Best Practice Steps for Safe Data Sharing – Photo by Christa Dodoo on UnsplashDigital data is everywhere. You only have to look at how much data is transmitted over the internet on a weekly, daily, hourly, or even second-by-second basis to understand just how much data is being shared. In fact, at the start of 2020, the amount of data in the world was estimated to be 44 zettabytes. Given how much data is created every day, pundits predict that this will likely increase to 175 zettabytes by 2025.

As employees and businesses, we are constantly sharing information. Likewise, the number and variety of entities and individuals we share that information with has grown exponentially. No longer is this simply restricted to the perimeter of our own businesses. It now extends to partners, suppliers, customers, prospects, and influencers around the globe.

Consequently, the challenge for most organisations now is: how do we share data easily, quickly, yet also securely?

More Regulation, More Data Breaches

The good news is that there is more regulation to govern data. It requires organisations to protect it from unauthorised access. However, the bad news is that there are also more data breaches occurring. Unfortunately, if your data is vulnerable to cybercriminals or even to human error, you need to be prepared to pay. According to a study undertaken in 2020 by IBM, the global average total cost of a data breach is estimated at $3.86 million.

Now add the reality that many employees will continue to work remotely yet still need to collaborate from anywhere securely. It is easy to see how the risk is escalating with this extended attack surface.

However, it is challenging to regularly find a solution capable of handling file-sharing or the secure sharing of confidential information. Often it can be hard to trace what happens to that information after it has been shared or to identify whether the information should be shared in the first place.

Prevent Unauthorised Access to Sensitive and Confidential Information

Organisations must, therefore, implement the appropriate measures to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive and confidential information. They also need to prevent accidental loss or the deletion of any confidential data. UK public sector organisations make it easier for employees to understand what constitutes confidential information that needs to be protected. Most have adopted some form of Protective Marking System. It highlights the sensitivity of the information and what action employees need to take.

However, private sector organisations don’t typically have such policies in place. It often leaves employees unsure about what constitutes sensitive or confidential information. It is therefore important that organisations establish a culture of security whereby employees are trained on how to appropriately classify, handle, transfer, and delete any such data. And, of course, that they have the right tools and technology to enable them to do this efficiently, proactively, and securely.

Take a Risk-based Cybersecurity Approach

In deciding the most appropriate way to do this and the level of security required, organisations should take a risk-based approach. For example, when sharing confidential information, the employee must ensure the recipient understands why the information is being shared and the circumstances under which it may or may not be shared. They also need to ensure that any further handling of the information is secure. This applies whether it is being shared with someone inside or outside the organisation.

When dealing with external parties, businesses need to understand what data they will need access to and why, and ultimately what level of risk this poses. Likewise, they need to understand what controls such parties have to safeguard data and protect against incoming and outgoing cyber threats. This needs to be monitored, logged, and regularly reviewed. A baseline of normal activities between the organisation and the external party should be established.

Layer your Data Security Solutions

Here at HelpSystems, we advocate taking a layered approach to data security. It starts with understanding and classifying your data and identifying what information needs to be protected. Data classification tools are critical to ensure that sensitive data is appropriately treated, stored, and disposed of during its lifetime in accordance with its importance to the organisation. Appropriate classification protects the organisation from the risk of sensitive data being exposed.

But inevitably, employees will accidentally send sensitive data to the wrong person or transfer an otherwise “safe” document containing hidden metadata that could compromise the organisation. Any number of scenarios can put an organisation at risk unless they have a solution to detect and sanitise data in real-time before a breach occurs.

Therefore, organisations need to detect and prevent data leaks. This means ensuring that documents uploaded and downloaded from the web are thoroughly analysed.  To do this effectively, they need an integrated Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solution. It will remove risks from email, web, and endpoints yet still allow the transfer of information.

After you’ve ensured your data is identified and classified, scrubbed of potentially sensitive data, and approved for sending by authorised users, it needs to be sent or transferred securely. This can be achieved by email encryption or, where there are large volumes of data, through a managed file transfer (MFT) solution.

And finally, to secure confidential data whenever and wherever it travels, Digital Rights Management software provides organisations with the ability to track, audit, and revoke access at any time by encrypting the data with a unique key that is secured via a cloud platform.

Layered data security is the best solution

Layering data security solutions is a proactive approach to protecting your confidential and sensitive information.  Data security is only as robust as the various elements that support it. Tiering proven solutions to ensure your sensitive data remains secure from start to finish will help you avoid any data compromise – and the financial and reputational costs that go with it.

If you are interested in finding out more about specific use cases around best practice for sharing sensitive data, please download our guide.

titus Logo as of Mar 2021Titus is synonymous with world-class data classification and our solutions are key components of HelpSystems’ robust data security portfolio.

Titus solutions are trusted by millions of users in over 120 countries around the world, including top military, government and Fortune 100 organizations. With the addition of data identification and advanced machine learning technologies, Titus has evolved into a global leader in enterprise-grade data protection solutions.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here