In today’s digital world, almost every company has sensitive data that must be protected from unauthorized access. In 2021, the U.S. had the highest average total cost of data breaches at $9.05 million. Ensuring your data is protected is critical to keeping your business running.
If your company stores confidential information in email accounts, databases, document management systems or unstructured files on network drives or local computers, it’s imperative you develop a strong information governance plan to protect your data from cyber threats.
A sound information governance (IG) plan can help reduce risks associated with confidential data and other records and prevent accidental or malicious disclosures of private information. With the right IG practices in place, your company can not only remain compliant with necessary regulations, but also avoid any potential audit failures related to privacy and security concerns.
What is information governance?
Information governance is the process by which an organization manages the collection, storage, access and distribution of information. The goal of information governance is to keep sensitive information secure while still allowing employees to do their jobs. It’s a strategy which ensures the right people have the right access to the right information at the right time.
From a regulatory compliance perspective, information governance is important for two main reasons. First, it ensures your organization has a means of enforcing its policies and procedures. Second, it provides a way of ensuring the data your organization collects and stores is secure, and the individuals whose data ends up in the organization’s systems can be confident it will be kept confidential and secure.
Conduct a data audit
Data audits are important for identifying data sources, data types and locations so you can implement the right IG policies and procedures to secure your data. A data audit will help you analyze the amount of data in various forms which your organization stores, and identifies where it’s being stored, who is accessing it and why, and the risks associated with storing the data.
Conducting data audits are an important part of determining your IG strategy. They help determine how to manage and secure your data so your organization can avoid fines and penalties associated with data breaches, data misuse and non-compliance with regulatory requirements for protecting critical data.
Assess legal and regulatory requirements
Another important IG best practice is to assess legal and regulatory requirements for protecting sensitive data. Identify which data your organization collects, uses or stores, and then determine which of this data is considered to be sensitive. Next, determine which government agencies, industry organizations or regulatory bodies oversee the protection of this sensitive data.
These requirements determine, for example, whether a data set needs to be anonymized before being shared with third parties, or if it is permissible to share it in bulk. They also define when and how a breach must be reported, which can be critical in ensuring your company responds quickly and appropriately when sensitive data is compromised.
Develop a data asset management strategy
A data asset management (DAM) strategy is another IG best practice that will help your organization identify the data it stores and the risks associated with the data. Once you’ve identified the data assets your organization stores, you can develop DAM strategies for how your business will manage, maintain and securely store the data.
A DAM strategy will help your organization decide which data to protect and how to store it. Data assets can include customer records, employee information, financial information, third-party data, healthcare data and other types of sensitive data your business collects, uses or stores.
You can use a DAM strategy to identify which data assets your organization should protect and how, as well as selecting the best tools, technologies and policies for safeguarding the data.
Establish policies and procedures
Establishing policies and procedures for managing and securing your data assets is essential for ensuring your organization remains compliant with legal and regulatory requirements for protecting sensitive data.
Data management policy will help you decide how to collect and store sensitive data. A data security policy will help you decide how to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access and malicious attacks. A data retention policy will help you decide how long to store sensitive data and a data disposal policy will help you decide how to securely destroy sensitive data when it’s no longer needed.
Data security policies and data management policies can help you identify what sensitive data your organization collects, how and why it collects the data, and where it stores the data. They can also help you select tools and technologies for protecting the data and determine the best IG policies and procedures for managing and securing the data.
Train your employees
Data security, data management and data retention policies can be complicated. Training your employees on these policies will help ensure they understand the policies and are able to follow the IG procedures designed to protect sensitive data.
Additionally, you can use training sessions as an opportunity to remind your employees about the importance of protecting sensitive data. Training your employees will also help you stay compliant with legal and regulatory requirements for protecting sensitive data.
Implement information governance best practices with expert assistance
With the right IG practices in place, your company will not only remain compliant with necessary regulations, but also avoid any potential audit failures related to privacy and security concerns.
The data governance specialists at BCS365 can perform a full audit of your business’s data, advise you on information governance policies, procedures and management strategies, and train your users in IG best practices.