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Exchange Of Sensitive Data With Third Parties: Security Measures

The exchange of data with third parties or outwards is often a precursor of doubts regarding safeguarding their confidentiality and integrity: during the transfer, the data can be intercepted, modified, or rendered unusable. The concept of data protection is closely linked to the risks relating to confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

The respective definitions converge on this point: confidentiality guarantees that information is accessible only to authorized persons; integrity ensures that data remains unchanged during its life cycle; availability ensures that information is available seamlessly within a specified time frame. Together with the concept of traceability, these aspects constitute the essential criteria for securing information.

Encryption And Data Protection: Mistakes Made

The generally recommended solution is encryption to protect data in terms of integrity and confidentiality. However, it is challenging to navigate the jungle of words associated with the subject from a regulatory point of view, i.e., to assess which data is essential, confidential/sensitive, or critical to protect. For this reason, although it is mandatory, encryption is not implemented correctly, many companies mistakenly believe that they do not have data of this type and therefore do not have to protect their files and the exchange of the same, forgetting that this necessary data protection on the other hand, concerns all companies.

Customer files, accounting records, or other vital documents are essential for business operations. Losing a year of accounting can have dire consequences for any business, regardless of size. To address the problem, it is necessary to correctly define which information is strategically vital for your organization, bearing in mind that, in reality, all the data generated is relevant for business productivity. At the same time, it is necessary to investigate whether and how such data is accessible and vulnerable to attacks.

Considering that the path for a cybercriminal to access it can pass through a single terminal, private or corporate, or by directly accessing the corporate network through services provided by Initial Access Brokers or trojans, it is necessary to include the protection of clients and the perimeter in the strategy of cybersecurity. In the case of a Trojan attack, for example, cybercriminals gain access to everything displayed on the infected system’s screen and spy on what is typed on the keyboard. These attacks can be highly targeted and funded by governments, but not only.

Trojans used to steal passwords and access data, especially private banking ones, can easily lurk into any system by downloading and installing a game, a browser extension, or a password manager. Often we think only of the computer, but the smartphone is also an access point for spreading this type of malware. This underlines the urgency of protecting workstations, but it is also a further point in favor of limiting the use of corporate devices to work purposes only.

How To Better Protect Your Data

Paradoxically, the more relevant the data, the more easily accessible they must be. Therefore, they are more vulnerable during swaps because they leave their (theoretically) protected enclave of their storage medium. The exchange can take many forms: information is emailed, shared in the cloud, or saved on a USB stick. These are methods of exchange and, above all, different technologies, which must be secured in the same way: by completely encrypting the data. Modern encryption solutions employ robust authentication mechanisms to ensure that information can only be read in the clear by the sender and the actual recipient.

In this way, the data remains out of the reach of intruders, onlookers, and whoever would eventually disclose them. For them, the data is unreadable. But for encryption to be effective everywhere, the company that wants to protect its data must have sun control over it. The encryption keys must therefore be the exclusive property of the respective company and easily manageable. Only in this way can data protection be completely agnostic for the storage location.

Due to the use of mobile devices and the heavy use of collaboration tools, sharing some data is only sometimes monitored by the company. If you use SaaS office software suites, an independent data encryption solution can ensure your data is kept private. Given the ease of use of these online business productivity suites, the challenge for vendors of such solutions is to integrate encryption transparently to end users, ensuring adequate security and a user experience—simple and effective use. After files and emails, data exchanged directly via a web browser must also be encrypted.

The Importance Of Backup And Access Rights Management

If data encryption meets mandatory integrity and confidentiality requirements, what about availability? After all, data accessible to anyone, even if encrypted, can still be erased, whether it’s through criminal misuse or human error. A further step in adequate data security is the unfortunately often underestimated backup. A process that must be performed regularly. Naturally, the files produced must be encrypted, possibly archived offline, and cannot be manipulated. Both the IT and sales teams equally share the responsibility of considering all the parameters necessary for creating the backup copies, including managing the recovery of the encryption system keys.

It’s also best to have a disaster recovery plan ( DRP ) or business continuity plan (BCP ) stored in a safe place, whether digital or not. At the same time, it is also necessary to provide for the management of data access rights. This ensures that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive data, both internally and externally. However, this is a complex issue because the management of rights and accesses (“Identity and Access Management” – IAM) concerns every manager of every department or business unit of a company.

Therefore, you must establish who in the team has access and is authorized to do what according to a “Zero Trust” security strategy. A seemingly simple task: Given the growing number of tools and company turnover, timely access rights management can quickly become a significant challenge. In any case, it is a necessary measure that contributes to the company’s security, as much as data encryption and backup.

Also Read: Mobile-First Indexing: Changes On Site With The Google Update


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