After the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working has become a permanent setup for many global organizations. Companies are utilizing IT consulting to ensure their teams have access to secure tools to collaborate, communicate, and connect from anywhere in the world. Remote work does impact the traditional work environment, especially in terms of data security compliance and the challenge of protecting data on remote devices.

However, business continuity is critical, and it’s essential to employ staff who can remain productive even if they are not physically located within the walls of the office site. Therefore, it is vital to be proactive in identifying the potential data compliance risks while meeting the needs of your employees and improving the employee experience. Below, we have included some guidance for how to ensure data security compliance in a remote world.

What is data compliance?

Regulations mandated by regulatory bodies are what define data compliance. Many organizations are subject to local, state, federal, and global regulations for the purpose of protecting personally identifiable data, digital assets, and financial details from misuse, loss, and theft.

The mandates may come as state or federal law, industry standards, or from globally-run entities such as the GDPR. These regulations detail what types of data should be protected, how it should be protected, what processes are acceptable, and the imposed penalties for not meeting compliance.

Data security is not the same thing as data compliance. They both have the same objective, to mitigate data risks, but compliance is about meeting mandated standards. In contrast, data security entails all the protocols, tools, and technologies that protect data against a breach.

You can be secure but not compliant and vice-versa. The goal is to achieve both. As a result, many organizations employ data security compliance which is designed to not only ensure data compliance but to also keep your data secure.

Avoid fines and penalties with data security compliance

Most organizations are now aware of the compliance laws based on sector. New regulations are created regularly, and the regulatory environment will only get larger. It would help to get proactive now, and have the right systems and processes in place so that your organization can remain flexible as mandates change and new laws are made.

Further, violating compliance can lead to costly fines and penalties, and in some cases, drive an organization to bankruptcy as the result of fees they cannot afford to pay. Below, we list some examples of widely-applied data compliance frameworks:

PCI-DSS -- Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) imposes fines between $5,000 and $100,000 each month.

HIPAA -- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) incurs fines in the range of $100 to $50,000 per violation. The maximum penalty of $1.5 million annually.

GDPR -- The European General Data Protection Act (GDPR) incurs fines of either 20 million euros or 4% of an organization’s global returns; it will take the higher number.

Stay secure and compliant

Unquestionably, the compliance laws across the globe are enough to make your headspin. The EU’s GDPR set the tone, and now Canada has PIPEDA while California has the CCPA. While there isn’t a uniform standard across all 50 states in America, or the rest of the world, more regulations are in the pipeline. Some guidelines are provided to help.

The NIST Risk Management Framework is a 7-step process as listed below:

  1. Prepare for risk management through essential activities critical to design and implementation of a risk management program.
  2. Categorize systems and information based on an impact analysis.
  3. Select a set of the NIST SP 800-53 controls to protect the system based on risk assessments.
  4. Implement the controls, and documents how the controls are deployed.
  5. Assess the control implementation to determine if the controls are in place, operating as intended, and producing the desired results to manage risk.
  6. Authorize the system to operate by a senior-level official that understanding the controls in place to manage risk and any residual risk.
  7. Continuously monitor control implementation and changes to the risks to the system.

Protect critical data

In the era of big data, complexity is on the rise. How you manage and interact with that data is paramount for ensuring data security compliance in a remote world. This is about how the data can be used, and how your employees handle the data from their remote work locations.

It takes the right digital tools to ensure fluid, but secure, collaboration. Unfortunately, the increased attack surface and endpoints across the digital workspace provides more low-hanging fruit for cyber criminals. Accidental data exposure can cause a failure to meet compliance. Organizations need protection from multiple touchpoints, including where employees access data.

As such, it is crucial to know where your data resides even as employees work remotely. Using real-time secure protocols are at the heart of this matter to ensure data access does not fall into the wrong hands. Working with the right vendor who offers IT consulting can ensure your organization meets the most rigorous regulation requirements.

Facilitate data loss prevention

Effective disaster and recovery procedures, along with business continuity, are hallmarks data compliance. This is especially so in terms of handling the sharing of sensitive information. What happens if an employee tries to share a sensitive file in a team chat room or on a client video call? How can you prevent access to sensitive information based on the end-user’s role within the company.

There isn’t any question that remote work is here to stay, and will become more common and widespread. To set your organization up for long-term success, it’s essential to partner with a vendor with expertise around the multiple-device culture and remote IT management. Areas to focus on include:

  • Implementing security policies for remote work
  • Data encryption
  • 2FA authentication
  • Network-level protections
  • Automated patching

Cyber security is vital for data protection, which impacts data compliance. Use managed services to transform personal computers into hosted desktops that are monitored and controlled from a centralized location. Therefore, it’s easier to maintain a strong data security compliance posture. Next, work with a vendor who can deploy endpoint management solutions for an extra layer of protection to prevent unauthorized data access, mitigate vulnerabilities, and strengthen compliance.

Safeguard sensitive data with sensitivity labeling

“Everything we do in the digital realm—from surfing the web to sending an email to conducting a credit card transaction to, yes, making a phone call—creates a data trail. And if that trail exists, chances are someone is using it—or will be soon enough.” – Douglas Rushkoff.

Apply sensitivity labels to important files and ensure those documents are encrypted with access controls throughout its entire lifecycle. It’s critical to employ a strategy that can scale to protect massive amounts of data. One such option is using Office 365 Managed Services to protect data stored in SharePoint or OneDrive and for emails sent via Exchange Online.

Think of digital sensitivity labeling as similar to manual classification. Office 365 Managed Services can configure automated classification policies based on your organization’s unique rules so you no longer have to think about them until you’re ready to make an update.

Mitigate insider threats

Sometimes the danger isn’t from the outside, but insiders pose a risk as well by leaking data, installing viruses, stealing IPs, or using harassment techniques to get what they want. It’s unfortunate to think that an employee or colleague could be capable of a threat, but it’s crucial to identify and prepare for every potential risk. Start by offering insider threat awareness training to your team members, and use collaboration tools to communicate and indicate any issues related to these types of threats.

“If you don’t feel ordained by the Universe to do this job, do something else. The intelligence community has to shut down the gaping wound that is the insider threat epidemic we are experiencing right now.”― James Scott.

Create retention policies

Use retention policies to ensure your company’s data is properly governed and meets industry regulations. Keep all required data, and delete data that is currently considered a liability. Make sure all of your employees have read, understand, and have easy access to your data retention policies. Also, keep a secure copy that cannot be updated except by authorized users. Once the retention period expires, create a policy for how you permanently delete data from every storage location.

Minimize risk and stay productive

Remote work is on the rise because not only does it help with business continuity and business resiliency amidst unprecedented circumstances, it also helps employees to stay healthy, self-directed, productive, and improves the overall experience. So, it’s essential to retain convenience and also to ensure data security compliance.

Your organization’s inflow of data will continue to skyrocket, business success means you can protect your data from insider and outsider threats. But how do you create data security compliance in a remote world?

SSI offers IT consulting and data security compliance services that solve your compliance and cyber security challenges.

Our certified data security team can help your organization determine, secure, and monitor your digital workspaces to protect all sensitive data. Request a quote here or reach out for more information!