For any modern business, the data that they hold is among their most valuable assets. Whether it is data about customers or about the business itself, data is now integral to corporate strategizing. Playing fast and loose with your data security can have serious repercussions for your business.
If data about your business leaks into the public, then it will seriously undermine your reputation and will give people cause to hesitate before handing their data over to you.
It is inevitable that you will need to share your data with another business at some point, even if it’s only one of your suppliers. However, you should be selective about who you share your data with and aware of the associated risks.
One of the most fundamental principles in data security is that of access control. Access control refers to limiting access to data based on system privileges. For example, password protection is a form of access control – the most common form, in fact. However, there are other approaches that can be taken to managing access.
When you entrust your data to a third party, you are entrusting them with managing access to that data. That means that if they have lax access control policies, there could potentially be a large number of people with access to your data. Simply password-protecting files isn’t enough either, proper access control has two components – authentication and authorisation.
Authentication is the process by which the data custodian verifies that someone is who they say they are. This process then needs to be combined with a parallel process and authorisation, which verifies that that user is authorised to access the data they are requesting.
If you are entrusting your data to any third-party supplier, you need to have confidence in their access control policy. This is especially important if you will be sharing data directly with them through the cloud. Without sufficient access control, data will be vulnerable as it is passing through cloud systems.
One potential consequence of poor access control is data leaks. When people who have no reason to have access to your data but are able to access it, there is a chance that someone will have the intention of leaking it. Data leaks can be damaging to a business; your own customers will hold you accountable if you share their data with someone who is careless with it.
Other businesses may also be interested in some of your business data and allowing it to fall into their hands can undermine your corporate strategy and hand your competitors a needless advantage. The best defense against data leaks is to ensure that you only ever share your data with other businesses that you trust.
Sharing with Third Parties
Businesses that you share your business data with may well go on to share it themselves. For example, lots of businesses utilize cloud processing in order to analyze data, which necessitates sharing this data with at least one other entity. It doesn’t matter how good your own data security policies are if you then go and give your data to someone whose own policies are lacking.
Before entering into any kind of long-term data-sharing arrangement with another business, you need to find out exactly who they will be sharing the data with and whether those other entities are trustworthy.
Again, the best defense here is to only share data with suppliers that you are sure you can trust. Next time you find yourself reviewing your current suppliers, make sure that you factor in their data security. Checking the reputation of suppliers is easy enough – all it takes is a Google search.
You can also use websites like Utility Bidder when it’s time for your business utility renewals to get a shortlist of potential suppliers. Once you have a shortlist, make sure that you have a look for any history of data leaks or other data security issues.
As well as using cyberattacks, criminals interested in stealing data can also utilize flaws in the physical security of the servers hosting that data. If a malicious actor gains physical access to a system, it is easy for them to compromise its security.
Before you share any data with another business or supplier, you should find out exactly how that data will be stored, and where it will be stored.
As long as you do your due diligence and only share business data with suppliers that you trust, then your data should be safe. However, all it takes is one weak link in the chain to undermine data security – it doesn’t matter how secure your systems are if you hand your data over to someone whose systems are insecure.