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Self-Assess the Data Risks in Your Business in 3 Easy Steps


As your IT dependency grows, and your business expands, understanding your data risks and your company’s compliance responsibilities can be tricky. Indeed, it’s often the last thing on your mind when your business is growing. Concentrating on delivering better service to your customers, increasing your outreach, and improving your profitability naturally take precedence over areas that don’t concern revenue building.

But, identifying the data risks in your business is an extremely crucial activity. A single data breach (like the theft of a customer list) can cause serious consequences and generate liability expenses that destroy your business.

Assessing your current and future data risks is an essential task for any size business. These three steps can help you accurately recognise your risks, that way you can develop proper governance and compliance protocols designed to prevent violations.

1. Identify important data & regulatory compliance requirements

You must conform to the rules of data protection established for your industry if your business stores, collects, or uses personal information. And, the rules apply to information regarding your staff, your customers, account holders, and practically anyone relative your operation.

The Data Protection Act, and other industry watch groups like the FCA and PCI, outlines your responsibilities concerning specific forms of information—the who, what, where—but common sense guidelines that include a kind of “Golden Rule” type approach can get you started.

Important data includes anything that you wouldn’t want made public, either to your co-workers, employees, acquaintances, or anything pertaining to information that you wouldn’t want other people to freely know or access. The key categories include business critical and commercially sensitive data, as well as personnel files, medical histories, and financial data, but CCTV, voice recordings, and other monitoring techniques also fall under this umbrella.

2. Identify Operational and Technical Risks

Since your company can’t function without a certain level of sensitive data, it’s important to look at the risks that surround the information you use, store, and collect. How are you storing sensitive data on customers and employees? Are there adequate protections in place?

For example, if you keep employment information and staff records in a physical filing system, is it secure? The same concerns surround electronic filing systems. Who has access? What are the restrictions, and what type of cyber security is in place to prevent breaches? Does your company need to update its PCI compliance?

By looking at the way your company uses and protects your business data, you can recognise potential risks before they become a problem. Categories include:

  • Freedom of Information

  • Electronic marketing

Employing email, texts, phone, and fax to send promotions and using cookies all require certain levels of data compliance.

3. Assessing Your Risks

With the information you’ve gained from the first two steps, you can make an accurate assessment regarding your data risks, and develop solutions that will mitigate them. Consider the repercussions that can occur from improper data protection/usage in these areas:

  • CCTV

  • Credit and Finance (agreements)

  • Data Processing

  • Data Sharing—disclosures under TUPE

  • Employment Data

  • Identity Scanning

  • International transfers

  • Direct Marketing

  • Internet and Computing—BYOD, cloud, DPA (Data Protection Act) regarding social networking and online forums, etc.

  • Electronic Communications

  • Privacy Notices

  • IT security protocols

Essentially, the solutions will involve having code of practises in place for each situation, and monitoring changes that occur in the laws and compliance regulations regarding data protection.

Depending on the size of your organisation, it may benefit your company to institute a comprehensive GRC (governance, risk, compliance) programme. Comprehensive protection will include applicable methods for tracking and logging network activity, such as who has access to sensitive information, mailbox activity, etc. The key is to develop a balance that protects your business with sensible controls without generating excessive costs or hindering employee productivity.

Even if you are a company that has no external compliance requirements, you should still be concerned about your internal data protection. Business critical data, such as your customer records, and important Intellectual Property like pricing systems also need to be protected. One of the most common concerns for  businesses is internal data theft, e.g. employees taking important data with them when they leave their job. Whilst it is often impossible to completely prevent this without negatively affecting productivity, there are still steps you can take to mitigate the impact.

Speak with one of our experts today about the managed security services and data protection solutions we offer. For more information on how SMBs can identify and mitigate data risks, visit the ISO website.     

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