In the lead up to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force, many organisations will be increasing their data protection by scrambling to prevent against cyberattacks and hackers. In most cases, however, it’s far more likely that information will leak unintentionally.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that, of all data breaches reported between January and March of this year, 37% were a result of information being sent to the wrong recipient. It could be via a staff member sending an email to the wrong person or attaching the wrong document and exposing sensitive information. To be compliant with GDPR, it is just as crucial that organisations ensure data is managed and protected against accidental disclosure, in the same way they work to shield it from cybersecurity threats.
What is Accidental Information Disclosure?
Accidental Information Disclosure is the unintentional release of sensitive information outside an organisation, usually because of human error. Sending an email to the wrong person – particularly when that email contains confidential or sensitive information – can put an organisation’s reputation on the line. In order to be compliant with GDPR, businesses need to have security measures in place to protect personal data from being leaked unintentionally.
How AID can impact an organisation under GDPR
Under GDPR, organisations face fines of up to 4% of global revenue or €20 million, whichever is larger, if they fail to adequately manage and protect the personal data of EU citizens. For example, if a staff member were to send an email containing a spreadsheet of client details to the wrong person, this is considered inadequate data management and protection. Someone other than the client or the organisation that lawfully captured their personal data for a business purpose now has access to sensitive information like addresses, bank account details, and National Insurance Numbers. That organisation will then be subject to the same fines as if it were a victim of a cyberattack.
Metadata and Accidental Information Disclosure
It’s not just the information on the surface of an email attachment that can result in accidental disclosure. Each document created in a Microsoft Office program contains metadata, showing everything from total editing hours to Track Changes, author name, and date created. Though seemingly innocent, this metadata can be damaging – not to mention embarrassing – if it reaches the wrong person.
DocsCorp conducted a survey of small to medium (SME) business owners in the UK to learn how prepared they were for GDPR. 30% of business owners surveyed said they didn’t know about metadata, putting them at risk of breaching GDPR unintentionally since they are unaware of what information they were sending outside the business.
Remote working can increase the chances of data leaks
Our SME survey also found that 58% of businesses polled allow their staff to work remotely occasionally or, in some cases, permanently. This means that the stringent security measures organisations use must go beyond the desktop and cover data handled inside and outside the company’s network. Usually, large organisations will have staff working via Citrix or other thin client technology that means security is just as good as inside the network. Others will be working from employer-provided laptops that will also most likely be adequately secured. Small firms are at the most risk of having loose security measures in place and must take necessary steps to patch any holes in their security network.
How to protect against Accidental Information Disclosure
Using a metadata cleaning tool is the simplest way to minimise the chance of accidental leaks happening. A solution that integrates directly with your email is the best form of defence, since it can scrub attachments of metadata prior to them leaving the organisation. A metadata scrubber can remove any hidden cells or embedded objects as well as Track Changes and comments. The metadata cleaning step will help users slow down and take the time to double check email recipients and attachments.
Email recipient checking is an incredibly important security measure to have in place. The ICO found that 37% of all reported data breaches between January and March of 2017 were due to information being sent to the wrong recipient. DocsCorp will shortly introduce a new security measure in their metadata cleaning application, cleanDocs, that prompts the user to confirm they want to send emails to individuals outside the company domain. In the same step, they can choose to clean any attachments of metadata, ensuring complete management of information over email.
Don’t run the risk of being fined millions. Ensure you have the right software before the May 2018 compliance deadline and protect your business from breaching GDPR.
This article was originally published in the November 2017 edition of PortrAIT Magazine.