GDPR Series#4: Safeguarding Personal Data Under GDPR

Safeguarding Data

GDPR requires organizations to safeguard the personal data collected from their data subjects. In this article on the GDPR Series, let’s look at the security measures you can implement to protect this data.

GDPR Provisions

Article 32 of the GDPR requires you to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure the security of personal data. These measures must consider the nature, scope, context, and purpose of data collection and processing and the likely risks involved.

GDPR recommends the following measures:

  • Pseudonymization and encryption of personal data.
  • Ensuring confidentiality, integrity, availability, and resilience of processing systems and services.
  • Restoring the availability and access to personal data when a physical or technical incident occurs.
  • Regular testing and evaluation of security measures.

Moreover, you must adhere to the approved codes of conduct under Article 40 or the certification mechanisms under Article 42 to demonstrate your compliance with the security provisions. Also, if individuals are processing the data, it must be based on your instructions or as required by the prevailing laws.

Now that you know the GDPR provisions related to data security, let’s look at practical measures you can take to ensure compliance.

10 Security Measures to Safeguard Data Under GDPR

As an organization, you can take one or more of the following measures to protect the data subject’s personal data.

#1: Encryption

Encryption is a proven security measure where the existing data is coded into an undecipherable format using a specific algorithm. This way, even if an unauthorized user accesses your data, they cannot read, understand, or use it. Encryption protects data during transit and at rest.

Tips for Implementation

  • Use advanced encryption standards like AES-256 for encrypting data.
  • Store encryption keys separately from the data they protect.
  • Use automatic encryption to ensure consistency and reduce human error.

#2: Pseudonymization

Pseudonymization is where you replace personally identifiable information with pseudonyms or tokens. This helps protect data by making it less recognizable while still allowing data processing.

Tips for Implementation

  • Regularly audit your data processes to ensure pseudonymization is used effectively and consistently.
  • Have a process in place for pseudonymizing data.

#3: Access Controls

Access controls ensure that only authorized users have permission to view, modify, or delete the existing data. Streamlining access to this sensitive data minimizes the risk of breaches and ensures compliance.

Tips for Implementation

  • Assign access rights based on users’ roles and responsibilities.
  • Grant the minimum level of access required for each user to perform their job.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication for systems handling personal data.
  • Regularly review access logs to identify unauthorized or unusual accesses.
  • Immediately revoke access for employees who no longer need it or have left the organization.

#4: Regular Data Audits

Data audits are necessary to identify vulnerabilities in data handling practices and ensure compliance with GDPR requirements. Moreover, you can get insights about the existing gaps and areas for improvement. Your audit process must cover collection, storage, and processing practices.

Tips for Implementation

  • Conduct audits periodically to assess data security and compliance.
  • Look for areas where data might be vulnerable to breaches or misuse.
  • Create plans to address identified risks or gaps in your data practices.
  • Consider hiring third-party auditors for an impartial assessment of your data practices.

#5: Data Anonymization

Anonymization is a process that permanently removes personal identifiers from data, ensuring individuals cannot be identified. This is important when sharing data with third parties for research or analysis.

Tips for Implementation

  • Use data masking tools to obscure personal data.
  • Limited data access to just those who need it.
  • Verify the effectiveness of your data anonymization processes.

#6: Intrusion Detection and Prevention

Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) monitor network traffic and identify potential threats in real-time. Some of them can even block malicious packets from entering your system, thereby adding an extra security layer.

Tips for Implementation

  • Use IDPS tools to monitor network traffic and identify security threats.
  • Configure alerts to notify you of suspicious or unauthorized access attempts.
  • Keep your IDPS software and threat definitions updated.
  • Analyze IDPS logs for any unusual activity or patterns that may indicate a security breach.
  • Develop and practice response plans for the identified security incidents.

#7: Data Backups

Back up your data regularly, so you can recover them in case of loss, natural disasters, device failures, or cyberattacks. Moreover, you’ll be better protected from attacks like ransomware.

Tips for Implementation

  • Regularly back up data according to a schedule.
  • Store backups in multiple locations.
  • Protect backups with encryption and access controls.
  • Regularly verify that backups are complete and restorable.
  • Keep records of your backup processes and ensure their compliance with GDPR.

#8: Employee Training

Provide continuous training on data protection practices to help your employees understand the importance of personal data, handle them according to the established rules, and recognize potential security risks.

Tips for Implementation

  • Educate employees on risks like phishing, social engineering, and data breaches.
  • Encourage employees to report suspicious activity and follow security protocols.
  • Regularly assess training outcomes and adjust your programs.

#9: Secure Data Disposal

An often overlooked aspect is data disposal, which, unfortunately, can lead to heavy fines. This is why you must have secure disposal mechanisms that ensure secure data deletion when personal data is no longer needed.

Tips for Implementation

  • Create well-defined data retention policies.
  • Use methods like shredding, degaussing, or using secure erasure software to permanently delete data.
  • Document data disposal activities to demonstrate compliance with GDPR.
  • Ensure employees understand and follow secure data disposal protocols.

#10: Incident Response Plan

Create an incident response plan to respond to data breaches or security incidents quickly. Such prompt response can put you in a better position to prevent data loss or theft.

Tips for Implementation

  • Create a plan on how to handle security incidents and share it with employees.
  • Designate key people responsible for managing incidents.
  • Conduct drills and simulations to practice your incident response plan.
  • Define how to communicate with affected parties, regulatory authorities, and the public.
  • Regularly review and update the plan to keep it current with evolving threats.

With such measures, you can protect personal data while complying with GDPR requirements.

Final Words

In all, securing and maintaining personal data is an important GDPR requirement. In this article, we looked at the GDPR provisions related to security, and the actionable steps you can take to ensure compliance.

Lavanya Rathnam

Lavanya Rathnam is an experienced technology, finance, and compliance writer. She combines her keen understanding of regulatory frameworks and industry best practices with exemplary writing skills to communicate complex concepts of Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) in clear and accessible language. Lavanya specializes in creating informative and engaging content that educates and empowers readers to make informed decisions. She also works with different companies in the Web 3.0, blockchain, fintech, and EV industries to assess their products’ compliance with evolving regulations and standards.

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