Maintaining compliance with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) can be smooth sailing rather than a choppy voyage, the key is to use IT tools and systems to make it simpler, more efficient, and reliable. In this piece, we will outline the key data protection requirements of GDPR and related best practices. We’ll also offer some guidance on IT tools and solutions that can help you to streamline GDPR compliance. Firstly, let’s re-cap on the key requirements of GDPR and how they can be interpreted.
GDPR In a Nutshell and How It Applies to Your Business
GDPR is an EU-mandated regulation that as of writing, still applies in the UK today. In a nutshell, it is designed to give EU and UK citizens control over their data in an accessible and transparent way.
It has a range of detailed provisions that are also contextual in nature. For example, what are considered enforceable and reasonable measures to protect consumers’ personal information under GDPR will vary by the business’s size, activities and nature, the data it processes, and much more.
It’s important to understand the requirements in detail for each business, but we can summarise the core requirements of GDPR here as an initial orientation. It can be daunting to see this list. But take heart, The practicalities of implementing GDPR, especially for smaller businesses, need not be as complicated as it may seem! GDPR’s core requirements are:
- Transparent and Lawful Processing: Ensuring that personal data is processed lawfully, fairly, and transparently.
- Purpose: Obtaining clear consent for the processing of personal data based on an explicit purpose.
- Data Minimisation: Alongside providing an explicit purpose for processing data, ensuring that the data to be collected, and how it will be processed, is relevant and not excessive.
- Data Accuracy and Storage Limitation: Keeping personal data accurate and up to date, storing it only for the necessary duration.
- Data Security: Protecting personal data’s integrity and confidentiality, ensuring it is secure against unauthorised processing, accidental loss, and unauthorised access, such as by cyber criminals.
- Accountability and Impact Assessments: Taking full accountability as a data controller for processing data according to the requirements of GDPR, and undertaking risk assessments for data handling processes that can be considered high-risk.
- Empower Rights of Individuals: Facilitate individuals’ data rights, including data access, rectification, erasure, restriction, portability, and objection to processing.
- Breach Notification: Report data breaches to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) within 72 hours of them happening, and in some cases, to affected individuals.
- Data Protection Officer: Appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) if required, which depends on the quantity and nature of handled personal data, and how it is being processed.
- Cross-Border Data Transfers: Adhere to the rules of GDPR when you’re transferring personal data outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
Let’s walk through the key requirements and measures that all businesses will commonly need to implement, and offer some IT tools that can empower your efforts. It’s worth noting that an IT support provider can play a very decisive and empowering role in helping you to align technology with meeting your compliance requirements.
Data Mapping and Inventory for GDPR
To comply with GDPR, you first need to know what personal data you hold, where it’s stored, and how it is being processed. This is where data mapping can be very helpful for giving you the oversight and insights that you need. This involves finding where GDPR-relevant data is stored in your IT environment, alongside how it is being collected and processed. This offers a compass you can use to see how your business is meeting GDPR’s requirements.
Tools: Data discovery and classification tools like Spirion or Varonis DatAdvantage can help in identifying where personal data resides in your systems.
What Next? After mapping your data, see how aligned it is with GDPR’s provisions about data handling, protection, and data subjects’ rights, and alter your data processing measures accordingly.
Data Protection by Design for GDPR
A core principle of the GDPR, data protection by design essentially means considering data protection continually from the earliest stages of any project. By integrating data protection measures into the DNA of your IT systems, you can achieve better alignment with GDPR, avoid the risks of non-compliance, as well as any upheaval in needing to redesign your systems and processes.
Tools: OneTrust’s privacy management software offers automation capabilities to incorporate privacy by design into your systems and projects.
What Next? Keep an eye on how your business is changing, the amount and nature of the data it processes, as well as regulatory changes to stay on top of this area and how the provisions of GDPR may apply to your business.
Regular Data Audits for GDPR
A natural key component of complying with GDPR is taking regular audits to ensure that personal data is being processed in line with GDPR’s provisions. This will help you to unearth any gaps or areas of concern in your compliance efforts.
Tools: There are GDPR-specific auditing tools such as Strikegraph, which can give a handy inventory of your GDPR-compliance posture.
What Next? Ensure that you undertake audits regularly, and be careful to regularly review your monitoring data to see if there are any anomalies that could indicate a breach, or an issue that warrants deeper investigation.
Data Protection for GDPR
Keeping personal data secure from prying eyes and public exposure is a crucial aspect of complying with GDPR. To do this, the sensitive data should always be stored securely away from unauthorised and unqualified access by others, and should be encrypted. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms such as Microsoft 365 will usually encrypt your data by default, but there are other important ways that data protection can be compromised:
- Sensitive data can sometimes flow out of your organisation, such as if sensitive data is mistakenly sent to the wrong email address, or a document has no access controls in place.
