When managing your network, developing an app, or even organizing paper files, sound security is no accident. Companies that consider security from the start assess their options and make reasonable choices based on the nature of their business and the sensitivity of the information involved. Threats to data may transform over time, but the fundamentals of sound security remain constant. As the Federal Trade Commission outlined in Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business, you should know what personal information you have in your files and on your computers, and keep only what you need for your business. You should protect the information that you keep, and properly dispose of what you no longer need. And, of course, you should create a plan to respond to security incidents.
In addition to Protecting Personal Information, the FTC has resources to help you think through how those principles apply to your business. There’s an online tutorial to help train your employees; publications to address particular data security challenges; and news releases, blog posts, and guidance to help you identify – and possibly prevent – pitfalls.
There’s another source of information about keeping sensitive data secure: the lessons learned from the more than 50 law enforcement actions the FTC has announced so far. These are settlements – no findings have been made by a court – and the specifics of the orders apply just to those companies, of course. But learning about alleged lapses that led to law enforcement can help your company improve its practices. And most of these alleged practices involve basic, fundamental security missteps. Distilling the facts of those cases down to their essence, here are ten lessons to learn that touch on vulnerabilities that could affect your company, along with practical guidance on how to reduce the risks they pose.
- Start with security.
- Control access to data sensibly.
- Require secure passwords and authentication.
- Store sensitive personal information securely and protect it during transmission.
- Segment your network and monitor who’s trying to get in and out.
- Secure remote access to your network.
- Apply sound security practices when developing new products.
- Make sure your service providers implement reasonable security measures.
- Put procedures in place to keep your security current and address vulnerabilities that may arise.
- Secure paper, physical media, and devices.
Looking for more information?
The FTC's Business Center has a Data Security section with an up-to-date listing of relevant cases and other free resources.