The UK’s legal requirement to ensure data security and privacy

In the UK, The Data Protection Act 2018 controls how personal information is used by organisations, companies or the government. The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

  • The GDPR is set around 7 principles: Lawfulness, Fairness and transparency, Purpose limitation, Data minimization, Accuracy, Storage limitation, Integrity and confidentiality, and Accountability.
  • The definition of personal data includes the term “any information” by which the subject of the data is identifiable:

“Especially by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or one of several special characteristics, which expresses the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, commercial, cultural or social identity of these natural persons.”

Why is data security important?

In business, the main purpose of data security is to protect a company’s data that contains trade information or customer data. Unprotected data can be accessed by cybercriminals for malicious reasons and so compromise customer privacy. Data security is important because if a data breach does occur, a company can be exposed to litigation, fines and reputational damage.

Ensuring data security in remote teams

As technology allows organisations collect more and more data, effective governance and access management protocols are essential to scaling data use without losing control. While companies reap the benefits of reduced overheads when taking on Virtual Assistants, remote working has precipitated new cybersecurity threats and risks that could impact negatively on a business.

Training your Virtual Assistants on data security protocols

When it comes to any security, people can inadvertently be the weakest link. One of the most important aspects of data security is education. Educate yourself and your Virtual Assistants about UK data protection legalities and about the latest trends, threats, tools and best practices in data security – as well as drilling them to adopt and maintain secure data sharing habits.

Here are 7 best practices for protecting and sharing sensitive information:

  1. Encrypt sensitive data: Article 32 of the UK GDPR includes encryption as an example of an appropriate technical measure, depending on the nature and risks of your processing activities. If sensitive data must be stored on local computer hard drives, external hard drives, or flash memory drives it must be encrypted using security-approved encryption methods.
  2. Safeguard information to which you have access: Ensure you and every member of your team chooses strong passwords and changes them often. Do not leave paper documents containing sensitive information unattended. You should also update or delete the information as needed, disposing of it securely when it is no longer needed.
  3. Adhere to policy: Everyone in the company should know and adhere strictly to relevant policies. You may be bound by company policy, professional codes of conduct, legal obligations, or ethical standards that govern how you handle sensitive information. Insist that every team member sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that prohibits the improper sharing of sensitive information.
  4. Restrict access: The best way to alleviate internal security breaches is by restricting access to as appropriate to each role. Access control systems allow company IT admins to define who within the company can access which files and networks.
  5. Get consent: Consent means that the subject of the data agrees for you to hold and share the information having understood why the information is necessary, how you will use it, store it and protect it.
  6. Use discretion when sharing: Before sharing any sensitive information (be it with a trusted colleague or vendor) ask yourself why you are doing it. Is it relevant, necessary and essential for a set purpose?
  7. Monitor and evaluate: Put your internal processes to the test to ensure preserving data integrity and security. Keep track of what information is shared, with whom and for what purpose to avoid negative outcomes and trouble-shoot if need be.

Top tools for secure communication and data storage

It is essential to learn about the range of tools available and ascertain which of these is the best for your company – and are the most reliable. Here are 3 common tools available:

  • Firewalls

Your business will experience a constant flow of incoming and outgoing information as team members access your network from multiple locations. Firewalls are an efficient first line of defense as they monitor this traffic. They are easy to implement and offer good resistance against external cyber threats trying to break into your network.

  • Encryption tools

Encryption can protect your communication from being intercepted, modified, or stolen. Encryption is a process that transforms your data into a code that only authorised recipients can decode. Encryption tools include Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), end-to-end encryption apps, or encrypted storage services. These encryption tools can be used for:

  • data in transit (data that you send or receive through your communication tools, such as emails, messages, or calls).
  • data at rest (data that you store on your devices or cloud services, such as photographs, documents, or contacts).
  • Multifactor authentication

Multifactor authentication can prevent unauthorised access to your stored information even if your password is compromised. Multifactor authentication requires you to provide more than one piece of evidence to verify your identity when logging in. For example, you may need to enter a code sent to your phone or email, scan your fingerprint, or use a physical key. It is wise to enable multifactor authentication for your all your IT and communication tools.

Last but not least, keep your computer software up to date

While it is likely that UK Estate Agents do not use the latest computer hard and software in order to maximise their use of modern digital tools, it must be said that it is important to avoid using outdated or unsupported computer software that may have security flaws or compatibility issues. Current software and regular updates are essential for maintaining the security and functionality of your IT and communication tools. It may be a pain, but it is also essential to regularly do software updates – these often include patches for security vulnerabilities. It is a good idea to turn on automatic updates to make the process as easy as possible.