Data Protection and Businesses

In the increasingly digitised and electronic 21st Century, information assurance and protection has become increasingly important.

As more and more information is uploaded, stored and accessed online, more and more sensitive information is in cyberspace. Exposure of such information can compromise a person’s personal details, financial details, medical records, or business records. Such information can be very sensitive. The risk of such information getting into the wrong hands can lead to identity theft, fraud, or industrial espionage. As more sophisticated criminals and gangs are now moving online and exploiting weaknesses in business networks, the risk of such information being found and exploited by criminals is very real indeed.

Measures have been implemented over the last decade to fight such online cyber-crime. Many nations have implemented legislation (for example, in the UK the Data Protection Act) to address this very matter, and have set out regulations to be followed by businesses to protect their information. At a government level, governmental groups and committees, and intelligence agencies such GCHQ seek, provide (and act on) information in this new arena.

For businesses, such regulations and legislations can be seen to be procedural, bureaucratic and administrative headache- but can potentially be vital to the safety of the business. Proper safeguards and above all employee awareness and training are essential in preventing online information from being accessed by an outside party, or leaving their particular network open to cyber criminals by carelessness or negligence. It is vital that employees receive adequate training in areas such as handling and storing digital information correctly, keeping sensitive records and databases secure, and processing online payments.

Another point here concerns customers and clients. Particularly of concern for direct customer facing businesses (such as in the service industries) is the need to keep customer information and financial details secure. Once again, staff awareness and training, and proper procedures and due diligence are needed in such industries to prevent the theft of customer data. Under legislation, it is actually a requirement of businesses to implement a secure system to store customer information.

For some businesses, the threat of cyber-attacks is very real indeed. For technology and pharmaceutical, industries, for example, industrial espionage is very much a concern, and one that can cost a company potentially millions in stolen intellectual property.

Although good digital working practices and procedures can be laborious and time consuming- such measures can be vital in protecting a company. Digital theft can result in sensitive information being out in the open, a great loss in revenue, and an even greater loss in revenue. Although laborious, a comprehensive and secure IT infrastructure and set of working practices can be invaluable for any business.