Raising employee awareness of their responsibility to protect data privacy and information security is a critical step in complying with data privacy laws and regulations, fostering trust among employees, clients, customers, partners and communities, and avoiding costly fines and potential lawsuits.
Beyond laws and regulations, there is the human factor. Employees who don’t know how to recognize the red flags of a phishing attempt or a fraudulent website or use weak passwords are putting the organization and personal and confidential information at risk. And the shift to more remote/hybrid work creates new cyber security challenges.
As part of a comprehensive data privacy and information security program, ongoing security awareness education and training helps ensure that employees understand their role in:
Complying with data privacy laws
Privacy laws require organizations to disclose their data collection efforts, follow security requirements to protect personal data, and impose penalties for data breaches. They include California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which give consumers more control over how businesses collect, use and share their personal information.
Additionally, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Texas Medical Privacy Act (TMPA) regulate how protected health information (PHI) is stored, used and transmitted.
Recognizing personally identifiable information (PII)
Personally identifiable information or PII can be used to identify an individual and therefore must be handled differently to protect privacy. It includes someone’s name, social security number, home address, phone number, and personal email address. PII data is often found on customer, financial, credit, email communications, health and education records.
Avoiding fraudulent emails and websites
Hackers frequently use phishing emails and phony websites to steal sensitive information and access an organization’s network and data. Employees need to be able to identify genuine email requests and websites from fake ones attempting to trick them into disclosing information, downloading files or clicking on a link.
Training can explain and reinforce the organization’s guidelines and policies for choosing a unique password and using multi-factor authentication. Careless practices, like weak passwords, sharing computer credentials, using the same password across multiple systems or platforms and not signing out when away from devices gives hackers an opening to steal sensitive information.
- Reporting a data breach
Unfortunately, data breaches can occur despite training, firewalls and security software, and time is of the essence when responding to them. Data privacy training should explain what employees should do to immediately report their suspicions of a compromised device or data breach.
Cyber security is everyone’s job. Conducting ongoing cyber security training is one of the proactive steps that organizations can take to ensure employees know how to handle data and keep it safe — and, importantly, know how to respond appropriately to potential issues.
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