We used to be able to keep workers’ sensitive information safe in locked filing cabinets and drawers marked ‘confidential’. But now we need robust and sophisticated data security best practices to help employees and HR teams keep this information safe from cyberattack.
Every employee, from senior executives to entry-level staff, bears the responsibility of safeguarding critical data: data security is no longer the remit of the IT department alone. Instead, it’s a collective effort in which every member of the organisation plays a pivotal role.
In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of data security best practices for employees. We’ll discuss the evolving landscape of data security threats, the role employees take in GDPR compliance, and provide practical insights and best practices to empower employees to protect their organisations’ data.
As we delve deeper into the intricacies of data security, you’ll discover how Ciphr’s expertise and commitment to data security can play a pivotal role in securing your organisation’s digital assets. We are not just a solution provider; we are your trusted partner in the ongoing battle to safeguard your data and preserve your reputation.
Vigilance is critical to maintaining data security for employees and preventing breaches
Maintaining a vigilant and sceptical mindset is the first line of defence against phishing attacks. Employees play a pivotal role in safeguarding sensitive data, and their responsibility cannot be overstated. It’s essential to question the legitimacy of every email and online interaction. If something seems off, take a moment to verify its authenticity.
Moreover, reporting any suspicious activity or emails to your organisation’s IT or security department is crucial. Prompt reporting can prevent potential data breaches and help security teams take necessary actions to thwart cyber threats.
Cybercriminals are continuously evolving their tactics, making vigilance an ongoing commitment. Running regular awareness programmes, and asking employees to periodically complete mandatory training courses, is essential to keeping your employees up to date with the latest cyberthreats, and ensuring the security of your organisation’s data. Look to partner with a trusted provider of infosec training, such as Marshall E-Learning (part of the Ciphr Group), which offers a range of information security and GDPR eLearning courses.
Five data security best practices for employees to follow
Enhancing data security is a critical concern for both individuals and organisations. To protect sensitive information effectively, employees can follow a set of practical tips and best practices.
1. Password management
Password management is a fundamental aspect of data security. It’s crucial to create strong, unique passwords for each account, using a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters (such as exclamation points, hashtags, and other punctuation marks). Employing a reliable password manager can help generate and securely store these passwords. Additionally, enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible adds an extra layer of security. It’s important to not only create strong and unique passwords but also avoid easily guessable information. Never reuse passwords across different accounts, and consider using a reputable password manager to simplify the process. Be proactive in changing your passwords immediately if you suspect a security breach.
Single sign-on (SSO) is a powerful solution that can eliminate the need for maintaining multiple passwords. With SSO, employees can enjoy instant and secure access between systems, applications, and services using a single set of credentials. This not only enhances convenience but also strengthens security by reducing the risk of password-related vulnerabilities. Ciphr's HR software comes with SSO capabilities, to simplify access management, enhance security, and improve the overall user experience. By implementing SSO through Ciphr, you can significantly reduce the complexity of password management, minimise the risk of password-related breaches, and ensure efficient and secure access to critical systems.
2. Securing personal devices
When it comes to securing personal devices, encrypting your devices is a must to safeguard data in case of theft. Setting up PIN or biometric locks on smartphones and tablets further fortifies device security. To ward off malware and other threats, install and routinely update antivirus and anti-malware software. Always keep your device’s operating system and applications up to date with security patches to prevent vulnerabilities.
3. Data sharing
Limit the amount of personal information you share on social media and other public platforms. When sharing sensitive data, especially over email, use secure channels and encrypted file-sharing services where necessary. Familiarise yourself with privacy settings and share data only with trusted individuals.
4. Email security
Be cautious of unsolicited emails, especially those requesting sensitive information or containing unexpected attachments. Verify the sender’s email address and be cautious of links in emails. Avoid downloading or opening attachments from unknown sources, and promptly report any suspicious emails to your organisation’s IT department.
Identifying and avoiding common phishing tactics is crucial for safeguarding sensitive data. Phishing attacks are one of the most prevalent cyber threats, and they typically involve cybercriminals attempting to deceive individuals into revealing personal or confidential information.
How to recognise phishing attempts
- Generic greetings: be cautious of emails that use generic greetings like “Dear User” instead of addressing you by name. Legitimate organisations typically use your name in their communications
- Urgent or threatening language: phishing emails often use urgency or threats to pressure recipients into taking immediate action. For instance, they might claim your account will be suspended unless you act promptly
- Mismatched URLs: always hover over links in emails to preview the destination URL. Phishers often use masked URLs that appear legitimate but lead to malicious websites. Ensure the link matches the organisation’s official website
- Suspicious attachments: avoid opening email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Cybercriminals may use attachments to deliver malware
- Spoofed sender addresses: check the sender’s email address carefully. Phishers often use email addresses that mimic legitimate sources but have subtle variations or misspellings
- Request for personal information: legitimate organisations will not request sensitive information like passwords, national insurance (NI) numbers, or credit card details via email. Be sceptical of such requests
- Grammatical and spelling errors: phishing emails often contain errors in grammar and spelling. This can be a telltale sign of a fraudulent message
5. Safe browsing habits
Utilise a reputable web browser with security features enabled and look for the padlock symbol in the address bar before entering personal information on a website. Steer clear of pop-up ads and suspicious links. Download files or software only from trusted websites, and regularly clear your browser’s cache and cookies to minimise tracking.
