How can you Ensure Data Security and Compliance for your Customers?

The regulatory environment is now tougher than it has ever been for tech companies.

Governments around the world are using compliance in order to restrict companies from disrupting established industries, however this means that the entire tech industry is dealing with increased scrutiny and facing damage to their reputations and finances.

As companies expand, they also face even more individual regulations, including taxation, employment law, licensing and product safety.

Some of the most pressing issues when it comes to compliance are about data anxiety. As we constantly see and hear news stories about hacking and leaks, citizens are becoming even more uncomfortable about threats to their privacy and personal data, and governments are putting pressure on the companies that are responsible for looking after this data and making sure it’s secure.

Regulators have been cracking down on tech companies around the world, and last year the US Federal Trade Commission announced that it would be investigating Uber, Airbnb and other companies over their use of data.

At the same time, other global tech companies were being criticised about their data use, leading to the EU to work towards a framework that would protect data across all 28 countries involved.

Regulators in Australia are also overhauling and strengthening data privacy regulation, and tech companies will need to focus on building their products with the capability and functionality to comply with a diverse, large, and sometimes conflicting set of international standards.

Customers need to feel confident that their products and services are secure, and tech companies themselves need to protect their privacy, infrastructure and data. Security is of the utmost importance to trading partners, employees and investors, so tech companies must protect privacy, safeguard secrets and maintain their reputations.

While traditional security measures (including intrusion detection systems and firewalls) were designed to protect equipment and facilities), there are now multiple data centres and vendors, managing different data which needs to be available to many different users- all with different access rights. This means that IDS tools and firewalls are now configured to allow remote users to access data from their laptops, tablets and mobile devices, regardless of where they are, reducing the effectiveness of the security.

Transparency a must for tech companies

Regulators are going after companies that are failing to tell their customers what they’re using their data for. Snapchat is a good example of this, and recently battled with the FTC (they ended up settling) after charges that they deceived their customers about the “disappearances” of their messages. The company will now be monitored by an independent privacy professional for the next 20 years. Facebook has also come under fire for its face-recognition when tagging photos, with many people saying they were astonished that the firm added it to their privacy policy without consulting customers.

It’s not all bad news though, and the actions that you need to take to secure your data to meet regulations is basically what you need to do in order to ensure that you’re adequately protected anyway.

So how do you protect your consumer data?

While most expanding tech companies have savvy, smart employees who have already taken care of most of the cyber security basics, they often haven’t done this as part of a strategy, and haven’t considered how they will deal with cyber risk in the future.

The first step is to understand the specific threats your business is facing. B2B and B2C companies have different threats, as do businesses depending on IP and those planning to host on the cloud.

This requires strategic thinking, since investment is a must. You can then ensure that your IT systems are correctly configured and will operate efficiently.

A few of the biggest compliances challenges facing IT include:

Your employees will play a key role when it comes to protecting your sensitive data, and your customer’s data. There are many low-tech methods used against employees by hackers, including phishing, social engineering and snooping. Employees need to be educated on the many ways information can be stolen through these methods and given tools they can use to combat them.

Your security policies should also be up-to-date and easily understandable by all employees, and should cover the creation, transportation, transmission, storage, and disposal of information.

In order to prevent the theft of data, provide your employees with travel laptops that are capable of completing key business functions but are stripped of secure, sensitive or propriety information.

Many organisations have weak controls protecting data on mobile devices, so it’s crucial that you have preventative measures that restrict access to corporate data by unauthorised people in the event that a mobile device is stolen or lost.

The key is to not only focus on prevention, but also to have a game plan in place in the case of a breach. Employees at all levels should understand what their instant response will be in the event that you’re hacked, and this will give both clients and regulators reassurance, while ensuring that hackers can’t break into the most secure parts of your system.

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