Protecting data is an arduous task for organizations of all sizes across every industry. Considering that more than 60 percent of small-to-medium businesses fold within six months of experiencing a data breach, the consequences of poor information security are significant.
Whether it’s customer data or proprietary information, businesses need to ensure the right security measures are in place to protect against both cyberattacks and insider threats, while also providing document security without compromising data availability. Unfortunately, there is a lot of conflicting information on information security best practices. So, what is the most effective way to ensure adequate protection?
It starts with formulating an information security policy, which is a uniform set of rules developed and implemented by an organization around the handling and protecting of essential data. These rules apply to all departments, all levels of staff within an organization, and throughout the organizations’ entire IT structure, determining who has access to different types of data, methods of identity authentication, and methods for securing information around the clock. Additionally, an information security policy should outline the ethical and legal responsibilities of an organization and its stakeholders in terms of safeguarding sensitive information.
The foundations of an information security policy can be divided into three different aspects, each equally important in ensuring adequate protection. These foundations are: confidentiality, integrity and availability. Collectively, these are often referred to as the CIA model of information security.
In today’s data-driven world, any piece of company information has value. Whether it’s customer data, financial information, trade secrets or HR documents, every piece of information requires proper confidentiality and protection, which means only authorized stakeholders should have access to sensitive data. A failure to uphold confidentiality can cause serious devastation to businesses, like what happened to Retrieval-Masters Credit Bureau, a large debt collection company with more than $10 million in assets who filed for bankruptcy after a healthcare data hack in June of 2019.
As such, it’s crucial to uphold a high level of confidentiality. The ideal way for a business to maintain this is through implementing a range of access controls and other safeguards, the basics of which are data encryption, biometric verification, and multi-factor authentication.
In the context of information security, integrity refers to the accuracy and completeness of data. It involves maintaining data consistency and trustworthiness over its entire life cycle. Or in other words, ensures it’s not changed or tampered with while being sent or transferred between stakeholders or devices. As such, security controls including: encryption, user access controls, version controls, backup and recovery procedures, and error detection software, are essential in upholding integrity and preventing data from being modified or misused.
Data availability refers to the accessibility of data for authorized stakeholders. It provides the assurance that company systems and data can be accessed whenever needed, and is typically associated with reliability and system uptime. Unfortunately, data availability is more vulnerable than confidentiality or integrity threats because it can be impacted by non-malicious threats, like hardware failure or human error, as well as malicious threats, like cyberattacks. It is imperative for organizations to implement data availability threat mitigation procedures including various backups, redundancies and other safeguards, like proper monitoring, environmental controls, server clustering and operational continuity planning to ensure consistent uptime and business continuity.
In the context of human history, personal and business device use has only been around for a fraction of a second. As such, we’re still somewhat in the infancy stages of exploring what computers, smartphones, and tablets can do, and how best to protect these devices along with the valuable information they contain. Because of this, every information security policy should hold space for new and emerging technologies capable of bolstering information security. A great example of a newer technology that should be included as part of an information security policy is multi factor biometric authentication.
Lauded as one of the most effective forms of logical security, multifactor biometric authentication verifies identity via biometric credentials such as fingerprint or facial scans, and with new enhancements in behavioral biometrics including voice, gait, and gestures to ensure the people accessing information are who they claim to be. The technology is particularly effective in upholding confidentiality while fostering accessibility because it adds extra layers of unique protection in ensuring information is confidential to, and accessible by only authorized stakeholders.
With the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the world’s reliance on digital connectivity and with it the risk of data breaches, it’s a critical time for organizations to create and implement information security policies that are specific to their businesses and requirements. While it’s easy to become overwhelmed at what seems like a gargantuan task with significant consequences, by following the CIA model and ensuring confidentiality, accessibility and integrity are maintained, organizations of any size can ensure their information is well-protected and maintained. Combined with implementing current and emerging technologies to bolster security, your business can take the appropriate steps towards effective data protection now and in the future.
Dexter Caffey founded Smart Eye Technology in January 2018. Prior to his tech startup, Mr. Caffey founded an alternative investment firm, Caffey Investment Group, in 1998 at the age of 25. During his 20-year tenure he worked with institutional clients from major publicly traded U.S. companies and helped them with new financial platforms to hedge their portfolio risk and reduce costs.
Data protection stock photo by Joe Prachatree/Shutterstock