By Amanda Winstead
Data security is increasingly important in project management. The average cost of a data breach in the USA is $9.44 million and attacks like phishing, third-party malware, and ransomware are becoming more common.
However, protecting against data breaches requires a comprehensive approach. Even if your firm can’t afford a data protection specialist, you still need to take robust steps to firm up your accounts, educate your staff, and future-proof your business.
Data breaches can happen at any moment. Unsecured project management software can be vulnerable to attacks and malicious actors are always looking for a way through your cybersecurity defenses.
Regular data audits can keep your project management data secure and spot vulnerabilities before they are exploited. If you have a team of data protection specialists, they’ll likely ask data security questions like:
● What kind of personal data is stored?
● How was the data collected?
● How long has the data been held and how is it being held?
● Who has access to data?
You can further improve the efficiency of your data audits by utilizing robotic process automation software (RPA) to store, manage, and protect your data. RPA software is capable of detecting threats and breaches quicker than human analysts and can eliminate unauthorized users before they have a chance to access sensitive data. RPA software can help encrypt your data, too, which adds an extra layer of security.
Encryption is the bread-and-butter for data protection and security. It’s almost always a good idea to encrypt sensitive data at rest as this will give you time to respond to potential breaches before your data is compromised. In general, there are two ways to encrypt data:
● Asymmetric (or public-key)
Symmetric encryption requires a sender and a receiver to use the same “key”. The key must be confidential and is perfect for small projects with very few users. However, symmetric encryption is impractical for larger projects, as the “key” has to be distributed among all authorized parties. This means that asymmetric encryption, which uses a single private key, is a more practical option for larger projects.
Passwords and Access Controls
Passwords are the most basic form of data protection. However, with recent technological innovations in project management, your team will need to improve their passwords. Start by embracing two-factor authentication across all devices, and encourage staff to follow the best password protection practices, like:
● Use a unique password passphrase pattern
● Change passwords frequently
● Regularly check for compromised passwords and accounts
● Never reuse passwords on personal or professional devices
These practices can firm up your data security and give you greater peace of mind. Follow up by regularly reviewing access controls and restricting any users who do not need to have sensitive access to data in your computing environment.
Regulations to Observe
Data breaches aren’t just bad for business — they can leave you in hot legal water, too. Businesses around the globe are beholden to governing bodies that dictate how, exactly, businesses should protect their data from malicious actors. In general, your data protection team should be aware of updates to international data protection regulations like:
● The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
● The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
● Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
● Privacy Act Australia
This non-comprehensive list includes some of the most important data protection regulations that your data protection team should be up to date on. Your business will be liable for failing to meet GDPR or CCPA standards, even if you operate outside of the EU or California. Some of the world’s largest corporations have recently fallen foul of regulations, resulting in fines of up to €746 million.
Robust data protection software and regulations can protect you from malicious actors and preserve the integrity of your computing environment. However, there’s one major vulnerability that software and RPA’s cannot address: human users.
Training your staff to recognize phishing scams and prevent breaches is vital for the long-term success of any project today. Staff who do not understand the risks associated with phishing are a major vulnerability in your system and cannot be trusted to access, store, or manage sensitive data.
Protect your projects and your staff by hosting regular data privacy and protection workshops. These workshops should cover the basics of GDPR and CCPA policies as well as “how-to” sessions to help staff recognize malware and phishing attacks. Once your staff has been trained, test your employees with a phishing attack simulation.
Running regular simulations will keep data security at the forefront of employees’ minds and help you assess risk, track and improve behavior, and evaluate the progress that your team has made.
While training, it’s important to remember that some data is still stored physically. The digital age may be in full swing, but you still need to shred sensitive documents to protect data. Shredding improves your data protection by minimizing the risk of insider attacks and mitigating the chance of visitors seeing documents that are confidential and sensitive.
A robust data security plan is necessary to avoid fines and improve the efficiency of your data management systems. Start by auditing your current data management processes to identify vulnerabilities. Next, update your encryption and protect all sensitive accounts with two-factor authentication. Remember to shred physical data, too, as printed documents can attract insider attacks and lead to expensive breaches.