A week before payroll, the HR team of a friend’s company received an email from an external consultant notifying them about updates to his bank details. Vigilant, the team immediately noticed subtle differences between their consultant’s usual email address and this new one. So, they decided to get in touch with the consultant through an instant message using their usual communication channels.
As it turned out, the consultant had no idea who the mysterious email sender was. They had his name, and the scammers knew he worked with the company, but he was 100% sure it wasn’t him or his staff. Can you imagine what could have happened if the scammer had been successful? The company could have wasted so much time and money. Relationships could have even been compromised. As a project manager who handles massive amounts of information, it’s now more important than ever to ensure you’re keeping them safe.
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5 Data Security Measures Every Project Manager Must Implement
1. Maintain Proper Password Hygiene
Having your password compromised is one of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to steal information. This makes it essential for you and your team to practice good habits when it comes to creating, storing, and sharing passwords and access. Password hygiene starts with secure password creation. Have policies in place to guarantee everyone in your team knows how to create strong passwords. And as much as possible, reduce the use of shared passwords.
To complement this, consider working with a password manager. This helps ensure that while your passwords are strong, you won’t accidentally lock yourselves out from them. Finally, turn on two-factor authentication. This setting requires an additional step for users before they can login to an account. Verification is done through a separate email address or a mobile phone.
2. Observe Data Privacy Requirements
Following key provisions for data protection directives, such as the GDPR and CCPA, may seem tedious, but if you’re handling personal and confidential information, the last thing you want is to be complacent. If you transact with European citizens, you’re required to observe the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), regardless of your size, industry, or business location.
Penalties for violations can be as high as 4% of a company’s annual revenue or 20 million euros. If you’re a company with at least $25 million in annual revenue and catering to California residents, what you have to follow is the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Like the GDPR, CCPA requires transparency on what data they have and how it is processed. If violated, individuals may file class-action lawsuits. Company penalties range from $2,500–$7,500 per violation, and consumers could receive $100–$750 compensation for each violation.
3. Manage and Backup Your Data
Data management can be tedious. If you’re handling massive amounts of information, it might be worth considering using a data hosting provider. Data hosting providers help you keep your data organized, available, and most importantly, secure. They provide layers of protection with around-the-clock support. They also comply with stringent standards, so you can be sure you’re not violating any of the regulations mentioned in the previous section.
With data being key to so many projects and businesses, preparing contingencies in case of natural disasters, equipment failures, or cyberattacks should also be part of your considerations. An excellent way to do this is by making sure you have backups that are secure but can be easily retrieved in case of an emergency. A service that could come in handy here is Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS). DRaaS solutions allow companies to create backups of their IT infrastructure without investing in more infrastructure and management.
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4. Secure Your Company Devices
While this is primarily the responsibility of your IT team, it’s still good to do your part in being vigilant when it comes to company devices. As data breach technologies become more sophisticated, tech companies do what they can to combat this by constantly improving their products and services through software patches.
Ensuring that your devices use the latest software, operating systems, and anti-virus technologies helps you maximize the protection they provide. Turn on notifications for system updates to help you keep tabs on their latest developments. If your IT team misses it, follow up and secure your team’s devices as much as possible.
5. Educate your Team, Clients, and Customers
Your project’s data can be compromised by any member of your team or client. That said, it’s crucial to make sure that each and every one of your colleagues is educated about the importance of cybersecurity. Raise awareness of the most common cybercrimes, such as malware, ransomware, information phishing, scams, etc. Check the news to stay vigilant of the new ways hackers are trying to steal data. Remind everyone in your organization to double-check the PMCOMs they use, email addresses they interact with, links they receive, and requests they address.
Regardless of who’s responsible for the data breach, you’re all going to be answerable for its consequences. So, it’s vital to ensure everyone puts in the same effort in safeguarding sensitive information.
More Than Your Project Is at Stake
Data leaks are hazardous. Regardless of how successful your project is, it might all come to nothing if you lose the trust of your clients and stakeholders. Be vigilant when it comes to handling information. Adapt good data management habits, and encourage your team to do the same.