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 Guide to protecting employee data

To prevent data breaches and protect employees’ data, businesses must invest in sophisticated security processes, regularly update their software, provide training and enforce security policies, test their cybersecurity, and constantly monitor their business for suspicious activity. By doing so, companies can mitigate the risks of cyber threats and safeguard their reputation and financial well-being.


Hacking a whole company instead of a single person is far more lucrative for criminals. Also, some departments are especially appealing because of the type and amount of data available. 

That’s why HR departments experience data breaches more often than ever, as hackers target employee information to use in phishing jobs, account takeovers, and other schemes.

Businesses can keep their workers safe from online attacks, but it takes considerable funds and know-how. Whether you’re a manager or staff member, you must understand how bad actors get into corporate systems and what it takes to stop them. 

Why HR Departments Need to Protect Their Data

Here’s an excellent example of what happens when you don’t prioritise cybersecurity. In December 2022, the Five Guys data breach came to light, revealing that hackers got their hands on employee files containing names, social security numbers, driver’s license details, and more.

The attacks highlighted two key issues. Firstly, there’s no telling how the criminals will use the information taken. Their next steps could range from sending employees malware within fake emails to accessing bank accounts with their credit card details and stealing money. 

On the one hand, knowing who was compromised and what cards or names to look out for in conjunction with suspicious activity can help prevent fraudulent activity such as credential stuffing. However, some online businesses could be dark about data breaches and let bad actors through.

The likelihood of this increases with every company that lacks fraud detection tools, such as Card Verification Value (CVV) and Address Verification Service (AVS) checks or risk scoring, which can spot that the criminal’s IP address differs from the real customer’s shipping address, for example.

This leads to the second cause for concern with the Five Guys case: the company was hacked before but didn’t upgrade its security to stop it from happening again. As a result, it lost more data and its employees’ trust. A lawsuit could be on the horizon, too, just like after its last data breach.

Fortunately, some businesses are taking note. Cyber security statistics show that 1 in 3 companies in the US has invested in a data breach or cyber liability insurance. At the same time, this particular market’s value is expected to reach $20 billion by 2025. To cope with demand, 50% of companies outsource cybersecurity operations.

Then again, 30% of firms don’t have the budget for good online security. At the same time, people still make mistakes with their passwords. According to the same statistics above, 62% mention passwords in emails or texts, 57% write them down on sticky notes, and 37% include their employer’s name in the password.

Criminals look for flaws like these when picking targets, so businesses must identify and patch up their vulnerabilities by training their staff better, fortifying their software, and making their verification measures more efficient, at the very least. Anyone interested in taking data-driven HR to the next level also has all this to consider.

How HR Departments Can Protect Their Employee’s Data

The continued growth of big tech and data-led industries plays a large part in predictions for data professionals in 2023, which expects demand for such roles to boom accordingly. 

But this also means criminals can look forward to greater opportunities if they find the right gaps in companies’ defences. Regarding protecting HR departments, here are key ways to ensure your employees and their data are safe.

  1. Invest in Sophisticated Security Processes

HR responsibilities range from hiring and monitoring employees to processing payrolls and records. Verification tools are essential from the recruitment stage. Simple ID and social media checks can confirm an applicant’s identity and background, not just how suitable they are for the role.

Also, consider how much personal data HR departments have at their disposal, which is often used in company processes like logging into accounts and approving transactions. An applicant with false credentials could be trying to join a company to access these assets.

Careful recruitment and efficient filing systems are a great help. Still, additional security checks can catch bad actors already in your network before they access sensitive files or take advantage of your services.

As mentioned, tools like CVV, AVS, and risk scoring can make transactions more secure and provide valuable insights. HR departments, in particular, benefit from data enrichment and due diligence procedures. 

They can enhance HR analytics to show precisely how a company’s workforce is doing, pinpoint any unusual activity, and help agents make decisions based on thorough checks, making it easier to distinguish criminals from innocent workers correctly.

  1. Regularly Update Your Software

According to data breach statistics, compromised credentials alone caused 20% of breaches in 2021 and cost an average of $4.37 million. In the same year, 25% involved hacking, 22% phishing, and 17% ransomware. 

Additionally, 2022 saw increased cyberattacks through third parties, such as software vendors. 36% of cloud engineering and security professionals interviewed admitted to experiencing serious leaks and breaches.

The best way for HR or any department to prepare for such threats is to keep a close eye on their internal and external software while patching them up regularly so that hackers can’t exploit their vulnerabilities. A robust anti-virus system is another plus, optimised to secure your data.

  1. Provide Training and Enforce Security Policies

The statistics above also confirm that human error remains a significant security risk. Trust the wrong email, leave a sensitive file open, or neglect to change a weak password, and you can give criminals the foothold they need.

Boosting your workforce’s awareness of cyber threats and security measures is a must, as is tailoring their training to reflect each department’s responsibilities. HR personnel, for instance, should pay attention to employee data and activity and understand how to spot and report red flags.

But educating workers and setting rules can only go so far as people get tired and careless, so it’s essential to enforce your policies and ensure everyone complies if only to protect their data.

  1. Test Your Cybersecurity

Vulnerability testing is an excellent first step, where IT experts use software to evaluate your company’s internal and external components, checking for flaws and loopholes beneficial to hackers. 

But how can you truly know that your company’s security is up to scratch if you don’t test it against trained and reliable professionals? For this, get ethical hackers or experienced engineers, ideally without knowledge of your systems, to do penetration testing.

Put simply, they simulate cyberattacks, using every trick in the book, and provide reports of all the vulnerabilities they find. Even better, they could focus on your HR department and try to get a hold of your employees’ files or other sensitive data. 

You’ll then know what programs to patch up and what procedures need extra safeguards for onboarding or managing your teams.

  1. Constantly Monitor Your Business for Suspicious Activity

Finally, always be patient. When a business’s security improves, so does the ingenuity of criminals determined to break in. Remember that, besides creating new viruses or phishing schemes, they can wait for a mistake or buggy update on your end.

Protecting a company’s data is a complex and ongoing job. Understanding how the business works and what attracts criminals and reinforcing your cybersecurity are essential steps. Still, you must keep repeating them while always looking for red flags and ensuring you can act fast to any threat.

At the end of the day, HR departments with excellent training and software setups make fraudsters less likely to trick interviewers, and hackers find it harder to bypass automated security features. Even if the worst happens, you can immediately lock down assets, alert those affected, and plan your next moves.

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