Government regulation is a harsh reality for businesses big and small. The financial and healthcare industries are infamous for their regulation in the U.S., and with the recent developments in the net neutrality debate, many are predicting that the FCC will soon bring the hammer down on Internet providers.
However, you don’t have to work in either of these industries to feel the pinch of regulation. If your company handles people’s personal information or accepts electronic payments, data security is an important consideration.
Here are a few universal tips for navigating current (and future) regulations:
1. Build a Compliance Team.
Regardless of whether your business operates in a highly regulated industry, you still face the same risks of a data breach, which can put you in legal hot water.
Hire legal counsel that can advise you on how to handle sensitive customer data, such as addresses, passwords, credit card information, and social security numbers. Have them file the necessary paperwork and lead any risk management procedures.
If you’re a large company, you should also hire a compliance auditing firm to uncover any problem areas.
2. Read All Service Agreements and Regulations.
Have you read your merchant services agreements closely? Ignorance of the law is no excuse. It’s usually stated in the MSA that protecting customer information and conforming to PCI standards is your responsibility.
Visa, MasterCard, and American Express all reserve the right to suspend or revoke merchant charging privileges if they believe a business is the source of credit card fraud.
3. Monitor Continued Compliance.
Compliance is usually what drives adoption of security. HIPAA compliance laws have been in place for several years, but we’re seeing adoption of encryption security services now because the compliance regulation mandating encryption is enforced.
Train your staff, and report regulation updates through the appropriate channels. Don’t forget to keep detailed records of compliance training in case you need them later.
4. Prepare for More Regulation.
Healthcare regulation is clearly mapped out, and compliance regulation similar to the HIPAA rules for business associates is becoming commonplace in other industries, as well. The HIPAA rules apply to any company that does business with a healthcare entity or stores patient health information, so companies handling sensitive information often require their vendors to follow a set of data security protocols, as well.
Even if your industry isn’t heavily regulated yet, you should secure your data now in preparation for new laws to come.
5. Investigate Breaches Thoroughly.
Any breach of employee or customer information can devastate your business’ reputation and saddle you with hefty government fines, but you’re required by law to publicly disclose if you’re the cause of a data breach. Being the source of a leak can impact your relationship with critical vendors and partners, as well, so make sure you investigate a data breach as soon as it’s detected.
No matter what industry your business is in, regulations still apply to you. Whether you’re at the mercy of HIPAA or your credit card processor, you have to take your company’s data seriously. A data breach won’t only damage your customers’ trust; if you compromise personal information due to negligence, you could also face devastating fines.
A data breach isn’t always 100 percent preventable, but taking a few precautions and building a knowledgeable team that monitors compliance can save you headaches and money in the long run. In the event of a data breach, the government won’t punish you severely if you follow compliance standards, which can mean the difference between survival and bankruptcy.