Between 2020 and 2021, the number of GDPR fines rose by nearly 40% and data protection authorities recorded 121,165 instances of data breaches—almost 20% higher than the previous 12 months. How can organisations prevent this from happening?
In truth, responsibility for data compliance lies with every employee of a company. While it’s the role of the IT department or legal to understand what regulations apply, every single person must understand and commit to good data compliance practice.
When it comes to GDPR compliance or data compliance in general, businesses often have their work cut out for them. With the complex patchwork of data regulations that may apply to your work, where do you begin when trying to meet data compliance requirements?
- Why Is Compliance Important?
- Challenges to Ensuring Compliance
- How to Achieve Data Compliance
- Data Compliance vs. Data Security
Why Is Compliance Important?
Compliance aids organisations in maintaining productivity and financial health. For example, from 2020 to 2021, GDPR breach penalties amounted to around £139 million. In 2019, Google was fined £41 million for GDPR violations.
While SMEs would never face penalties of such magnitude, the relatively-priced fines that can be faced for either GDPR breach or breach of other regulations can be similarly eye-watering. Data breach fines can be financially debilitating, not to mention the subsequent damage it can have on brand reputation and client relations.
So the act of data compliance — ensuring digital assets are organised correctly and guarded against loss, theft or misuse — is vital for any business.
Data is the fuel of decision making, continuous improvement, quality and demonstration of clinical value. Data is to an organization what fuel is to a car. If the fuel is contaminated, it damages the engine. If the integrity of the data is at risk, it can damage the organization’s reputation and can even lead to the extent of business shutdown. — Compliance Online
Maintaining data compliance enables companies to create or keep trusting relationships with their customers and partners. Being able to have confidence in an organisation’s ability to manage data is crucial for business continuity.
Data compliance is the first step in achieving this.
Challenges to Ensuring Compliance
Compliance can be challenging. In many cases, it’s a trust issue. In fact, 46% of customers feel they’ve lost control over their own data. A further 81% think the risks of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits.
While ensuring compliance is relatively simple in the grand scheme of data security, it does meet challenges. What are the main data challenges organisations face today?
Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) Policies
Since the move towards cloud-based platforms and services, alongside the work-from-home policies introduced because of COVID-19, BYOD has become the norm. However, BYOD represents a distinct vulnerability.
In the office, using controlled devices and internal servers, employees are more protected by encryption, anti-malware and other security measures. An employee’s home device or network may not employ the same quality of security.
Whenever an employee logs onto a work server through an unprotected WiFi connection, they’re inviting trouble — especially if your business is subject to specific regulations. All businesses are subject to GDPR and a poorly managed BYOD policy could spell disaster.
Weak Digital Infrastructure
Many of the most common data breaches come from an organisation not developing a robust and well-protected digital infrastructure. Protection against phishing and malware isn’t hard to come by, but many organisations neglect to update their digital presence.
A good approach to developing a digital infrastructure relies on creating a cyber security strategy, which includes:
- Anti-malware and anti-ransomware software.
- Multi-factor authentication.
- Software patch management.
- Incident response plan.
If you’d like to learn more about creating a robust cyber security strategy, read this blog post.
How to Achieve Data Compliance
Businesses can use these tips so they’re more likely to achieve full data compliance:
1. Self Audit
Develop an internal audit program that your IT department can carry out, which audits the strength of internal compliance and proactively corrects any issues that may arise.
2. Work With Independent Security Specialists
Self-audits are essential and can be carried out semi-regularly, but they’ll not always be the most accurate. Some may be subject to some kind of internal bias. Make sure to employ the help of external IT security specialists who can provide auditing for your security efforts and digital infrastructure.
3. Remain Aware of Industry Changes
Specific industries may be vulnerable to certain types of cyber attack or the targets of very specific types of attackers. If your competitors have been the victims of cyber attacks, there may be a chance you will be as well.
Complacency is a big issue for businesses and industries at large. Due to changes in regulation and enforcement occurring all the time, companies can miss vital updates and remain complacent about their current security efforts. Maintaining an awareness of the current compliance landscape specific to an industry is critical for future compliance.
4. Upgrade Your Legacy Systems
A company’s network and data storage infrastructure are constantly evolving. If not reviewed, optimised or updated in some time, you probably need it.
Ageing legacy systems present many vulnerabilities over time, as they may lose functionality or not keep up-to-date with changing compliance requirements. Be sure to analyse the security capabilities of your system to determine whether or not you need to update your systems. You’ll likely need to if you haven't changed things in a while.
5. Be Ready to Communicate Vulnerabilities
If a staff member notices a flaw or vulnerability, it should be communicated to the relevant parties. This means creating an honest and open communication culture, as well as processes to raise issues internally as they occur. If raising vulnerabilities can be presented with a potential solution, even better.
Intentionally hiding something or being unsure whether to raise a risk could result in a dire situation if not properly addressed.
Data Compliance vs. Data Security
There’s a difference between data compliance and data security. Yes, they’re inherently linked, but they aren't interchangeable.
Data compliance is about ensuring you meet the minimum compliance requirements your business needs to meet. Security is much more all-encompassing than that, requiring your business to meet those requirements and have a robust data security strategy in place that covers things like:
- Multi-factor authentication
- Password protection
Data compliance is all about being aware of the laws regarding data use, but meeting those requirements doesn’t necessarily mean you’re fully protected. So what’s the best way to discover if you’re both compliant and secure?
Undertaking an IT Security Risk and Compliance Audit
We're offering businesses an IT security risk and compliance audit to help you see just how well your system is holding up against regulatory requirements and security risks. This is an in-depth audit of your systems and how they’re being used and will provide you with actionable practices that will improve the health and performance of your digital security.
Click the link below to find out more.