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Protecting Sensitive Business Information On and Off the Cloud

You’ve likely seen numerous companies make headlines for the wrong reasons. In recent years, many high-profile organizations have fallen victim to data breaches. Most people would assume that businesses would receive sympathy from the media and public for being victims of cybercrime. However, in most instances, public sentiment towards them wasn’t positive. That’s because the public and media blamed the organizations for not following stringent security protocols to keep sensitive information safe.

Think about it this way: organizations store mountains of sensitive information. For instance, a clothing company will have consumer details like contact information, addresses, credit card information, and more. If the clothing company faces a data breach, sensitive consumer information could become publicly available. Consumers would rightly be furious. Failure to protect sensitive information can prove disastrous for businesses. Not only do businesses face public condemnation, but they also receive hefty penalties for failing to protect sensitive data adequately.

As a result, companies take cybersecurity seriously. According to Riskbased, data breaches exposed 36 billion records in the first half of 2020 alone. The ID Theft Resource Center states over 11,762 recorded data breaches occurred between 2005 and 2020. It’s safe to say that businesses find themselves at risk from cybercriminals. Now, more than ever, businesses need to strengthen their security protocols, especially since we live in a world where so much data is stored in the cloud.

What Falls Under ‘Sensitive Information’ or ‘Private Data’?

Generally, confidential, private, or legally protected information is considered sensitive information. Organizations have to protect sensitive information. Otherwise, they risk severe consequences. The United States doesn’t have a singular data privacy law. However, it does have numerous laws that regulate various industries, including HIPAA, FCRA, GLBA, COPPA, and more.

Let’s assess some data types organizations must protect. They include:

  • Employee data: Organizations have to protect employee data like home addresses, social security numbers, health and benefits data, and more.
  • Financial information: Businesses have to protect sensitive information like bank account details, credit card numbers, revenue sources, etc.
  • Customer information: Protecting customer information is necessary for organizations. That includes information like contact details, order history, etc.
  • Proprietary information: Organizations do their utmost to protect proprietary information like trade secrets or research data.
  • Strategic plans: Organizations are required to keep information about potential mergers and acquisitions, research and development, and internal processes under wraps.
  • Operational details: Protecting operational details like inventory records and pricing strategies is also necessary.
  • Internal investigation results: Companies often conduct internal investigations. They must make sure to keep these results private.

How Can Businesses Protect Sensitive Information?

Knowing which data to protect is the first step in protecting sensitive information in the cloud. Typically, all organizations – regardless of sector – have three types of data. These include public, confidential, and restricted data.

Public data is company information that’s public knowledge. You don’t need to protect this data because it’s already available for the world to see. Then, you have confidential data. Confidential data can include customer lists, business strategies, etc. You’ll want to ensure that only your employees know this information.

Lastly, you have restricted data. Unlike confidential data, restricted data needs protection. It usually involves information that only a few people should possess. For instance, only a specific department should have information about customer account numbers.

Segregating data according to these classifications is crucial. You’ll want to take additional steps to protect restricted data. Most organizations encrypt restricted data, meaning you can’t view it if you don’t have the required access.

All of these points need to be considered by MSPs whether or not they’re using an outsourced cloud service provider for cloud-based project work. A healthy appreciation for the importance of security always goes a long way.

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