Corporate data should be an asset, but without the right safeguards in place, it can quickly become a liability. Corporations must protect their own sensitive information such as trade secrets and proprietary processes as well as the private data of their customers and clients if they want to maintain their profitability and their good reputation.
But when it comes to safeguarding their data assets, especially those stored in the cloud, many organizations don’t know where to start. That’s why we wrote this post: to give a quick-start guide to protecting cloud corporate data and complying with data protection requirements in the US.
First, we’ll explain what we mean when we talk about data protection in the cloud. Next, we’ll give a quick overview of some of the laws that govern corporate data management in the US. We’ll then explore three best practices for protecting corporate data in cloud environments and five tips for preventing unauthorized access to data. Finally, we’ll discuss how organizations can use eDiscovery technology to improve their data protection and privacy practices.
What is cloud data protection?
Cloud data protection refers to the set of practices, technologies, and strategies implemented to secure and safeguard data that is stored, processed, or transmitted in cloud environments. Cloud data protection aims to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, availability, and privacy of data stored in cloud services, platforms, and infrastructure. As organizations increasingly rely on cloud services to store and manage their data, ensuring its protection becomes a critical priority.
Let’s turn next to the major laws that govern data protection and privacy in the US.
Benefits of cloud data protection
Cloud data protection practices offer a wide range of benefits to individuals and organizations that rely on cloud computing services. Some of the key benefits include:
- Data Security: Cloud data protection practices encompass various security measures such as encryption, access controls, and authentication mechanisms. These help in safeguarding sensitive data from unauthorized access and breaches.
- Data Privacy Compliance: Cloud data protection often aligns with data privacy regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA. Adhering to these regulations helps organizations avoid legal and financial penalties associated with non-compliance.
- Data Loss Prevention: Cloud data protection strategies typically involve data backup, replication, and disaster recovery mechanisms. These measures ensure that data can be restored in case of accidental deletion, hardware failure, or other catastrophic events.
- Scalability and Flexibility: Cloud services allow organizations to scale their infrastructure up or down as needed. This scalability enables them to adapt to changing data protection requirements without significant upfront investments in hardware and resources.
- Remote Accessibility: Cloud data protection practices facilitate remote access to data, which is especially valuable for businesses with distributed teams or those needing to access data from various locations.
- Collaboration: Cloud storage and data protection mechanisms promote easy collaboration among teams. Multiple users can access and work on the same data simultaneously, enhancing productivity and teamwork.
- Reduced Infrastructure Management: Cloud providers handle much of the infrastructure management, including security updates, patches, and hardware maintenance. This reduces the burden on internal IT teams, allowing them to focus on other strategic tasks.
- Centralized Management: Cloud data protection practices often provide centralized management interfaces, making it easier to monitor, control, and audit data access and usage across the organization.
Main challenges related to cloud data protection
While cloud data protection offers numerous benefits, it also comes with several challenges that organizations need to address to ensure the security and privacy of their data.
- Data Security and Privacy Concerns: Storing sensitive data in the cloud can raise concerns about data security and privacy. Organizations must ensure that their data is properly encrypted, and access controls are in place to prevent unauthorized access.
- Data Breaches: Cloud services are not immune to data breaches. If a breach occurs, sensitive information can be exposed, leading to reputational damage, legal consequences, and financial losses.
- Compliance: Different industries and regions have specific data protection regulations that organizations must adhere to when storing and processing data in the cloud. Achieving compliance can be complex, especially for global organizations that need to navigate various legal frameworks.
- Vendor Lock-In: Switching cloud providers or moving data back on-premises can be challenging due to the risk of vendor lock-in. This occurs when an organization becomes heavily dependent on a particular cloud provider’s proprietary tools and services.
- Data Loss and Recovery: While cloud providers offer data backup and recovery solutions, organizations should have contingency plans in place to deal with data loss due to human error, software bugs, or other unforeseen events.
