The process of securing an organization against a data breach can be dizzying, if not impossible. There are any number of ways that a cybercriminal can get into a network—never mind the thought of an internal hack or accidental sharing of sensitive data. Should you build up a stronger perimeter, double-down on encryption, invest in business-user training to instill proper data management? The questions are seemingly endless, and being able to answer them all correctly is highly stressful. However, much of that complexity can be vastly reduced. This isn’t to say it’s easy, but by taking a few very critical strategies into consideration, preparing your company against data exposure can be more straightforward and effective.
- Accept the inevitable. You will be breached eventually. There, we said it. It’s the elephant in the room. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that you cannot build a wall high enough to keep intruders at the gate. Once that reality is accepted, you can realistically move forward to institute policies and solutions that minimize the risk of a breach and shrink the associated damage once it happens.
- Know your data. Breached organizations are very often surprised by the data that’s uncovered. Documents containing SSNs, credit/debit card numbers, home addresses, etc., often live in unseen, yet unprotected areas. Documents that are no longer legally necessary to store (and lots of them) are taken. Have a clear understanding of all the data in your possession and create strict retention and deletion schedules to ensure the smallest possible data footprint at all times. The less there is, the less that can be exposed.
- Customize your solution approach. Whatever tools you utilize to minimize your chances of sensitive data exposure, make certain you understand every aspect of how your data is created, classified, saved, stored, retrieved, etc. Armed with that information, the selection and areas of focus for data security solutions become a lot less complicated. Additionally, it is critical that the solutions you choose are compatible with other existing tools in your information security arsenal.
- Have a response plan in place. A worst case scenario requires a planned reaction. Data breaches will put your organization in a tough spot with customers, regulatory agencies and, depending on the size of the breach and types of data leaked, the media. A key part of that response is knowing exactly what data has been taken. An “I don’t know” will exacerbate the reputational damage associated with the incident.
There’s no easy way through a data breach. Sadly, such incidents are no longer avoidable throughout the totality of an organization’s existence. However, with the proper mindset, organizational insight and planning, an easier-to-implement plan to protect sensitive data can be achieved.