Is GDPR-Regulated Data Hiding in Pockets of Your Organization?

Data breaches that compromise critical customer information are the worry that keeps IT people up at night. Unfortunately, what’s considered critical customer information and what you must do to safeguard it has changed dramatically, thanks to GDPR. IT stakeholders at American companies who’ve assumed GDPR does not apply to them may want to take a closer look at what the implications are for U.S.-based companies. GDPR-regulated data can be found in places you might not expect, and the tools you’ve been using to keep track of that data may not provide the visibility you need in case of a breach.

Where does GDPR apply?

First off, don’t think because you’re an American company only doing business in the U.S. that you’re exempt. If you capture any data about an E.U. citizen, like one who stumbles across your website and sends a question through a contact form, you’re on the hook for GDPR.

So where does the data regulated by GDPR live in your organization? The short answer: everywhere your customer data lives and travels within your organization. That doesn’t just mean your CRM system. Employees routinely download and use personal customer information on their endpoint devices, even when company regulations forbid it. You may or may not be surprised to learn that the C-suite is the worst offender at this.

The scope of what is considered “personal information” under GDPR is much broader than you might expect. While most companies already take steps to protect sensitive information like credit card information or social security numbers, GDPR takes it much further and could signal a sea change in data collection. Specifically, any information that can be used to identify a person, like IP addresses and names, is covered under the regulation; however, GDPR is expanding the definition of sensitive data to include any data that could potentially identify a person. So, if you’re capturing it, it’s worth protecting.

What does data encryption protect against?

Many IT directors hit the pillow every night with the misguided confidence that their data encryption will prevent any GDPR-related problems. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Data encryption is a useful tool if your data compromise doesn’t include credentials that unlock the encryption. But if your data is compromised because of stolen credentials, then encryption doesn’t matter. This can happen with stolen laptops, a common occurrence with company-issued employee laptops. It can also happen with malicious employee activity – if employees with valid credentials decide to exfiltrate data, encryption won’t do a thing to stop them.

What happens after a data breach?

Talk about sleepless nights for an IT director. For companies that experience a data breach, the hours and days after discovery are usually a mad scramble to assess what’s been compromised and by whom. The time and money spent to unravel the tangles of compromised data in an organization can add up fast. And GDPR doesn’t give you much time. You have 72 hours after discovery of a breach to notify GDPR authorities if personal information has been affected.

The problem for most companies is that they don’t really know where all their customer data is stored. A lot of it can end up on employee laptops and mobile devices. To truly protect their data assets, companies must have a firm understanding of where all their data travels and lives.

Data visibility

Being able to immediately and clearly locate customer data is critical to surviving a breach of GDPR-regulated data. A strong endpoint visibility tool can provide a quick understanding of all the data that has traversed through an environment—and importantly for GDPR, whether that data contains personal information.

An endpoint visibility tool can also tell you with confidence if compromised data does not include personal information that would fall under GDPR. That would prevent you from unnecessarily alerting the authorities.

Unfortunately, data breaches continue to happen, and there’s no sign of that abating any time soon. When the collection of consumer data is necessary, companies should consider it sensitive and use endpoint visibility tools to protect it.

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