Information Classification and Handling Policy
Sensitive data is the company’s most valuable asset in the digital age. The necessity of securing sensitive and proprietary information cannot be over-emphasized. It is vital to develop a classification and handling plan that considers your company’s demands, departmental operations, and the potential risks associated with distinct types of data. Information classification and handling policy are essential for safeguarding sensitive data on an organization’s premises or during private remote access or remote desktop services.
What is an Information Classification and Handling Policy?
Information classification and handling policy is a set of rules that defines how your organization will manage sensitive or confidential information. It includes a list of data types, their level of sensitivity, and procedures for protecting them.
In general, information classification and handling policies are a set of rules that defines how your organization will manage sensitive or confidential information. This policy may include guidelines for disposing of non-relevant or non-current data.
There is no legal requirement to have an information classification and handling policy, but it is a necessary best practice for safeguarding sensitive data in the digital age.
Why Is an Information Classification and Handling Policy Important?
Information is vital to your business and should be kept secret. You may have done the best you can to ensure your company’s IT infrastructure and other resources are secure, but nothing will stop someone from hacking into it either in person or remotely. A recent survey of information security professionals found that employee error was the cause of two-thirds of data breaches. This policy ensures that employees can correctly identify, protect and handle confidential information in response to organizational standards.
What are the benefits of having an ICHP in your organization?
As mentioned earlier, information classification and handling policy are crucial for any company collecting sensitive data. Here are some benefits of having an ICHP in your organization:
- Allows you to meet compliance mandates such as GDPR
- An ICHP outlines all the rules for securing data, including who can access it and for what purpose.
- An ICHP builds trust with your customers — If your company has a reputation for protecting data, customers will be more likely to trust you with their information.
- An ICHP prevents data breaches — If you have clear rules in your ICHP that employees must follow, it will be easier to prevent data breaches.
- An ICHP saves you from costly fines — If your company has hacked and data breach, you will likely be held accountable. Having an ICHP will help you prevent breaches and show regulators that you are taking security seriously.
Decide on Which Data Should Be Confidential or Proprietary
When creating an information handling approach you must decide if the data needs to be confidential or proprietary.
If the potential material can be detrimental to your company, you should keep your deliberations private. Confidential information is information that could have a damaging impact on organizations if it is released inappropriately.
Proprietary information is commercially valuable data that has to protect by some legal right. Proprietary data generally belongs to and is the property of your organization.
Determining the Risk of Loss or Harm
The next step when creating an information classification and handling policy is to determine the risk of loss or harm if the data were disclosed or stolen. Data breaches and data loss can lead to damage to legal implications, financial issues, and reputation. You’ll also need to be aware of any compliance requirements. A data classification tool can help you determine the impact level of various data types.
Types of Information Classifications in your ICHP
Here are some examples of information classifications in your ICHP:
- Confidential — Confidential information can cause significant damage if it has to disclose. Examples include social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other financial information.
- Sensitive — Sensitive information is not as harmful if it has to disclose, but there are some risks. Examples include medical and financial data.
- Public — Public information can share with anybody. Examples include an employee directory, product catalog, or your company website.
- Internal — Internal information can be shared only with employees in your organization. Examples include strategic plans, research, or proposed budgets.
- Restricted — You must follow specific procedures to access fixed information. Examples include materials with details on security measures, new products, or intellectual property.
How to Handle Each Type of Data
Once you’ve determined the data types that need to be protected, your next step is to decide how to best handle each type of data.
For example, you’ll need to determine whether sensitive data should be encrypted, stored in a virtual private network (VPN), or be part of a hybrid model. You’ll also need to decide how long to retain data, where to store it, and who should have access to it.
Depending on what type of data you need to reserve, it may be best to use a network drive, a USB drive, a flash drive, or an external hard drive. You may utilize effective data storage services such as cloud hold or online file storage, which allow you to store your information in the cloud at a lower cost per gigabyte than keeping them locally.
Best Practices When Creating an Information Classification and Handling Policy
- Protect the data — The first step in developing an information categorization and handling policy shields the information. It is reasonable to suppose that data will not always be secure. Hence proactive measures should protect it.
- Be consistent — Another recommended practice is to keep consistency in your data management method. It will be simpler for your workers to handle sensitive data appropriately if you have clear and straightforward information categorization and handling policies.
- Keep your policy simple and concise — Make sure to keep your policy as simple as possible. Include only the most necessary aspects of the procedure and avoid adding unnecessary details.
Company Proprietary Information
Although it is not a requirement, many companies choose to classify all data as confidential, proprietary, or otherwise sensitive. In this case, you’ll need to determine how and where to store, access, and share this information. You may decide to have a separate network or data center that houses only this type of data. It is also essential to keep this information offline whenever possible and to use secure communication methods such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
Company IP or Trade Secret Material
You must create a complete protection plan for information that you have legally designated as trade secret material. This strategy should contain stringent standards governing who has access to sensitive data or how, when, and where it is used. You should also maintain detailed records of how to secure data that was handled and stored at all times.
Company Documents or Records of Confidential or Proprietary Content
If you have documents or records that contain confidential or proprietary content, you must ensure that access to these records is restricted. Depending on the sensitivity of the data, it may be a good idea to implement a document control system, such as a document management system (DMS). A DMS enables you to classify documents, track access, and set retention policies.
Company Legacy Data That Is No Longer Needed Or Required For Operation
Even if this data is not confidential or proprietary, it should handle according to your organization’s data classification and handling policy. This type of data may contain sensitive information that needs to manage correctly and disposed of according to your organization’s data destruction policy.
Determining Data Classifications
Classify your data according to the data classification model in your organization. Your next step when creating an information classification and handling policy is to determine the data classifications in your organization. Several models can use as a guide, but one of the most common models is ISO 27002. This standard outlines the different levels of classifications, from confidential, to proprietary, public, and internal use only.
Is creating an ICHP worth it for your company?
Creating an information classification and handling policy is crucial for any organization handling sensitive data. Whether you are a healthcare provider collecting patient data, a technology company collecting data about users, or any other company that collects personal data, you must ensure your data is secure.
These policies are essential in meeting compliance mandates such as GDPR. Organizations must instruct their staff on how to protect and securely keep data. An ICHP is a great way to do that. Creating an ICHP is a one-time investment that can save your company from costly fines and reputation damage.
Examples of an ICHP
Here are some sample ICHPs: — The British government publishes its ICHP in the Code of Practice on Open Government. The Code of Practice governs how public sector bodies collect, store, and share information.
— Google publishes its ICHP in the Privacy and Security Policies. The Policies cover how Google handles user and customer data and explains how Google protects that data.
— The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) publishes its ICHP in the Security, Privacy, and Accountability for the Federal Government’s Use of Cloud Computing Guidelines. The Guidelines include standards for cloud service providers to follow when storing and handling government data.
As you can see, IT and data security are significant consumer concerns at many companies. Sometimes these investments in securing IT infrastructure may not be sufficient to ensure data security. To protect privacy, whatever risks are created, specific laws managing sensitive and proprietary information, as well as a solid policy, are essential. Be careful about how you handle data. Consider the risks of loss or harm if your data is disclosed or stolen. Keep your policy as simple and concise as possible.