Data privacy laws vary across countries and regions, creating opportunities and challenges for organizations. So, how can they ensure their data privacy framework is up to date and compliant with the current industry standards?
According to the IT Governance List of Data Breaches and Cyber Attacks in 2023, there were 5,951,612,884 breached records and 1,404 data breach incidents in 2023. This rising number of data breaches necessitates the enforcement of best data privacy practices and enhance the existing ones to secure critical data.
While data is the most valuable asset, it is no surprise that data breaches are continuously occurring. Regulations like GDPR have been enforced to ensure how companies gather and handle data.
As per a recent report by IBM Security, “Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023,”
- Organizations with a high level of noncompliance with regulations showed an average cost of USD 5.05 million.
- This exceeded the average cost of a data breach by USD 560,000, a difference of 12.6%.
- There was a difference of USD 1.04 million or 23% between high levels and low levels of noncompliance with regulations.
An ever-evolving matrix of regulations and stiff penalties for noncompliance compounds the cost and risk of these data breaches. Although data protection regulations prioritize safeguarding individuals’ data, companies must have to reassess their data security and privacy approach.
A solid data privacy and compliance framework sets the foundation for a safe work environment, streamlined business workflow, and cost-efficient business strategy. Moreover, adoption of a global data privacy framework will help manage the data and assets more effectively and ethically.
Here’s how firms can boost their data privacy practices.
Review Data Protection Strategies
By implementing solid security protocols and reviewing data protection strategies, firms can understand where their vulnerabilities lie and how to protect them.
Here are a few ways to do it.
Limit Data Access and Establish Data Approval Layers
The more people with access to data, the greater the risk of data breaches or theft. Hence, restricting data access can help identify and isolate the source of any data leaks easily. At the same time, it is recommended to carefully review and approve data access, with sign-off from senior personnel.
Encrypt the Data and Establish a Data Usage Policy
To prevent data theft, it is essential to encrypt critical data. One way to do this is by converting the content from plaintext to ciphertext. This makes data virtually unusable even if it is stolen.
However, having a data protection policy is not enough if the workforce is not fully aware of the chain of command or how to properly access data. Firms must create a clear policy with guidelines and effectively communicate it to all employees.
By doing so, they can ensure that everyone knows their responsibilities and can help prevent data breaches.
Dispose Irrelevant or Old Data
Dispose old or irrelevant data that is no longer necessary for the core tasks. Keeping such data around can increase the risk of cyber-attacks and theft.
Therefore, it is crucial to regularly review the data and delete old data. This will help firms remain compliant with data privacy regulations.
Revaluate Zero-Trust Architecture and Access Controls
As per a recent report by Fortinet, “2023 State of Zero Trust Report,”
- In 2023, only 28% reported having a complete zero-trust solution in place.
- Two of the most significant barriers are that 16% of firms complain that insufficient information is available to select a zero-trust solution.
- 24% cite the lack of qualified vendors able to provide a complete solution, requiring them to cobble something together on their own.
- Only 4% cited a lack of human resources.
The zero-trust approach aims to minimize the level of trust in a digital infrastructure. It does so by requiring users to verify their identity frequently. This approach is particularly relevant for firms that vast amounts of data.
The zero-trust framework monitors four critical areas within the system to ensure its security.
Zero-trust is an approach that prioritizes continuous verification of users and their activities. The main objective of this approach is to ensure that users are who they claim to be and that specific assets and resources are protected from unauthorized users
The zero-trust approach classifies the data based on specific organizational and regulatory guidelines. These controls can help restrict access and availability of data to non-authorized users.
As remote work becomes the norm, organizations must ensure that their employees’ devices, whether at home or in the office, are secure. The zero-trust approach requires authentication of every device involved in business processes.
For large firms, keeping track of network traffic manually can be challenging. The zero-trust approach requires the right tools and technologies to enable automatic monitoring of network traffic.
As per a recent report by Asis, “2023 Access Control Research Project,” 93% of respondents reported that access control was an explicit part of their organization’s broader risk management or security plan.
It is essential to ensure that the digital data environments are well-protected. This requires excellent internal data integrity, management practices, and compliance with relevant regulations.
Access control is a crucial aspect of a secure data environment. It involves implementing specific controls that determine who is authorized to access information and in what capacity. Each employee in the system should have access controls that define how, when, and to what degree they can use and access data.
