Sensitive information is the critical data/ information that an individual or business organization must protect from unwanted access. Sensitive information examples include client contact information, inventory data, or the employee database among many other forms. Every business owner wants company information maintained with the highest discretion by their employees.
It is, therefore, crucial that the employees understand how crucial sensitive information is to the company.
Sensitive Information Examples
Business sensitive information should be protected, but what data should be confidential? We will explore the different examples of sensitive information below and then learn how to protect it:
1. Client Information
This is what people often consider first when they think of sensitive information because of how intricate it is and detrimental it can be if compromised. Customer information includes but is not limited to; their names, social security numbers, home address, workplace, identification documentation, and passwords.
2. Data Specific to a Particular Industry
Different industries have information that is very specific to their individual industries. This information must be well protected because it can jeopardize the company’s position as an industry leader. For instance, those in the e-commerce field will focus on protecting their clients’ payment details whereas a medical practitioner may be more focused on protecting the health details of their patients.
A point to note is that clients may not necessarily be aware that they have given potentially vulnerable information, where you keep this information and whether or not it is susceptible to attack. It is, however, the company’s prerogative to protect the customer’s data.
3. Employee Data
Employee data is quite similar to the customer data. However, whereas a business might simply have a customer’s name and email, they are likely to have more of the employee’s sensitive information. This is because an employee gives a company access to their banking details, usernames, passwords and any confidential information during the hiring process.
4. Trade Secrets and Intellectual Property
Most, if not all companies have access to proprietary information that is most likely stored within the network, internal documentation systems or using a third party. An example of this would be a recipe for a food-related company or an app still in beta mode for a company that is involved in software development.
5. Inventory and Operational Data
Any information that affects the day-to-day operations of your business or discloses your inventory details is sensitive and must be protected. You don’t want your business rivals gaining access to confidential company information that could compromise your competitive advantage.
How to Protect Sensitive Data
Keeping information hidden in the digital era is not as easy as locking it away in a store. Here’s how you can secure your data:
1. Limit or Control Access
For any sensitive information that is accessible digitally, it is of paramount importance that access is controlled, either using passwords, encryption, firewalls or all three. If the organization has a cloud system with limited access, then that makes it a little bit easier to control. But if the data is saved on storage devices such as external hard drives that can be easily be misplaced, then extra measures must be taken in order to control access.
If passwords are the way to go, then ensure that these passwords are changed regularly. Many businesses use simple passwords such as *company name* 123.
Best practice when creating a password is to first and foremost, not to be too obvious. A mixture of lower case, upper case, and special characters can prove hard to crack.
2. Lockable Storage Cabinets
There are physical documents that you can’t afford to discard but still need to keep in case of emergency. When such a case arises, it’s best to get a storage cabinet that you can lock and only a specific set of people have access to it. Putting the locker in a room that is not accessible to the general public decreases your chances of data-attack.
3. Use of Shredders and Separate Confidential Waste Bins
Even in the wake of the digital era, many companies still prefer paper. This means that there will be many sensitive physical documents that require disposal. In such cases, a shredder is necessary and/or a confidential waste bin.
You should never assume that once a document is thrown in a bin, it cannot be accessed or viewed by someone else.
4. Safe and Confidential Document Delivery
You may have found the best way to protect your documents internally but in the probability that these documents need to be transported to another destination, it is vital to enhance the security to ensure that everything is safe until arrival. If physical documents are moving from your company to a different destination, use the services of a trusted courier company. Better yet, use an internal employee that you trust to take charge of the delivery.
If you have digital documents that require to be shared with a third party, try to use a secure file sharing program. You can also use email but ensure that the documents are encrypted and that the service provider is a trusted source.
5. In-House Training
Most times when there is a case of sensitive business data being leaked, it is the company’s own employees who are most likely to be at fault. The cause may not even have to be malicious intent. More often than not, employees do not receive adequate training.
It is important to let employees understand why data confidentiality is so important before training them on protecting this same confidential data. Unless they understand the weight of the data at hand, they will not appreciate the need to protect it.
You may then proceed to provide training on the technicalities of sensitive data protection such as why do you use secure passwords, how to destroy sensitive documents, etc. The employee data confidentiality training can be done in-house or the organization could hire a third-party company that is highly skilled in compliance to elaborate more on technical aspects such as passwords, phishing, and related IT-related problems.
You Don’t Have to It All on Your Own
You may already be aware of the different sensitive information examples but your company may still face a challenge in protecting data effectively. It is important to choose a trustworthy partner that is well established in the market. Go through the company’s credentials and ensure that they are equipped to handle a task as sensitive as this.
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