Cowbell Guidelines for Document Collection and Storage

by | Jan 17, 2023 | Cyber Risk

Sensitive data loss or theft almost always harms a company’s reputation and results in penalties under regulations for non-compliance. It is common knowledge that during a data breach, bad actors search their victims’ systems for cyber insurance coverage to harvest the maximum amount in extortion from the policyholder.

Importance of Document Security and Storage

Despite Document Security Systems for storage that give organizations advanced options for managing their documents, a few other high-risk elements could also pose a threat:

  • Physical papers: They are vulnerable to external threats like fire and robbery.
  • Digital documents: They must be safeguarded against security lapses that could occur during document use and storage. For example, computers can be lost or stolen.

The rigorous maintenance of all sensitive documents ensures that they are safely stored, filed, processed, delivered, and properly disposed of. 

Data Storage Recommendations:

  • Only collect and store data that is necessary:
    • By limiting the amount of information and data that your organization stores and processes, you immediately minimize the severity of cyber incidents if one occurs. 
  • Restrict access to sensitive data:
    • Provide access to data on a need-to-know basis or at least privileged. Organizations should only share their most sensitive data with those who require access by implementing varied security access levels.
  • Encrypt Data:
    • For industries with highly regulated data such as Personal Identifiable Information (PII), we recommend that only authorized parties access or have a decryption key to convert it to plain text. This method prevents data theft and malware while protecting sensitive data. 
  • Dispose of sensitive data that is no longer needed: 
    • The safest method of appropriately discarding sensitive data is deleting (digital records)/shredding (physical records) it.
  • Making use of hard drives and backups 
    • Recent backups can eliminate the need to pay in a ransom incident as the breach coach will have more bargaining options and influence. We recommend backing up your organization’s system at least once a month, ideally daily.
  • Using an offsite document storage facility or outsourcing document storage:
    • Regarding physical records, a monitored storage facility can be a safe approach to safeguard crucial business documents and protect clients from identity and data theft. It implements a chain of command for viewing and directly stops unauthorized individuals from accessing records.
  • Deploying an Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution:
    • With IAM in place, you control who has access to your network and data. Access will only be given to specific employees or members of the organization while taking the hierarchy into account.
  • Deploying intrusion detection and prevention solutions:
    • We recommend implementing cybersecurity and data protection policies for more sophisticated data security alternatives. It would spare your business from severe operational and financial repercussions and avoid data loss and corruption.
  • Policy documents: 
    • All cyber policy-related documents, including any indication of the existence of a cyber policy, should be treated as sensitive information. As such, we recommend not posting the existence of such coverage on any public websites or other forums unless it is a requirement in the bylaws of the named insured. Why? Cybercriminals are proactively mining this information to launch ransomware attacks on organizations.

Company data that should be encrypted includes:

  • Data in use: Active data processed by an application, whether updated, viewed, or generated, is referred to as data in use.
  • Data in transit: This is information sent from the sender’s application to the receiver’s application. Organizations should always encrypt their data to avoid being hijacked or intercepted.
  • Data at rest: This is information stored on backup media or in the cloud but is not currently in use.

Using a Password Manager to store passwords to these critical documents

With the sensitivity of cyber policy-related documents, it may be in the interest of organizations to employ a password manager to protect those documents from unauthorized viewing or changes. Another potential solution would be to use version control on documents to track changes and who has access to them. 

Cloud Storage

As more organizations move their data to the cloud, it comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Not having to manage the hardware where the data is stored and leveraging another company’s infrastructure can help provide additional security and lower costs. Organizations must remember that they are still responsible for their data. The most commonly overlooked area is backed-up data stored on the cloud. Not all cloud providers will back up the data stored with them; if they do, that can be a single point of failure if all the data is there. Organizations need to be aware of that and have redundancy with their backup solution.

What are security best practices for using the cloud?

As discussed in the previous section, backups are one of the more important ways of making cloud document management more secure. There are several other best practices to keep in mind. 

The first would be to monitor access to the data. Since employees have access to company files, it is essential to have strict permissions on what information can be accessed, especially if the organization collects sensitive data. A clear process for managing access and authentication is required to ensure that only authorized personnel have access. 

Another area would be to make sure that all data is encrypted. Most cloud providers will provide encryption for the data they store; however if the organization uses a hybrid data storage solution when they move it to the cloud, there need to be data encryption controls in place to protect it. 

The final area is to conduct regular security audits. As plans and processes are created, it is easy to set them up and forget to update them proactively. With the ever-changing threat landscape, it is good practice to audit your organization’s policies and procedures. Determine the policies that help secure the company and those that are no longer beneficial. If a policy or procedure is no longer relevant, it should be updated or replaced with all changes properly documented.

This blog post was written by Cowbell’s Risk Engineer, Nathan Abir, and Cowbell’s Risk Administrator, Zachary Mariskanish.

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