The Definitive Guide to Ensuring Workfile Integrity and Confidentiality
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Workfiles are stepping stones in more complex processes you handle for a time and likely forget about. If mishandled, they may contain invaluable information that could cause major financial and reputational harm.
How can you maintain such data’s authenticity while keeping it safe from prying eyes? We explore the best practices in detail below.
What Are Workfile Integrity and Confidentiality?
Data has integrity if it maintains reliability and accuracy from the moment of creation throughout its lifecycle. Its integrity holds if handling the data through copying, analysis, etc., doesn’t alter, corrupt, or compromise its contents. That doesn’t mean one can’t edit the file. Instead, it restricts alterations to authorized users who do so in a trackable way.
Work files are confidential if they need added protection from theft and disclosure. Only a select few know of their contents and are qualified to handle them. The most likely confidential data in a business setting include Personally Identifiable Information (PII), medical records, intellectual property, financial transactions, and trade secrets.
How to Maintain Workfile Integrity and Confidentiality?
Safeguarding the data you create and work with is a paramount responsibility involving an approach from multiple angles. Data integrity and confidentiality threats are often the same ones that jeopardize its security. Therefore, many of the best practices in maintaining all three overlap.
Input and data validation
It’s impossible to establish integrity without verifying the data when someone entrusts it to you or upon creation. This means that the data needs to undergo an examination that shows its contents and whether these comply with your data processes. If these are intact, then you can treat the data as trustworthy.
Hard drives break down, humans make mistakes, and higher powers can intervene unexpectedly. These can compromise data or make it inaccessible, leading to unforeseen downtime, recovery costs, and reputation damage.
You don’t have a backup if it isn’t off-site. It can be a physical drive, but secure cloud storage designed for businesses is more versatile. It comes with redundancies, so server maintenance or failure doesn’t hinder access. Anything you store on the cloud receives encryption, which helps uphold your data storage and security standards.
A Comprehensive Data Storage Policy
Knowing where all your data resides simplifies maintenance. You must inventory your data and establish storage protocols for new work files. That includes designated physical and digital locations as well as backups.
It’s also important not to keep copies of work files in any form outside of the boundaries you set. Without this policy, snippets of confidential information could make their way into reports, emails, and other unprotected documents.
If the inventory reveals misplaced files or unsanctioned duplicates, you must delete them immediately. Depending on your line of work, you have to keep confidential records for several years and should destroy them when that period expires.
Access to data is a responsibility and a privilege. Treating it as such will minimize the chances of tampering or exposure. Zero trust and the principle of least privilege complement each other in enforcing such restrictions.
Zero trust means no one, not even the administrator, is given implicit and continuous access. It insists on verifying and tracking each login and action. There are too many zero-trust policies to get into here. Still, you’ve likely heard of two-factor authentication and how it restricts logins through continued code verification.
POLP goes a step further. Following it assigns classes to users based on their roles and responsibilities. Each user has enough access to perform their work adequately but not enough to expose unrelated systems. POLP is an effective measure against data breaches and malicious insiders since it limits the scope of the damage they can do.
It’s impossible to prove work file integrity without a trail that identifies each time someone accessed, edited, or moved it. Audit trails provide transparency and tracing whether you’re dealing with regular maintenance or fallout from a data breach.
The audit trail should contain pertinent info like the time and place of access, account credentials, and all the actions performed during the session. Automating the audit trail and preventing humans from altering it ensure maximum validity.
Human error plays a key role in compromising confidentiality and integrity, so reducing its likelihood goes a long way. Employees should realize the importance of following best practices and be given all the instruction and training needed from onboarding to their exit interview. Non-disclosure agreements may also be appropriate if employees deal with many confidential files.
Data is the most precious commodity today, and keeping it safe should be a high-ranking responsibility for any business. What protective measures does your company use? In light of what you’ve learned here, do they seem sufficient? Reassess the way you ensure work file integrity and functionality and take inspiration from our guidelines if they need improving.