Companies Need To Reman Vigilant Against Data Breaches - Acquisition International

As the Media Frenzy From GDPR Dies Down, Companies Need To Reman Vigilant Against Data Breaches

When the GDPR legislation was being created there was a flurry of media reports and business commentary on the importance of data safety, with companies and individuals alike scrutinising their own policies and working on improvement. A little more than a year later and the interest has waned. However, as Staff Writer Hannah Stevenson shows, it is still of vital importance that data is stored and handled safely to ensure security for businesses and stakeholders.

In 2018, with GDPR about to be implemented, companies and media outlets alike were fixated on data protection. Firms issued guides to staff and updated policies whilst the media

Recently, Apricorn, the leading manufacturer of software-free, 256-bit AES XTS hardware-encrypted USB drives, released new research highlighting the growing threats posed by mobile and remote workers. The research found that eighty nine percent of surveyed organisations have experienced a data breach, and human error is still the prevailing cause.

According to this latest information almost two thirds (63%) of respondents noted that human error was the main cause of a data breach within their organisation; be it mobile workers, unintentional error, or employees with malicious intent. A lack of encryption and phishing emails also ranked in the top five main causes.

This parallels earlier findings from a Twitter poll of 12,500 users carried out by Apricorn in February which found that humans, whether through malicious intent or unintentional error, were almost twice the threat to personal data than technology itself. This demonstrates that businesses need to be investing more time and resources into educating and supporting their employees, especially those working remotely, rather than continually financing new technologies to solve their security challenges.

Additionally, almost half of organisations’ (47%) remote workers have knowingly put corporate data at risk of a breach, and over a third (34%) of respondents stated that their organisation’s mobile/remote workers don’t care about security – a staggering sixteen percent increase compared with findings from the previous year.

When questioned on the biggest problems associated with implementing a cyber security plan for remote/mobile working, thirty percent of respondents stated that managing all of the technology employees require for mobile working is too complex. Just under a quarter of respondents (21%) stated that they cannot be certain that their data is adequately secured for remote/mobile working, with fourteen percent highlighting that they have no control over where company data goes and where it is stored. However, this a massive improvement on previous years as this percentage continues to decrease, where in 2018 it was twenty seven percent, and in 2017 thirty eight percent admitted to having no control over where company data goes and is stored.

Half of the organisations surveyed expect that mobile and remote workers will expose their business to a breach, showing a huge mistrust in their employees’ ability to keep data secure. Organisations should identify corporately approved, hardware encrypted devices that are provided to staff with a justified business case, and whitelisted on the IT infrastructure, blocking access to any non-approved media.

Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA at Apricorn commented on the findings and how, despite the recent legislative changes, companies have again become complacent with regards to their data.

“It’s unfathomable to think that even with GDPR now in full swing, employees, and remote workers in particular, have such disregard for the security of corporate data they are responsible for and the risk they pose. To see the numbers increasing year on year, demonstrates the dire state of organisations’ data security. Be it ignorance, defiance, or just simply a lack of care, employees are failing to engage even the most basic security measures, with no consideration for the consequences of their actions, or inaction in most circumstances. “

“Organisations need to build a security-first culture to protect data on the move and limit the risks posed by human error. Employees need to be aware of the risks facing them and the serious implications of data loss for their employer.”

Worse still, IT decision makers trust third parties to look after business-critical data more than they trust their own colleagues according to the survey. Over 50% of the respondents remarked that they trusted third parties with their critical business data, but they are only provided with access to the data they require or, all the data they share with them is encrypted.

“The fact that organisations have more trust in third parties than their own employees is alarming. If businesses invested more time in educating employees and enforcing the necessary security policies to ensure compliance with data protection regulations, they would find that securing corporate data would be a much less taxing and worrisome process” Fielding concluded.

Another recent example of the importance of using data correctly was the recent study on the IR35 status assessments carried out by contractors on high-profile public-sector infrastructure projects, which found that 98% of workers evaluated were inside IR35. The suspicion is that public sector contracts are subject to a blanket employment status approach to minimise risk, showing that contractors are not using their data effectively to accurately make assessments on employment.

According to Alex Fraser at Engage approach could itself be challenged as non-compliant as each assignment should be treated on its own merits due to the increased danger of data being incorrectly used.

“While of course the classification process isn’t simple, the fact that many projects have such a high number of contractors deemed to be inside IR35 has understandably raised concerns that the HMRC’s Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) tool is either not being used properly or not returning an accurate result. In addition, a lack of accurate employment status data or poor record keeping can result in the ‘safest’ outcome being taken.”

“The simple fact is, lengthy, broken and siloed data collection and storage processes make it unnecessarily difficult to correctly define a workers employment status quickly and when IR35 off-payroll is extended to the private sector we can certainly expect to see more businesses facing similar accusations. It’s also completely unfair on those contractors who are caught up in this. The difficulty they have in proving their correct status in order to gain work is unacceptable. What we need is complete transparency and ease of use for end hirers, agencies and contractors.”

Ultimately, these examples showcase the importance of using data properly to ensure compliance and that existing systems work properly, and whilst the conversation has ended following the introduction of GDPR, firms need to continue to focus on data protection and training of staff moving forward.