Compliance regulations relating to data storage are enough to strike fear into the hearts of business leaders and employees. This complex area of information security is fraught with rules and ever-changing goalposts. Every day, we see the consequences of failures as companies report massive breaches that cause significant fines, lost business, and open them up to litigation. In 2019 alone, there were more than 3,800 breaches reported by companies. However, a practical, proactive approach can often close many of the holes that open companies to risk and give CIOs some peace of mind.
Practical, proactive companies build compliance into their systems from the get-go: it’s part of the core design, not an afterthought. Remember, it’s not just about controlling access to the data, but also how it is used. Monitoring data activity can help companies clearly identify risk. Of course, a good security partner is a vital component in taking such a proactive approach.
7 General Compliance Regulations Relating to Data Storage
Data regulations vary widely across industries, as well as between the public and private sectors. Typically, in public data management, there are laws in place that allow users to gain access to data, like the Freedom of Information Act. For the most part, private enterprises own their data and are not required to disclose it to private citizens without a court order.
Depending on the industry, there’s a wide range of regulations for security officers to manage. For example, those in the financial sector must contend with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, among others. Health providers have to manage the complexities of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). For companies that cater to or work with children, there are special considerations under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). And all public companies are accountable to Sarbanes-Oxley. Among all these various acts, it’s possible to see some common threads which can guide general compliance regulations relating to data storage:
- Disclosure: The company needs to explain to the customer what data is collected, for what purpose, and describe storage methods.
- Privacy policies: Privacy policies regarding the data and how it’s maintained must be publicly available.
- Encryption and anonymizing: All sensitive data—both data at rest and data in motion—must be encrypted in case of hostile actors. In some cases, data is anonymized to remove personally-identifiable information.
- Firewalls and access control: Appropriate security measures must be in place to prevent access and follow the principle of least privilege.
- Audit logs: Data use must be traceable back to a single actor to ensure appropriate access control. These logs should be stored in a centralized system with limited access
- Retention schedules: Data must be maintained for a specific period before eventually being purged from the system. Requirements vary widely based on data type and industry. In some cases, perpetual maintenance is the standard.
- Breach notifications: Companies must notify all involved parties of breaches, the impact on their records, and remedies to the issue. They should also discuss what they are doing to mitigate future issues.
As there is no single regulation to cover all types of companies, it can be challenging to manage compliance. This is where partnering with a trusted DevSecOps company can help you navigate the sea of compliance.
Tools for Managing Data Compliance
While much of the focus on data security is about limiting access and mitigating risk, a significant concern comes from how data is used in the first place. There are two main stages to this effort: initially planning for what data should be collected and why, and actively monitoring the data. This can help security officers and teams review behavior they find concerning and change behavior before it becomes an issue. There are also many tools available to help them. Some to consider include:
- Event log management software: The ability to monitor data in a system for abnormal behavior can help managers and teams discover potential issues before they create major problems. Logs can show things like large numbers of access attempts or access attempts during off-hours, as well as behavior that is indicative of inappropriate data use.
- Data classification and tagging: Data should be identified by its sensitivity, source, and access levels. Organized datasets ensure that the right level of security is applied while streamlining access for those who need it.
- Integrated regulatory controls: It’s possible to integrate compliance into storage based on the specific acts that impact the industry. For example, a storage system for a healthcare provider may have built-in HIPPA compliance protocols, while a banking one centers on the GLBA. This process is an automated means of staying compliant with industry-specific acts while minimizing the challenges.
- Third-party audits: The best possible way to identify potential holes in the data storage system, to streamline and automate it, is to have a third-party evaluation completed. An expert opinion will provide proactive measures which will allow continuous system improvement as new threats emerge.
Managing data storage compliance regulations is a full-time job. To work around this, it’s wise to automate as many security tasks as possible while building in industry-specific compliance. This is one of the strategies that New Context follows. By automating processes with regulatory restrictions in mind, our clients can take a more turnkey approach to data governance. The data needs of a business will only continue to grow with the organization; you need a proactive security program designed to expand with it.