- Your users could access sensitive data using insecure connections such as public Wi-Fi spots or via unsecured personal devices.
- Depending on if some of your team operate remotely or while travelling, an unattended device can also lead to personal data compromise.
Tools: There are a range of tools that can help here, including VPNs for secure connectivity, data loss prevention (DLP) tools for monitoring data traffic in your network, and mobile device management (MDM) software for keeping devices securely configured and safe.
What Next? In combination with the data mapping tools discussed earlier, regularly review the kinds of data you’re processing, where it is being stored, and the reality of how it is moving in your business using these tools. In addition, take care to assess if your data protection measures are in proportion to the volume and nature of the data, and the risks involved in processing it.
Who has access to what? A simple question, but answering it can make a world of difference for your GDPR-compliance! Implementing strict access controls ensures that only authorised personnel can access and process personal data, which reduces the risk of data being compromised in your business.
Tools: Many SaaS platforms such as Microsoft 365, offer role-based access control (RBAC) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) tools which are quite easy to configure and apply across your business. In alignment with GDPR, apply access permissions on a ‘need to know’ basis.
What Next? After implementing access controls, ensure that any new software that you implement is also configured appropriately. Take care to delete inactive user accounts proactively to lower risk exposure and to review your access control settings and policies every so often.
Regular Staff Training
Your team really can be the defining difference in the cyber security posture of your business. Because your team use your technology to handle and process data, ensuring that they are aware of GDPR and cyber security best practices is also an important facet for staying on the right side of the ICO and preventing incidents.
Tools: Alongside direct training, you can use learning management systems (LMS) such as Moodle or TalentLMS, where you can host GDPR-specific modules to train your staff on best practices.
What Next? Take care to ensure new staff are trained to comply with GDPR, and as regulations and cyber threats evolve, take care to update your training and to hold refresher sessions to empower your team’s compliance and your business’s security.
Get In Touch to Discuss Your Own Half-Hour Cyber Awareness Training
The vast majority of cyber incidents are caused by human error, get in touch with us today to discuss a cyber aware awareness training session for your business, and transform your weakest security link into your strongest security and compliance protection asset.
Our sessions equip teams with the knowledge of cyber security best practices and the ability to detect even sophisticated phishing threats, enabling your business and its compliance posture to focus on what it does best, uncompromised by today’s cyber threats.
Rapid Breach Response
Unfortunately, even amongst the best of us the chances of a cyber breach are never 0%. GDPR requires businesses to report data breaches that present a risk to an individuals’ rights and freedoms, within 72 hours. These include the loss of confidentiality and control of their data, and the risk of it being used for fraudulent purposes.
In the event of a breach, having tools that can pick up on these events and report them promptly to you can make all the difference for both the protection of your business, and the sensitive data it holds. When paired with an incident response plan for data breaches, you can act swiftly and decisively to shut down potential threats before they can cause damage.
Tools: There are a number of tools that can be used, including network monitoring and endpoint detection and response software, as well as intrusion detection and prevention systems that also offer robust reporting tools about the cause and scope of an incident.
What Next? Pair up these tools with incident response plans that define what to do in the event of a discovered breach, making responding much more seamless and effective for your business.
Third Party Vendors
Another important aspect of GDPR data protection compliance is ensuring that it extends into the third-party vendors that your business works with. For very large organisations such as Microsoft, Google, or Amazon, the risk of them contractually or technically processing data that you share with them non-compliantly, is low.
GDPR mandates that data processing agreements (DPAs) are in place, and are compliant with its provisions. While it can be hard to verify the technical third-party vendor risks, especially if they are smaller providers, you can use tools to help you to get watertight DPAs in place.
Tools: Platforms such as Druva have GDPR-aligned DPA templates that can be used for creating compliant agreements with third-party vendors.
What Next? Keep an eye on any changes in the requirements of GDPR and take care to update your DPAs accordingly.
GDPR compliance does not have to be daunting and complex. Using tools, processes and policies, you can simplify and streamline it with the help of IT. Not only will this offer benefits such as saved time, enhance trust, and improved business resilience, it will also give peace of mind and secure your growth.
It can feel difficult to think of GDPR compliance all at once and get a sense of how to get started. As an initial basis, you can review the requirements, map your IT environment, cyber security measures, and data processing against them, and start creating action plans for empowering better compliance. Alternatively, you can work with an IT support provider, which can greatly speed up the process towards achieving GDPR compliance.
By mastering GDPR compliance, you can tap into the increasingly essential benefits of cyber security and compliance in today’s world, while ensuring peace of mind and the ability to focus on your business’s growth and success.
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