- Limited Control: Organizations may have limited control over the physical infrastructure and security measures of the cloud provider. This lack of control can make some organizations uncomfortable, especially those with stringent security requirements.
Major data protection and privacy laws in the US
Data privacy laws are gaining in popularity all over the world—as of mid-March 2022, 157 countries had enacted their own general data protection regulation and privacy laws.
So far, though, the United States does not have an overarching federal law that protects citizens’ data or provides data privacy rights. Rather, a hodgepodge of federal and state laws grants some protections. Those fall into three categories: state laws, general federal laws, and industry-specific laws.
The Privacy Act of 1974, CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) are three significant data protection regulations that impact how organizations handle data, including when using cloud services in the US.
1. State data protection laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
The first modern data protection law in the United States was the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), as amended by the California Privacy Rights Act. The CCPA applies to for-profit, private organizations that collect or sell personal data belonging to California residents. Personal data is broadly defined under the CCPA to include any identifying data about a consumer, such as their address, phone number, Social Security number, date of birth, and even their internet activity and GPS information.
The CCPA gives California residents the right to know what personal information an organization has collected about them, where it came from, and who that data might be sold to. The CCPA also gives data subjects the right to have an organization delete their personal information, opt out of information sharing, limit how their information is used, and make corrections to their data.
Since California passed the CCPA, other states have followed suit. So far, data privacy and protection laws are in effect in Virginia, Colorado, and Connecticut. Similar legislation has been signed in Utah, Oregon, Texas, Montana, Iowa, Tennessee, and Indiana but hasn’t yet gone into effect.
Of course, state laws only apply within that state’s boundaries. So, what federal laws govern data protection and privacy?
2. General federal data protection laws such as the Privacy Act
The US doesn’t yet have a broad data protection or data privacy law that’s comparable to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). However, a few laws provide some protections.
The Privacy Act of 1974 dictates how federal agencies can collect and use the personally identifiable data they collect about individuals, such as their names or Social Security numbers. It requires government agencies to obtain written consent from those individuals before disclosing their personal information unless specific exceptions apply. For example, an agency may make an unauthorized disclosure to a person if there are “compelling circumstances affecting the health or safety of an individual” and the agency notifies the individual of the disclosure. The Privacy Act also allows data subjects to request their records or request changes to their records and affords them certain privacy protections.
Another federal law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), provides broad data privacy protections for children under 13 years of age. Under COPPA, companies cannot collect data from these young children without first obtaining consent from their parents or guardians. They also must maintain the confidentiality of children’s data and grant specific data access rights to parents and guardians.
These aren’t the only federal data protection laws, though.
3. Industry-specific laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
There are also a few data protection laws in the US that only cover specific businesses or industries
First, there’s the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA most famously requires “covered entities” to protect patients’ sensitive health information from unauthorized disclosure and notify patients of data breaches that may affect them. Covered entities include businesses that provide health plans, healthcare providers, and businesses that associate with covered entities (such as billing companies, health plan administrators, and lawyers). HIPAA also gives patients the right to view and correct their health information.
There’s also the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which applies only to financial institutions. This law requires “companies that offer consumers financial products or services like loans, financial or investment advice, or insurance” to protect their consumers’ sensitive data. Financial institutions must also explain to consumers how they use and share their information.
So, how can corporations protect their data to ensure they comply with the data privacy laws that apply to them?
3 best practices for efficiently protecting corporate data
Developing strong policies and practices for protecting corporate data is essential for complying with data privacy laws and avoiding hefty fines, steep legal fees, and reputational damage. Here are three best practices you can employ to protect your organization’s data.
1. Gain insights into the organization’s data.
The first step to safeguarding your organization’s data is understanding it. Start by taking an inventory of your corporate data, especially sensitive data stored elsewhere. Then, create a data map that shows where data is stored, how it travels throughout the organization, and which custodians are responsible for it. This will give you a clearer picture of your organization’s data as a whole and help you decide how to protect it.