Beware of Phishing/Vishing/Smishing Attempts
As per a recent report by Zimperium, “2023 Global Mobile Threat Report,”
- 80% of phishing sites now either specifically target mobile devices or are built to function on both mobile devices and desktops.
- The average user is 6-10 times more likely to fall for an SMS phishing attack than an email-based one.
Hackers use phishing emails to trick individuals into clicking on a suspect link or downloading a malicious file to steal their data and install malware on their devices. In addition to emails, hackers also use SMS and voice messages to deceive people into giving away their personal information.
Hence, it is crucial to be cautious when receiving emails from unknown senders. Avoid opening emails from unfamiliar sources and contact them via phone if the sender seems illegitimate. Do not click the links in unsolicited emails or respond to emails asking for personal or confidential information.
Employees must also report the phishing scam to the IT department, IT provider, or another governing body when encountered. This will help prevent the hacker from scamming other users.
Also Read: Data Protection Trends to Know in 2024
How Firms Can Keep Up Their Data Privacy Framework with Industry Standards
Analyze the Data
Assess the Current Level of Compliance
Assess the current level of compliance with industry standards and regulations. Check the existing laws and frameworks that govern the present data privacy practices, such as
- The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
Furthermore, consider the best practices and benchmarks adopted by the competitors in the industry. This includes-
- ISO 27001
- The NIST Privacy Framework
- The Privacy by Design principles
Define the Objectives
The metrics and indicators include the-
- number of data breaches
- rate of customer satisfaction
- level of employee awareness.
Constantly communicate the objectives and goals to the stakeholders and seek their feedback and input.
Create the Policy
Implement and Review the Policy
Lastly, review the policy regularly by collecting and analyzing the data from the feedback and metrics. Then, check for new laws or technology trends. This makes it easy to update and revise the policies and remain relevant to the needs and expectations.
How Can Firms Continually Improve Their Privacy Compliance Framework?
Understand the Contractual Obligations in Data Sharing the Laws
Effective privacy compliance is not limited to the firms alone. When exchanging data with other companies, the privacy obligations become intertwined. Hence, it is crucial to set tightly regulated contractual connections that define the rights and obligations of all involved parties.
Ensure the In-house Experts Are Aware of the Privacy Compliance Issues
Firms must ensure that the in house experts are familiar with the global privacy compliance laws and the regulatory landscape. Privacy impact assessments, document retention policies, and information governance require expertise. Hence, always include privacy compliance considerations when contracting with other firms.
Do Not Disregard the Privacy Issues During Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A)
When a company is acquired, data becomes one of the most crucial assets. But, proper management and data controls are often overlooked during deals.
Poor data management can have worse legal consequences, especially when it comes to mismanaged personally identifiable information (PII). Hence, during M&A transactions, a systematic transfer and transition process for data assets must be in place.
Integrate “Privacy by Design” into the Compliance Activities and Information Governance (IG) Program
Regulatory bodies are heavily promoting the concept of “privacy by design” to manage processes and technologies that deal with personal data. This is seen as a vital path forward in privacy compliance. It is important to note that privacy by design affects everything from policies and procedures to contracts and IT system configurations.
Privacy is a crucial element in an IG program. A sound IG program is essential for complying with environmental regulations, tax laws, labor laws, and more. Therefore, privacy is now a component that firms must integrate into their IG plans to comply with all of these legal domains.
The rising number of data breaches highlights the importance of implementing robust data privacy practices. Firms must limit data access, encrypt data, and establish data usage policies to protect sensitive information.
It is also essential to dispose of irrelevant or old data and revaluate zero-trust architecture and access controls to ensure the security of digital infrastructures. By following these best practices, firms can mitigate the risk of cyber threats and protect their sensitive data from unauthorized access and theft.
As per a recent report by Cisco, “Cisco 2024 Data Privacy Benchmark Study,”
- 91% of organizations say they need to be doing more to reassure customers about how their data is being used with AI.
- 92% see GenAI as fundamentally different, requiring new techniques to manage data and risks.
- 69% are concerned GenAI could hurt company’s legal rights and intellectual property.
- 94% of organizations say their customers won’t buy from them if data is not properly protected.
Overall, the future of data privacy will be shaped by technological advancements, changing consumer mindset, and evolving regulatory frameworks. As such, it is essential that individuals and organizations stay informed about these data privacy practices and take proactive steps to protect their data.