Remember that data security is an ongoing process, and staying informed about evolving threats and best practices is essential. Collaborate with your organisation’s IT and information security (‘infosec’) teams to ensure compliance with specific company policies and regulations. By acting as a bridge between technical experts and the workforce, HR can organise training sessions, workshops, and awareness campaigns to help employees understand the importance of data security, making it relatable and accessible to all.
Data security best practices for employees working remotely
The rise of remote work has brought about several unique security challenges that both organisations and employees must address. One major concern is the use of unsecured networks. When employees work from home or other remote locations, they often connect to public Wi-Fi networks, which are inherently less secure. These networks can be prime targets for cybercriminals looking to intercept sensitive data. Additionally, the use of personal devices, which may not meet the same security standards as company-issued equipment, introduces vulnerabilities. Data leaks are another potential risk, because remote work environments may lack the same level of physical security found in traditional offices. Employees might inadvertently expose confidential information, leading to data breaches.
To establish a secure remote work environment, several strategies and best practices should be adopted:
- Use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is highly recommended. A VPN encrypts data traffic, making it much more challenging for hackers to intercept. It also allows remote workers to access company resources securely
- Data encryption is another critical measure; employees should be encouraged to encrypt sensitive files and communications, adding an extra layer of protection
- Securing home networks is equally vital. Employees should change default router passwords, enable WPA3 encryption, and regularly update router firmware to guard against cyber threats
- Organisations should provide remote work policies and guidelines to ensure that employees are aware of best practices for maintaining data security while working from non-traditional locations
- Regular security training and awareness programmes are also essential to keep remote workers informed about evolving threats and cybersecurity best practices, empowering them to be proactive in safeguarding sensitive data
How HR software can help make remote work more secure
HR software plays a vital role in addressing the security challenges associated with remote work by facilitating various measures to enhance data protection:
- Security training and awareness: many HR solutions include features for training and awareness programmes. They can deliver security training modules, updates, and reminders to remote workers, helping them stay informed about evolving threats and cybersecurity best practices
- Access control: HR systems often includes role-based access control, which allows organisations to limit data access to only those who need it. This ensures that remote workers can only access data relevant to their roles, reducing the risk of unauthorised access
- Document management: a robust HR solution empowers employees to securely manage and store sensitive documents, ensuring that confidential information is protected even in remote work environments. Document encryption and access controls add an extra layer of security. Ciphr's HR software has a built-in document acceptance functionality which enables organisations to tailor policies and procedures for employees to understand, review and sign online
- Compliance tracking: HR software can help in tracking and managing compliance with data protection regulations like GDPR. It can generate reports and alerts to ensure that the organisation remains compliant, even in remote work scenarios
- Time and attendance tracking: Some HR software includes time and attendance tracking, which can help ensure that remote workers are logging their hours accurately. This helps in monitoring remote work productivity and identifying any irregularities
- Onboarding and offboarding: HR software streamlines the employee onboarding and offboarding processes, making it easier to provision and deprovision remote access and accounts for employees. This reduces the risk of unauthorised access to company systems
Utilising HR software in conjunction with data security best practices means that employees and organisations can effectively manage the security challenges associated with remote work, promoting data protection and minimising the risk of data breaches and cyber threats.
Data security training resources
Marshalls’ comprehensive data security training course equips employees with the knowledge and skills needed to ensure the highest level of data security. With the ever-increasing volume of sensitive data being handled in today’s digital landscape, this training course is of paramount importance. Its purpose is to educate employees about the intricacies of data protection, including critical elements such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), privacy, and compliance standards. The scope of this course extends beyond mere compliance; it fosters a culture of data security awareness and empowers employees to play an active role in safeguarding sensitive information.
Interested in finding out more? Claim your free trial of Marshalls’ information security training course now.
Sensitive data, whether personal or business-related, is a valuable asset that must be protected. The responsibility for following data security best practice is shared by all employees, from front-line staff to C-suite executives. Breaches in data security can result in financial losses, reputational damage, and legal consequences. The trust of clients and stakeholders also hangs in the balance. It is crucial for UK employees to recognise that data security is not just an IT department’s concern; it’s a collective responsibility that requires diligence and a commitment to best practices.
At Ciphr, we are deeply committed to data security. This commitment extends both to our internal practices and our unwavering support for our clients’ efforts in protecting their data. We understand the gravity of the task and are dedicated to upholding the highest standards of data security. Our software is regularly updated to address evolving data protection regulations, ensuring that your organisation remains on the right side of the law.
To learn more about how Ciphr’s people management software can support your GDPR compliance needs and streamline your HR processes, book a demo with us today. Our experts will be happy to provide you with a detailed overview of our software and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to take the first step towards a more secure and compliant HR management experience.