfortunately, there is risk in each of them, with malicious links and more a click away. Your data security policy should include your organization’s explicit policy on the use of social networks on company time or equipment.   

  • Incident Response: As great as your data security policy may be, there will inevitably be incidents that need to be addressed as the sophistication of cyber threats continue to increase. Follow-up and mitigation processes should also be defined in your written policy. It’s important to document how an incident is evaluated and reported as well as the measures that will be taken to solve the problems which lead up to the issue to reduce the chance of a similar incident occurring.  

Bringing awareness of the risk of these platforms to end users, as well as helping them with protective tools is an important element in any data security policy. Depending on  technology alone to solve this challenge is not as effective as the combination of awareness supported by technology. 

Technology-Centric Data Security Policies 

  • Cloud Security: Take a look at the cloud-based applications you’re using, including those uber-popular ones like Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and more. Easy-to-use applications are great for collaboration but are not without risk. If data is being exchanged via the cloud, consider incorporating cloud integrations or connectors for added security.  

  • System Security: Servers, firewalls, routers and other physical assets are an integral part of most data security policies. It's important to spell out exactly how back up and configurations are to be conducted should a server crash or be otherwise compromised. 

  • Encryption: Ensuring the information you exchange is encrypted not only supports your data security policy, but it also helps organizations that need to meet industry compliance requirements avoid substantial fines. Encryption adds a layer of data protection across any device used to help keep data locked down at rest and in motion by making information unreadable to unauthorized parties either during transmission or when stored on a system. Only authorized users can view the data with the provided keys (symmetric or asymmetric). Ensure that your policy for transferring files incorporates strong encryption methodology for seamless integration with your other business technology solutions. 

  • Your File Transfer Method: Exchanging files within and outside your organization is a prime area of consideration for cybersecurity. A file transfer solution, like secure managed file transfer (MFT), can protect files both while in motion and at rest. Automation functionality and a centralized, enterprise-level approach makes streamlined data exchange mesh with your corporate data security policy and can aid in auditing and reporting requirements. MFT can also help ensure that the sharing of files is only available during the period it is intended for and then removed. 

  • Data Classification: Not all data has the same level of sensitivity. Your corporate data security policy should define the various data exchanged and how it should be classified and handled. When data is classified, your data security policy can better spell out for employees how they should handle each type of data, what data they can exchange, and whether it can be transferred within or outside of the organization. A data classification solution can automate this process to provide alerts to employees as they encounter various types of data so it can be handled according to policy. 

  • Email Security: With the ease and convenience of email for conducting business each day, inbound spear phishing, cyberattacks, malicious email threats, and more abound. Email security solutions can stop compromising tactics and account takeover attacks in their tracks. Email authentication can add protection against email spoofs masquerading and potentially ruining your organization’s reputation. 

  • Access to Data: Securing, tracking, auditing, and removing access to your organization’s sensitive data should an individual leave the organization needs to be addressed in your official policy as well. This can be handled automatically through a digital rights management solution to help protect your organization’s most valuable assets wherever they might travel.  

There is no singular solution to data security. Rather, data security depends upon layers of security measures that work together for the end goal – ensuring data is kept private and secure end-to-end. It is critical that the technology you select can help apply your policies across the various security protections you’ve selected. 

Once you’ve set your data security policy in place and reinforced it with employees, you can support your policy with an integrated, robust data security suite, such as the one developed by HelpSystems.  

Best Practices for Safe Data Sharing

This eBook digs into best practices for securing and protecting confidential information. We also cover common use cases where information is exploited, security gaps you may face in your technology stack, and how to take a layered approach to data security.