2. Understand data privacy laws and regulations.
With a more thorough understanding of the types of data your organization has, work together with your corporate legal team and your data privacy officer, if you have one, to understand the laws and regulations governing your business. Establish regular meetings to stay apprised of changes so you can adapt your practices as data privacy laws continue to evolve.
3. Create organization-wide data protection and privacy policies.
Once you have a handle on your organization’s data and the laws and regulations that govern it, you’ll be better prepared to create robust data protection and privacy policies concerning data loss prevention (DLP), data sharing, data retention, and incident response. Implement these policies consistently throughout your ranks to ensure an evenhanded approach to data protection and privacy.
Applying these best practices is a great start to protecting your corporate data—but there’s more you can do to protect your organization from data breaches.
5 cloud data security tips for preventing data breaches
In 2022, data breaches, leaks, and exposures affected 422 million individuals in the United States alone. Based on this number, it’s obvious why data and security measures should be a top priority for organizations. Here are our top five tips for preventing data breaches.
1. Provide training for employees.
Employees are an integral part of any organization’s data security efforts. Train your employees on the policies you’ve established to protect your data and on general data security best practices regarding password creation and sharing, phishing attempts, malware detection, and incident reporting. This will help ensure that your employees understand their role in safeguarding the data they interact with every day.
2. Monitor for issues.
Hackers are relentless—which means that for many organizations, data breaches are inevitable. Mitigate the effects of any breach that does occur by catching it early and taking swift remedial action. Detect cybersecurity threats and data breaches sooner by implementing remote monitoring and alert systems that flag suspicious activity and automatically block access to sensitive data.
3. Don’t store more data than necessary.
Why waste time, money, and effort protecting data you don’t need? Data retention policies and procedures are critical for minimizing the amount of corporate data you have—and the less regulated data you store, the less you have to be exposed in a breach or other security incident. Once you’ve created and implemented a robust data retention policy, ensure that your employees are timely and properly disposing of data in accordance with that policy. This is especially important for organizations in the heavily regulated healthcare and financial services industries, but it also applies to any corporation that stores the personally identifiable information of its customers and employees—which is to say, all corporations.
4. Encrypt sensitive data.
Encryption technology translates sensitive data into code and requires a key to translate it back to a readable form. By encrypting your organization’s most precious data in the cloud, you can prevent unauthorized parties from viewing it and selling it on the black market. While it would be impractical to encrypt everything, you should at least consider using encryption technology to safeguard trade secrets and personally identifiable information that must be transmitted through less-than-fully-secure channels.
5. Leverage technology.
They say you have to fight fire with fire—and technology is the key to managing all of the data that our use of technology generates. In addition to monitoring and encryption software, invest in traditional security software (such as antivirus and anti-malware software), DLP technology, cloud providers and tools that assist with data management in general.
This may sound like a lot of ground to cover, but technology saves organizations time and money by reducing the amount of manual labor required to protect their data assets and mitigate cybersecurity risks.
eDiscovery technology enables stronger cloud data protection and privacy practices
Technology helps organizations safeguard their data by giving them the tools to identify vulnerabilities and efficiently organize and manage their sensitive data.
For example, ZyLAB ONE is an end-to-end eDiscovery platform that allows users to search, review, and analyze large volumes of data in place, even when data is stored across multiple repositories. Unlike other platforms, ZyLAB ONE is a comprehensive tool that allows users to:
- control document access by updating roles and permissions;
- redact sensitive information;
- de-duplicate data and delete information that the organization no longer needs, and
- uncover risks to sensitive information.
ZyLAB ONE helps organizations understand when they need to implement further data protection and privacy measures to mitigate cloud data risks—and it makes it easy to show regulators how they’re safeguarding their data with defensible data management practices.
For more information about ZyLAB and ZyLAB ONE, get in touch with us or schedule a demonstration.