Cybersecurity: Protecting Sensitive Data

This feature explores the significance of cybersecurity in the context of employee data and the key considerations for your organisation. Protecting employee data is of paramount importance to the HR Department and, as we increasingly rely on technology to support every aspect of HR, there is a growing need for robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard sensitive information.

Over the last few years, there has been a significant upward trend in cyber threats targeting employee data. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and the motivations behind attacks vary from financial gain to intelligence gathering and data breaches. With personal and financial data having a high value on the ‘black market’, employee records are prime targets. Globally there is a rising threat landscape and UK business is no exception.

Employee data can include sensitive information such as ethnicity, family, and health, alongside bank, salary and pension details. Anyone can be at risk from a data breach that exposes this sensitive data and a breach can have significant legal and financial consequences, including substantial fines. To avoid or at least mitigate these consequences a business should adopt proactive cybersecurity measures.

One of the most crucial aspects of protecting employee data is through adherence to the law, namely the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). UK GDPR imposes data protection obligations on organisations and failing to adequately protect employee data can result in financial penalties.

Business must ensure that employee data is collected, processed, and stored securely, and that employees' rights regarding their data are upheld. To safeguard employee information and pay details you should implement a comprehensive and proactive approach to cybersecurity, with key measures such as:

  • Employ strong encryption methods to ensure that even if cybercriminals access data, it remains indecipherable.
  • Restrict access to employee data to personnel on a least privilege basis, so that system users are given the minimum levels of access needed to perform their job. Implement strong authentication methods and regularly review and update access permissions.
  • Train employees on the importance of cybersecurity, the risks associated with phishing and social engineering attacks, and how to recognise potential threats.
  • Conduct regular security audits and vulnerability assessments to identify weaknesses in data protection measures and maintain an incident response plan to react swiftly to data breaches.
  • Invest in a secure Human Resources Management System (HRMS) from a recognised provider that will deliver regular updates and patches.

Employee data protection should be integrated into the company culture and every employee must understand their role in safeguarding data. This includes the IT department securing systems, HR departments complying with data protection regulations, and employees being cautious about sharing personal information.

Cyber threats are on the rise and the consequences of data breaches are severe. By adhering to regulatory requirements like UK GDPR, regularly assessing and updating cybersecurity measures, and fostering a culture of security, you can mitigate risks and ensure the confidentiality and integrity of employee data. In the digital age, cybersecurity is not just an option; it is a necessity to protect the backbone of your business – your employees.

On a final note, HRMS solution provider Frontier Software offers a “handy hint” for all system users: Cybercriminals do not tend to use spaces when they attempt to ‘crack’ passwords so, to make their life harder, use spaces in your passwords, i.e. We love Frontier Software in 2024#

Article originally published on HR Grapevine March 2024.