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4+ Ways To Protect Sensitive Information And Data Among Team Members

May 31, 2022
Author
Inkit Team

The bigger your organization, the more likely it is for sensitive information to leak or get out.

A workplace has more potential to face challenges due to diversity. 

Integrity in the workplace can help you to make your workplace more secure. 

This is possible through sensitivity training. Which aims to help team members understand group diversity and how it affects the work environment

The training's purpose is to concentrate on individual development and to maintain a safe space

It mainly addresses gender, ethnic sensitivity, and information sensitivity

Below, we will explore what exactly information sensitivity means, what it includes with examples, and how to ensure its protection.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What Is Information Sensitivity?
  • What Happens In The Case Of Data Breaches And The Risk of Sensitive Information Loss
  • 4+ Ways And Best Practices To Protect And Secure Sensitive Information In Your Organization

What Is Information Sensitivity?

Workplaces are diverse more than ever.

And the diversity in a working environment demands privacy and security of both data and the team members' personal information in the workplace. 

Information sensitivity refers to the ability to limit access to sensitive data or information that may influence the level of security or the ability of a company to compete if it is exposed. 

Graphic that shows how the information flows

Source: SpringerLink

Though, it’s worth noting sensitive information is different from public information. You can not access it from government records or unrestricted directories. 

Now, let’s take a look at some examples of sensitive information to get an idea of how this works.

Sensitive information examples

Exercising discretion with sensitive information is a good idea. 

You must secure sensitive information from illegal access and improper exposure for information security. 

This means that disclosing sensitive data may negatively affect financial and even personal data

Following are some common examples of sensitive information found in the workplace: 

Business information

Business information includes data specific to a company, such as internal trade secrets, customer data, or financial data.  It includes anything that, if get disclosed, can harm the company’s financial status and reputation

Personal information

As the name indicates, this type of information is linked with a person’s identity. If this information is breached it can lead to identity theft. Some common examples of personal information include, identity number, passport number, educational information, and protected health information

Classified information 

Classified information comes at the government level. Breaching this information means endangering the international standing or government’s rules. 

Highly sensitive information examples to be aware of: 

A user ID and password, for example, are sensitive data. 

Other types of highly sensitive information include:

  • Employee information - Gender, home address, social security number, phone number, birthplace, health records, citizenship, ethnicity, veteran or disability status, and more.
  • Financial information - Data collected in the course of trading a financial product or service. Such as ACH numbers and account balance, the number of bank accounts, credit card numbers, credit score, history of earnings, information on tax returns, and more.
  • Other information - Medical records, insurance information, laboratory or health tests, tax forms, credit reports, and more.

Now, what happens if this kind of data gets out?

Let’s take a look.

What Happens In The Case Of Data Breaches And The Risk of Sensitive Information Loss

Many organizations face data loss and it adversely affects their operations. 

Data loss puts a company at a huge loss. The company spends its major portion of resources and precious time retrieving sensitive data. 

It is possible to recover or recreate hard copies but they lack the originality of digital data. 

This is why it’s essential to find the reason for data loss. If it is caused by malware, it becomes difficult at times to assess the extent of data loss. And you’re at risk of repeating your mistakes.

Data loss by cyber attackers can lead to small to large disasters. 

Though, you can stop the cyber attackers from using this sensitive information for nefarious purposes. 

Wondering how? 

By following some methods to protect sensitive information, such as password protecting your PDF documents, using encryption software, and following other best cybersecurity practices. 

The issue of data breaches continues to dominate news headlines worldwide. As data security has gained more attention, fraudsters are still exploring new ways to get access to sensitive data. 

And in that case, here’s what happens if your data gets out.

What happens if sensitive data is stolen (risks and overview)

A lot might happen if your data gets out, depending on the kind of data and your company.

Here are a few examples of the risks that might follow data getting stolen.

Financial impact

Financial impact is one of the most serious issues that businesses confront. Therefore, it needs to be addressed properly. 

Here are a few examples of the expenditures of financial impact:

  • Consumer compensation.
  • Legal fees.
  • Breach investigation
  • Incident response operations.
  • Investment in new security measures.
  • And other regulatory penalties imposed for non-compliance with the GDPR are just a few examples of expenditures.

A data breach can have a significant influence on the stock price and valuation of a firm as well. 

After Yahoo was hacked in 2013, this is exactly what happened. In 2016, the company was acquired by Verizon, a US telecommunications corporation, and the breach was revealed. 

The deal was completed, with the company paying $4.48 billion for Yahoo, a savings of about $350 million over the original cost.

