Understanding Data Risk Assessment and Best Practices for Data Privacy


Data is a crucial resource for businesses, but it also presents concerns.

Data breaches, cyber-attacks, and other security issues become more likely with every additional byte of data gathered and kept.

Protecting private information requires doing a data risk assessment.

This article by Sertainty will discuss a data risk assessment, its essential, and the best ways to protect sensitive information.


Why is a Data Risk Assessment Important?

A data risk assessment identifies, analyzes, and evaluates potential data confidentiality, integrity, and availability risks. It helps organizations understand their data assets, the risks associated with those assets, and how to mitigate those risks.

A data risk assessment is essential because it helps organizations:

  • Identify potential security threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Determine the likelihood and impact of those threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Create plans to lessen or do away with the dangers.
  • Ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Improve overall data security posture.


How to Conduct a Data Risk Assessment in 5 Steps

A data risk assessment involves analyzing the risks associated with an organization’s sensitive data.

Here are the five steps to performing a data risk assessment:

Step 1: Inventory Sensitive Data

Determining your organization’s sensitive data is the first step to performing a data risk assessment. It could be anything from customer information to trade secrets. Create a list of all your organization’s sensitive data and where it is stored.

Step 2: Assign Data Classifications to Each Data Instance

Once you inventory your organization’s sensitive data, the next step is assigning data classifications to each instance. The data classifications should be based on the data’s sensitivity level.  

Step 3: Prioritize Which Sensitive Data to Assess

After assigning data classifications, you must prioritize which sensitive data to assess. Focus on the most critical data to your organization and its stakeholders. It could be the data that, if lost or stolen, would cause the most harm to your organization’s reputation or bottom line.

Step 4: Check All Relevant Security and Privacy Controls

Next, you need to check all relevant security and privacy controls. It could include firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, encryption, access controls, and other security and privacy mechanisms. Evaluate these controls and identify any vulnerabilities or shortcomings.

Step 5: Document All Security and Privacy Control Shortcomings

Finally, you should record any issues with privacy and security controls. A plan to mitigate the detected threats will be established using this data. Rank the weaknesses by how seriously they might affect the business.


How to Use Data Risk Assessment Results

Once you have performed a data risk assessment, using the results to improve your organization’s security and privacy posture is essential. Here’s how to use the results of your data risk assessment:

  • Explanation of the Use of Data Risk Assessment Results

The results of your data risk assessment should shed light on the areas in which your firm is susceptible to data privacy and security breaches. Use this knowledge to direct your attention and efforts toward the most urgent dangers.

  • Importance of Addressing Identified Risks

Addressing identified risks is critical to maintaining your organization’s sensitive data’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Failure to address these risks could lead to data breaches, regulatory fines, reputational damage, and lost business.

  • Overview of How to Address Identified Risks

To address identified risks, you must develop a remediation plan prioritizing the most critical threats. This plan should include specific actions to address each risk, timelines for completion, and allocated resources. Monitor the progress of your remediation efforts and adjust the plan as needed.


Data Privacy Best Practices

Now that we have discussed data risk assessment and how to use its results let’s discuss data privacy best practices.

These best practices are essential to protecting sensitive information and preventing data breaches.

By following these practices, you can ensure that your organization does everything possible to protect sensitive data.

Data privacy best practices are guidelines organizations should follow to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive data.

There are numerous data privacy best practices that organizations should follow, including:

  • Perform Data Discovery

Conduct an audit to determine your organization’s data and its location.

  • Control Access to Sensitive Data

Keep private information out of the hands of anyone who doesn’t require it to do their job.

  • Use the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP)

Grant users the minimum access necessary to perform their job.

  • Encrypt Your Data

Encrypt data at rest and in motion for maximum security.

  • Install Anti-Malware Software

Install anti-malware software on all devices that access sensitive data to prevent malware attacks.

  • Perform Vulnerability Assessments and Audits

Regularly conduct vulnerability assessments and audits to identify new risks and vulnerabilities.

  • Have a Data Usage Policy

Create transparent guidelines and processes for how and by whom data will be used.

  • Create and Implement Employee Security Training

Ensure all employees are trained on security best practices and the importance of data protection.

  • Physically Safeguard Data

Store sensitive data in a secure location to prevent unauthorized access.

  • Create Strong Passwords

Encourage employees to use strong, unique passwords to protect their accounts.

  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Enable two-factor authentication for all accounts that access sensitive data.

  • Comply with Security Regulations

Ensure you comply with applicable rules, such as GDPR and CCPA.

  • Stop Sending Private Information Over Email

Avoid sending sensitive data over email, as it can easily be intercepted.

  • Invest in Secure Cloud Services

Use secure cloud services to store sensitive data.

  • Get Rid of Old Information When It’s No Longer Needed

Delete sensitive data when it is no longer needed.