As an employer, you will have to collect and store information from your employees and job applicants. Such information could include the date of birth, contact details, educational qualification, work experience, medical records, and other vital facts provided before or during employment. Once you assemble the confidential and sensitive data, it’s your responsibility to protect it. However, doing that could be more challenging than most employers think.
Cybersecurity threats loom large today due to the changing work style of the modern workforce, where a lot of activities are done online or in a hybrid model. As a result, your employee and job applicant information could be breached and stolen at any time.
In their 9th Annual Cost of Cybercrime Study, Ponemon Institute and Accenture found though 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses, just 14% are ready to defend themselves. According to another 2021 study, cybercriminals can penetrate 93% of local company networks and cause 71% of events these businesses consider unacceptable. These figures underline the importance of data security.
For any organisation, a data breach is nothing short of a nightmare. It can significantly ruin your business’s reputation and financial standing and could even enhance the risk of filing lawsuits. Therefore, you should be proactive about the security of your employee and job applicant data by having strict data security measures.
Tips for Strong Data Security
If you are unsure how to safeguard your sensitive and confidential data, the following five tips will help you get started:
1. Fortify Computer Security
The primary step towards a robust computer system is to limit access to your system. You could set up a firewall to obstruct unauthorized access and establish a proxy server to control and limit internet access. Regular installation of security updates and patches are equally crucial since redundant software and operating systems will make your organisation more susceptible to cyber threats.
You should also have a checkout policy to block ex-employees’ computer access and terminate their authorised passwords when they leave your company.
2. Chalk Out Formal Policies and Procedures
Your organisation will have a truckload of data, but not all will need the same level of security. It’s best to divide your gathered data into various categories, such as private, public, and restricted. After the data is segregated this way, a policy needs to be laid down to clearly mention that unauthorized use, sharing, forwarding, copying, or viewing of confidential and sensitive data will attract disciplinary action or even termination.
You could even ask your employees to let their managers or the organisation’s leadership know if they believe that someone has got unauthorized access to information that wasn’t meant for their eyes or use.
3. Invest in Educating Your Employees
Educating your workforce about safe data usage and data security is an excellent way to protect your confidential data. For instance, gullible employees often fall prey to phishing email schemes that mimic or claim the emails are from the company’s top bosses. Such emails could ask employees to click on links that give their device access to some remote hacker or request personal details with malicious intent.
It’s necessary to train your employees about spotting dubious emails and other malicious attempts to ensure sensitive data and details don’t fall into the wrong hands.
You could even ask your employees, especially those handling payrolls and HR duties, to verbally verify emails from company executives when the content asks for confidential employee details.
If your organisation employs or encourages BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) practices, you need to ensure the laptops, tablets, or other mobile devices your employees bring have the same level of robust security that your corporate systems have. Else, they could be easily compromised, and so will the data stored or accessed using them.
Educating your employees also involves making them aware of cybersecurity threats and imparting knowledge on standard file and password security practices, social engineering hacks, etc. This way, you can get them to a position where they will consciously act to keep your organisation’s data safe.
4. Ensure Secure Maintenance of Records
To ensure the safe storage and maintenance of your organisation’s electronic records, they need to be password-protected, encrypted, and stored on a secure server. You should periodically assess your electronic systems to avert security compromise by new technology and viruses.
For the safety of your paper records, their storage location needs to be lockable and inaccessible to all except for the designated staff with legitimate business requirements, like the managing director, payroll clerks, HR staff, etc.
5. Look Into Incidents and Take Prompt Actions
In case incidents of unauthorised access to sensitive data occur, whether intentionally or accidentally, they should be investigated promptly and properly in an unbiased manner. Such investigations will help decide if your data security measures need to be improved and fortified before it’s too late.
Such investigations could also be instrumental in letting you decide if you should think about appropriate action against the individual(s) accessing such data without adequate authorisation.
Safeguarding your organisation’s sensitive employee and job applicant information requires proper planning and commitment of your time and efforts. It’s best to rely on professionals rather than do it on your own, especially if you don’t have a fair idea or adequate experience related to data security, cyber threats, and other associated matters.
The key is to take the security of your confidential data seriously and do whatever is necessary to keep it safe.
What other steps will you use to ensure data security?