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How to Maintain Data Privacy During Software Development

ByIgnacio De Marco,
business.com writer
|
Nov 01, 2019
PrathanChorruangsak/Getty Images
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Discover how to improve data privacy in your next development project.

Data privacy continues to be one of the most important considerations for global business executives and customers alike. In fact, research has found that cybersecurity is the number one external concern for American CEOs in 2019 and 2020. 

Many of the world's largest companies are responding to the data privacy crisis by investing millions of dollars to build internal cybersecurity teams. These same firms are also collaborating with South American software development firms to source hard-to-find privacy experts at a time when the demand for these specialists greatly outpaces supply. 

Companies can improve their internal cybersecurity efforts and stay ahead of hackers by following appropriate data privacy regulations. In addition, it is important to follow appropriate security models to ensure that development conforms with industry security standards.

The best businesses will also prioritize cybersecurity by building multidisciplinary development teams that integrate data privacy concerns into every stage of the software development lifecycle. 

Why is data privacy important?

As mentioned above, data privacy is the number one challenge faced by American CEOs. The reason for this concern is clear – the number of data breaches continues to increase in both number and sophistication every year. Research has found that hackers attempt to break into a new computer every 39 seconds on average.

The increase in attacks is taking a financial toll on businesses as well. Studies predict that the total costs of cyberattacks will cost global businesses more than $6 trillion by 2021

Individual businesses have even more to worry about. New research has found that a data breach costs companies an average of $3.86 million in financial damage. That's from a combination of lost business, a damaged brand, investigations and regulatory costs. Companies can expect the cost of a successful cyberattack to increase as new legislation in the U.S. takes effect. 

This incredible onslaught of attacks means that businesses must prioritize and update their information security efforts now. The first step in the process is to become aware of relevant national and local regulations. 

Follow regulations

One of the most consequential trends in cybersecurity is the rise in national and local regulations detailing how companies must prioritize data privacy.

The most important set of data privacy regulations, by far, is the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) drafted by the European Union. The GDPR was passed in 2016 and went into effect in Spring 2018. 

These regulations protect the data privacy of all citizens in the EU. That means that every company that does business with citizens of the EU must abide by these regulations in their interactions, regardless of where the company is located.

The GDPR requires all companies to ask for consent from customers before they process data. In addition, they are required to collect and store that data anonymously – and must inform consumers if their data has been potentially compromised in a breach.

Finally, large companies are required to appoint a dedicated data privacy protection officer who is tasked with overseeing the company's cybersecurity strategy and responding to customers if a cyberattack is successful.

Unfortunately, the United States federal government has yet to pass comprehensive data privacy legislation. However, several states have created their own laws dictating how data must be handled. This includes Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington.

The most important of these state bills, however, came from California. Because California is the most populated state in the U.S., with 40 million residents, state legislation tends to be adopted by most American companies so they don't exclude the nation's biggest market.

California recently passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which goes into effect on January 1, 2020. The bill allows customers to demand that companies disclose information about their personal data.

In addition, the CCPA requires businesses to provide the following data when queried by a customer. Companies must tell their customers which types of personal information they possess, the specific data collected within the past twelve months, and allow customers to request that personal information not be shared with third parties. 

Finally, consumers may request that all personal data be deleted – a directive the businesses must legally follow. 

While the different national and local legislations can make data privacy compliance difficult, it is extremely important to make sure that all relevant regulations are followed when designing software. That's a major reason why so many large companies are scrambling to source experienced cybersecurity experts, and are turning to software outsourcing services in South America and other regions of the world for support. 

Select the right security model

Before launching a software development project, it's important to select the right security model for it. This data privacy strategy will determine whether software meets industry information security standards and allow companies to release software to the public with confidence. 

Most companies can select whatever model fits best with their development capabilities, but businesses that store sensitive information – like finance, healthcare and educational institutes – should select a security-focused model like the Trusted Software Methodology. Executives who are unsure which security model is best suited for their project should turn to a trusted consultant for professional support. 

Trusted Software Methodology

The Trusted Software Methodology is the go-to security model for companies that deal with sensitive consumer information. The United States government created this set of guidelines in the 1990s as a way to counter increasingly sophisticated hackers

It uses 25 unique "trust principles" to determine what trust ranking a particular website or piece of software should be assigned. Within this framework, high trust represents websites with poor security components that leave users vulnerable to breaches – an assignment that will trigger additional security requirements from the website. On the other hand, a low trust level means that the website is relatively safe and secure.

This particular approach is most often used by federal and local governments, financial services, healthcare companies, educational institutes and other organizations that possess extremely sensitive personal data. 

Systems Security Engineering Capability Maturity Model

The Systems Security Engineering Capability Maturity Model (SSE-CCM) is a set of rigorous security standards designed to allow companies to easily assess their current information security efforts. This useful benchmark makes it easy for companies to update their procedures and continually improve their processes.

This security model assesses 22 different process areas that are important for information security. Managers can quickly see how their current procedures stack up and determine the effectiveness of proposed changes before they are implemented.

Experienced project managers and organizations with an information security executive are the best candidates for this model. That's because it requires previous know-how and strong institutional support in order to be effective. 

Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Security Development Lifecycle

The Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Security Development Lifecycle continues to be the gold standard security model for most industries. That's because the approach successfully integrates data privacy concerns into every stage of the software development lifecycle.

When the security methodology was released in 2002, Bill Gates explained that software security needed to be continually refined and improved to meet ever-evolving threats. 

Microsoft's security framework prescribes a set of security standards that can be integrated into any project, no matter the scope or level of complexity. These standards include avoiding vulnerable default settings, running components with the fewest possible permissions, and creating a secure software architecture.

Fortune 500 companies such as Adobe and Cisco use this framework as their corporate standard because of its versatility, strong security protections and ease of use. 

Build multidisciplinary development teams

In terms of personnel, the most important step that management can take to ensure proper data privacy is to build a multidisciplinary development team from the outset. 

These teams, which are made up of a variety of specialists, have recently gained favor because they integrate important considerations, such as data privacy, user design and quality assurance, into every step of the software development lifecycle. 

They typically include software security experts, user experience and user interface specialists, and both manual testers and a software developer engineer in the testing. 

By assembling this type of superpowered team from the beginning, managers will ensure a better final product. That's because these teams are constantly checking for and correcting coding errors. In addition, security experts help project managers select the right security methodology and test for data privacy while the basic framework is still being designed. 

In summary

Executives intent on growing their business, maintaining a strong reputation and avoiding legal trouble must take information security seriously. That's because the number and sophistication of cyberattacks only continue to increase and show no signs of abating. 

Most importantly, businesses have to adjust to the new regulatory environment. New laws in Europe and throughout the United States require new security standards and data privacy regulations that companies are struggling to adapt to. The shortage of security experts in the United States makes this difficult, which is why so many firms are turning to South American outsourcing as a solution.

Companies can integrate data privacy concerns into their development projects by selecting the appropriate security methodology and by building a multidisciplinary team capable of integrating those security concerns into every stage of the process.

Ignacio De Marco
Ignacio De Marco
See Ignacio De Marco's Profile
I am the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at BairesDev. I am responsible for implementing and ensuring the successful management of the business and setting future strategies aimed at positioning my company as the #1 software company in the region. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Systems Engineering as well as a Master of Business Administration. I was born and raised in Argentina and I am an eager traveler who has visited over 50 countries. I speak 4 languages and I'm currently a resident of San Francisco, CA.
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