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Seven Steps to Optimizing Data Security

Technology has become a necessary part of every business, but it also brings along the threat of security risks, data breaches and leaks if not correctly managed. Organizations of every size and industry can be susceptible to a data security breach due to an absentminded employee, outdated or unprotected equipment or even old paperwork that wasn’t destroyed properly.

With this increase in data breaches, failure to comply with privacy control regulations can result in serious fines and penalties. For example, non-compliance penalties under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Omnibus Rule can reach up to $1.5 million per violation. In addition to state and federal regulations, there are other industry-specific regulations to be aware of, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA).

Making data security a priority will help protect your company and customers against potential breaches and avoid the risk of non-compliance. Data security plans should be tailored to fit each company individually, but the following are seven general steps that should always be taken as a precaution:

  1. Shred anything confidential: Outsourcing your shredding can offer many benefits, such as increased security, time and cost savings, reduced risk, convenience, and peace of mind. Many document destruction providers appear too similar on the surface but vary drastically when you dig deeper. Always verify third party audits such as SOC 2 and employee hiring practices to ensure your data isn’t compromised by using a low-cost provider.
  2. Train your team: Do more than just talk to your team about the importance of data security. Make data security and compliance a part of your culture by establishing a routine of training on legally vetted courses and content. Adults learn in many different ways so make sure your training is engaging with quizzes, videos, news clips and even games. By using an online training service you not only can easily nurture a compliance culture but you get the benefit of automatic record keeping.
  3. Destroy all hard drives: Simply erasing data from discarded hard drives does not guarantee that data is inaccessible. Take the time to destroy hard drives before discarding them. Utilize a data destruction vendor that safely and efficiently destroys computer hard drives on-site at your facility through a compliant recycling process, eliminating risks of data breaches and helping organizations stay compliant with state and federal disposal laws.
  4. Know who has access: Selectively control and manage access to your data. Terminate computer privileges—including e-mail, remote logins or Web-based services—as soon as someone leaves the company. Keep an eye on your physical location with security cameras. Also, don’t forget about contractors and vendors who also have access to your data. Verify what audits, background checks, and policies and procedures your vendor follows. They must adhere to the same protocols as your own employees.
  5. Update your software: Computers without the latest security patches and software are prime targets for hackers and malware viruses. Make sure that every computer regularly receives software updates and antivirus protection.
  6. Back it up: If data is accidentally or maliciously deleted, a complete and current backup can save the day—and your business. Multiple encrypted backups—at least one on-site and one off-site—are best. Regularly monitor and test your backups to make sure that they’re ready when you need them.
  7. Secure your network: A secure network begins with a properly installed and configured firewall that protects you from the outside world. Keep non-authorized users from gaining access by using passwords and encryption. Consider content-filtering software to prevent employees from visiting malicious sites.

Whether they’re accidental or due to malicious activity, data security breaches happen. Fortunately, by being proactive about data security, you can greatly diminish this threat to your company and customers. Plan ahead, train employees and take all necessary precautions to keep confidential information from getting into the wrong hands.