18 May 2023

Protecting the data: How in-house legal teams can better manage company data and security risk

Author: Sacha Kirk Insights Resources

In today’s digital age, data is the new gold. Businesses increasingly rely on vast amounts of data to make informed decisions, streamline operations, and drive innovation.

However, as the importance of data increases, so does the potential for data breaches and security risks. In-house legal teams are crucial in managing these risks and ensuring their organisation is adequately protected. This article will explore 10 strategies in-house legal teams can implement to better manage company data and mitigate security risks.

1. Develop a comprehensive data governance framework

The in-house legal function can play an important leadership role in developing a comprehensive data governance framework that outlines how the organisation should collect, store, use, and dispose of data. This framework should address various aspects of data management, including data classification, access controls, retention policies, and security measures. By establishing clear guidelines and best practices, the legal team can help to cultivate a culture of data protection and security within the organisation.

2. Coordinate with IT and cybersecurity teams

In-house legal teams can work closely with their IT and cybersecurity teams to ensure that all data management practices align with legal and regulatory requirements. This collaboration can help identify potential vulnerabilities, streamline incident response plans, and ensure the organisation’s data security measures are up-to-date and effective. Regular communication and cooperation between these departments can also foster a culture of shared responsibility for data protection and security.

3. Conduct regular risk assessments

Regular risk assessments are essential for identifying potential data security threats and vulnerabilities within the organisation. In-house legal teams should work with internal stakeholders to evaluate the organisation’s data management practices and systems. This process could include assessing the likelihood and potential impact of various data breach scenarios and identifying gaps in the organisation’s existing security measures. Based on this assessment, the legal team can develop strategies to mitigate identified risks and ensure that the business complies with applicable laws and regulations.

4. Implement robust data access controls

Controlling access to sensitive data is critical for protecting the organisation’s data assets and mitigating security risks. In-house legal teams can work with IT and software providers to develop and implement robust data access controls. This may include establishing role-based access controls, implementing multi-factor authentication, and regularly reviewing and updating user access privileges. The organisation can reduce the likelihood of unauthorised access and data breaches by restricting access to sensitive data on a need-to-know basis.

5. Establish clear data retention and disposal policies

Proper data retention and disposal policies are essential for minimising the risk of data breaches and ensuring compliance with data protection laws and regulations. In-house legal teams can develop clear guidelines for retaining and disposing of different types of data, taking into consideration the organisation’s legal and regulatory obligations. These policies should be communicated to all employees and regularly reviewed to ensure they remain up-to-date and relevant.

6. Implement employee training and awareness programs

Ensuring that all employees know their roles and responsibilities regarding data protection and security is critical for minimising the risk of data breaches. In-house legal teams can work with HR and IT departments to develop and implement employee training and awareness programs. These programs should cover topics like records management, information privacy, recognising phishing attacks, maintaining strong passwords, and reporting potential security incidents. Regular training and awareness initiatives can create a data protection culture within the organisation and empower employees to safeguard the company’s data assets actively.

7. Monitor and enforce compliance with data protection laws and regulations

In-house legal teams are responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with applicable data protection laws and regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and the Australia Privacy Principles (APPs). This may involve regularly reviewing data management practices, conducting internal audits, and working with external auditors to ensure compliance. Legal teams should also stay current with any changes in data protection laws and regulations and industry-specific requirements to ensure that their organisation remains compliant and can adapt to evolving regulatory landscapes.

8. Develop and maintain an incident response plan

Despite the best efforts to protect company data, security incidents and data breaches can still occur. In-house legal teams can work with internal stakeholders to develop and maintain a robust incident response plan. This plan should outline the steps to be taken in the event of a security incident, including how to identify and contain the breach, assess the impact, and notify relevant stakeholders. Consider using incident reporting technology and workflows to assist with managing the incident during a breach. Regularly testing, reviewing and updating the incident response plan can help to ensure that the business is prepared to respond quickly and effectively to minimise the damage and potential legal liabilities.

9. Foster a culture of transparency and accountability

Creating a culture of transparency and accountability is essential for building trust and ensuring that data protection remains a top priority within the organisation. In-house legal teams can encourage open communication about data security issues and promote a culture where employees feel comfortable reporting potential vulnerabilities or incidents. This approach can help to identify and address potential security risks before they escalate into more significant problems.

10. Engage with third-party vendors and partners

Many organisations rely on third-party vendors and partners for various services, such as data storage, processing, and analytics. In-house legal teams can work closely with these third-party providers and internal stakeholders to ensure appropriate data protection and security measures are in place. This may involve conducting due diligence assessments, negotiating contracts with specific data protection provisions, reviewing their information security certificates (i.e. ISO 27001) or utilising a third party for an independent security assessment (i.e. Security Scorecard). By proactively managing third-party data risks, in-house legal teams can help ensure that the organisation’s data assets remain secure and protected.

Conclusion

Data protection and security are critical concerns for corporations in today’s digital age. In-house legal teams are vital in managing these risks and ensuring their company is adequately protected. By implementing these strategies and working together with other departments, in-house legal teams can significantly strengthen their organisations’ overall data protection and security posture.

Gadens cyber incident manager

The Gadens Cyber Incident Manager is a cloud-based solution designed to help navigate the legal reporting and compliance obligations of an organisation during a cyber breach.

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