As we continue to witness an unprecedented growth in data usage, with a report by IDC predicting a 61% increase in worldwide data by 2025, the need for secure data handling has never been more critical.
In today’s digital era, safeguarding sensitive information is crucial to prevent cybercriminals from exploiting it for illegal activities. Every employee plays a vital role in maintaining the confidentiality and protection of an organisation’s sensitive data, whether it involves secure storage, processing, or disposal of physical and digital assets.
In this blog, we will explore the importance of data handling, the process of data classification, and the steps to ensure secure data handling within your organisation.
The Importance of Secure Data Handling
Data breaches can have severe consequences for organisations, including financial losses, reputational damage, and potential legal penalties. According to IBM’s 2022 Cost of Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach was $4.45 million. Moreover, the same report revealed that it took an average of 277 days to identify and contain a data breach. These figures highlight the need for robust data security measures to protect your organisation from potential threats.
Data classification is the process of organising and categorising data according to specific criteria. By doing so, it becomes easier to manage and protect sensitive information as different data classifications may demand different levels of security measures.
Data classification can be based on various factors, such as sensitivity, importance, confidentiality, usability, and regulatory requirements. At a minimum, three levels of data classification are needed:
- Public or Unclassified: This information can be freely shared with anyone, without any restriction.
- Internal or Confidential: This information may be sensitive or confidential and should only be accessible to authorised personnel within the organisation.
- Restricted: This information is highly sensitive and requires a high level of protection. Unauthorised access to this information could lead to significant damage to an organisation.
Steps for Secure Data Handling
Sensitive data can be a lucrative target for cybercriminals, posing significant risks to those who create or use it. Here are some critical steps you can take to safeguard your organisation’s sensitive information:
Secure Passwords: Use strong, unique passwords for all your accounts and change them regularly. Avoid using easily guessable passwords or reusing passwords across multiple accounts. A study by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in 2019 found that 23.2 million victim accounts worldwide used ‘123456’ as their password.
Encryption: Use encryption to protect sensitive data, both at rest and during transmission. Encryption converts data into a code to prevent unauthorised access, ensuring that even if a data breach occurs, the stolen data is unreadable.
Regular Backups: Regularly back up your organisation’s data to protect it from potential loss due to hardware failure, accidental deletion, or cyber attacks, such as ransomware. Store backups in a secure, off-site location to ensure they remain safe in the event of a disaster.
Software Updates: Keep your devices and software up to date by installing security patches and updates as they become available. Outdated software can have vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to gain access to your organisation’s systems and data.
Physical Security: Be mindful of physical security risks, such as leaving sensitive documents unattended or allowing unauthorised individuals access to secure areas. Implement policies for secure disposal of sensitive documents and electronic devices.
Incident Reporting: Report any suspicious activities or security incidents to your organisation’s designated security team or IT department. Prompt reporting can help prevent further damage and ensure that appropriate action is taken to mitigate the risks.
In conclusion, secure data handling is crucial in today’s digital landscape. By understanding the importance of data classification and implementing the necessary steps to handle sensitive data securely, organisations can minimise the risk of data breaches, comply with regulations, and maintain their reputation.
With recent research studies highlighting the increasing threat of cyber attacks and data breaches, it is essential for staff to be vigilant and proactive in their approach to secure data handling. By making data security a priority, organisations can protect their valuable information and ensure the continued success and growth of their business.