Find out why employee privacy is so important and what measures can you put in place to protect your staff
No matter what kind of business you run, you will likely need to store employee information. Most organizations will store their employees’ data – such as addresses, medical information, and bank details – solely or partly online, in which case cybersecurity is vital. Ensuring cybercriminals cannot access and distribute sensitive information has a world of benefits. In this article, we will highlight the reasons why all businesses should be prioritizing employee privacy.
Why is data privacy important?
As data storage becomes ever more digitized, the ways in which private information can be stored is improving. However, this has also led to cyberattacks becoming more sophisticated. According to research by EY, CEOs and investors both rate national and corporate cybersecurity as the top challenge facing businesses.
Any business is susceptible to an attack, but certain industries may find they are targeted more often. Healthcare, government agencies, and energy organizations are some of the most vulnerable to cyberthreats, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
There are plenty of cyberattacks that could harm your business. Ransomware, malware, and phishing are among the most common, and the detrimental effects these can have on your business can also vary – from losing vital information to productivity loss.
Attracting and retaining talent
Ensuring that your employees are satisfied with their working conditions, including how their personal information is stored and protected, will help with retention. When the cost of replacing an employee could be as high as more than 200% of their annual salary, it’s worth guaranteeing the satisfaction of every staff member.
If a cyberattack results in the loss of employee data, employees are likely to have less trust in their organization and might start looking for employment elsewhere. If this happens, it’s important to regain their trust – whether that’s by investing in their opportunities or providing emotional support – but ultimately, you will need to assure them of their privacy.
If your business has earned a bad reputation for not keeping its employees’ vital information secure, finding members of staff that are willing to join the team may also be a challenge. On top of this, you may have also experienced an increase in turnover or at the very least, a decrease in staff morale and productivity.
A positive reputation is not built by strong cybersecurity measures alone. But if your business is the victim of an attack then you could soon find yourself facing negative press and distrust within your industry. Future business deals may not be as successful if potential partners or clients can’t trust you. For example, share prices fall by 7.27% on average after a security breach. Having strong security measures in place can help secure your future.
Cybercrime can hurt you financially in a number of ways – you may have to pay compensation to those whose data was breached, there may be a decline in future business, a drop in productivity, or damage caused to company culture. In the event of most data breaches, time must be spent determining what has been stolen, how the breach occurred, re-collecting lost information, and contacting those who have been affected.
Between 2013-2018, there was a 67% increase in the annual number of Between 2013-2018, there was a 67% increase in the annual number of security breaches , and, on average, cyberattacks are costing companies around $200,000 per year. Although you will have to spend money ensuring your data is securely stored, you should look at providing cybersecurity awareness training for staff members and investing in a comprehensive antivirus solution as essential investments ensuring long-term protection against revenue loss.
Make sure you’re clear about data privacy laws within your region, and that you are conforming to them – both for your sake and the sake of your employees.
If you’re running a business in the European Union (EU), the GDPR regulation that came into force in May 2018 has strict regulations regarding data storage and distribution. If you have not stored your employees’ data correctly, or have done so without their consent, you may be breaking the law and could face heavy fines. For example, in 2019, authorities in Greece fined a company €150,000 ($168,532) for misleading employees about how their personal data was being handled.
How to protect employee privacy
When 95% of security breaches are due to human error, it is important that your staff are knowledgeable about data protection, to keep everyone’s data safe. Ensure that your human resources department is well trained in securely storing staff data – book them into the relevant training session if not – to help establish a “human firewall” within the company.
Many organizations enable their employees to work remotely. Although mobile working can improve productivity, as well as increase your company’s global reach and reduce costs, this can have an impact on security measures. Accessing work documents, emails, and websites from public WiFi hotspots, for example, can put employee data at risk and leave devices vulnerable to attack.
As well as working to improve employee’s cybersecurity knowledge within the office, it is crucial that members of staff know how to help keep data safe when working away. If employees know to use verified networks, VPNs, and only HTTPs, they are likely to be a lot safer online when in public. All necessary equipment should also be installed with a proficient security platform, such as an antivirus or firewall.
This policy should include:
- What employee information the company is required by law to record and how long this will be kept after an employee leaves
- Who has access to employee information and why
- Processes for sharing files online
- How data is shared with third-parties such as health insurance providers
- What device and online activity are tracked by the company (for example, do you log access to certain websites or applications?)
A cybersecurity platform
Having a trustworthy security platform in place, that protects from a range of threats, is important for the well-being of any business – including the well-being of employees. Knowing that they can get on with their work without the threat of an attack can improve productivity and staff morale. First, you should understand what data is at risk and needs protecting, and you can then find the cybersecurity measures that suit your needs. Next-gen business antivirus can help increase efficiency and avoid human error. However, ensuring the highest safety standards within your workforce is also essential.
You may also be interested in our guide to file sharing and business security or our free cybersecurity policy template for small businesses.
Unsure which antivirus product is right for your business? Check out the Avast Business Help Me Choose tool to find the best protection for your network and endpoints.
Author: Katie Chadd, September 8, 2020