Reputational harm

Sensitive information getting stolen can also harm your overall company reputation.

Another factor that contributes to negative publicity is that when an organization suffers from a data breach, they lose trust from customers. Thus, it leads to lasting damage to the reputation of the company.  

Consumers understand the importance of their personal information. Businesses that fail to protect sensitive data would soon lose their place in the competitive market.  

If this reputational harm persists for a  long time, the company would lose its ability to attract new customers. Also, its future investments get affected.

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Operational interruption

Regular business operational activities are regularly impacted as a result of a data breach. 

It is vital for companies to assess the factors that can lead to data loss. 

Moreover, they should put their efforts into exploring the systems that were accessed and controlling the data loss. During the whole investigation process, the company's daily, regular operations can get interrupted.  

Depending on the extent of data loss, it can take a few days to weeks for companies to start their operations again. Also, it can have a huge impact on a company's revenue.   

Gartner estimated that it costs $5,600 per minute for the net downtime when a data loss happens. The cost can vary depending on the type of organization and its size.  

Legal action

Team members of a workplace have the legal right to ask for compensation if their data is breached. Organizations should practice data protection legislation and ensure workers that they have applied all the precautions to secure their sensitive information. 

In many countries, victims of data leaks regularly seek monetary compensation in case of data loss. 

Losing sensitive data

Personal identifiable Information (PII), IP address, images, addresses, and anything else that can be used to identify a person can come under sensitive information. If that data gets breached,  it can lead to serious hazards

Many cyber attackers often breach biometric data as it is more valuable for them than other data. Also, if medical information gets disclosed or goes into the wrong hands, it can affect the patient's life and undergoing treatment.  

Sometimes, losing sensitive data can cause more serious disasters than reputational and financial harm. 

Now that we’ve covered the risks and examples, let's take a look at what you can to do protect yourself against the above risks.

4+ Ways And Best Practices To Protect And Secure Sensitive Information In Your Organization

Prevention is better than cure.

To secure and preserve sensitive data, you must first understand what you have on your system and how you can scale it down to make it easier to handle. 

Then, examine all ways the sensitive information can get out, all viable methods to protect it, and company-wide best practices to declutter the data.

According to Norton, 54% of people put their confidential data on paper.

graphic that shows the paper usage for confidential data

There are better ways to protect your sensitive data and information.

Here are some best practices to protect and secure your sensitive data and information within your organization.

1. Classify your data

Companies must first establish what data must be secured in the first place.

A data classification policy helps them to categorize data based on the data sensitivity. 

Following are the three classifications of sensitive data

Restricted: This is the most sensitive information that, if hacked, might be extremely dangerous. Only those with a legitimate need for the information have access. 

Confidential or Private: Since it is moderately sensitive information,  it can cause a moderate risk to the workplace if it is disclosed. Company owners can control access to this data. 

Public: It comes under non-sensitive data. If accessing this data can pose little or no harm, access is either loosely regulated or completely unregulated.

2. Train your staff

Your employees will handle and potentially exchange all three types of data (public, confidential, and restricted data). 

Don't just focus on passwords and computer locks when it comes to security training. Everyone in a firm should understand the three types of data and the security procedures that apply to them.

For protecting your internal files though, you can read:

3. Data encryption

Although corporations do encrypt data on their servers, it's still common for employees to save frequently used data on personal desktop PCs, mobile devices, or even plain paper

Make it a policy that all restricted data must be encrypted, including that kept in the cloud. Encryption gives an additional layer of security. Ascertain that staff is at ease with utilizing and saving encrypted data.

4. Track and secure all mobile devices

This applies to androids, tablets, laptops, flash drives, and more. Even CDs and DVDs, if they're still in use at your workplace. 

Suppose, someone, save data and leave the facility, you should know who has it and wherever it's going. If something is lost, keeping data encoded is a virtuous inkling. 

But you can't be assured that encryption occurs if you aren't watching employee usage of these items.

A lot of time and effort is put into ensuring the security of network and cloud systems, as it should be. 

We devote plenty of time discerning guarding against an external attack. But it's also necessary to consider the security dangers that exist on-site.

Keeping all employees accountable to these four lodgers will go a long way toward preventing an internal data leak.

Conclusion

Hope this guide to protecting sensitive information and data was helpful!

One of the most devastating blows to any company is important data loss or breach. The key to behaving smartly is to plan ahead and think one step ahead. 

Remember, prevention is better than cure.

And just because your company or organization hasn’t been hit by a data leak yet, doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.

You can save yourself from going through the pain if you follow the guidelines provided above.

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