How to Protect Sensitive Data as a Project Manager

As a project manager, you must protect the data surrounding a project. That’s not just the underlying code. Sensitive data may also include personal identities, proprietary conversations on digital platforms, customer records, IP, financial information, and research, among other records that must be kept close to protect the company, its clients, and its employees.

Therefore, at the outset and throughout the project lifespan, it’s essential to put into place processes or technologies that can help protect all the data in your project.

Since data sensitivity is a hot topic across various industries, many platforms and tools build security features to help make it easy to protect data while offering project management solutions. Bitband, for example, has built robust security features into its Project Management Tool. The enhanced security and privacy associated with project data help a project manager ensure data protection while managing project details.

However, a project manager must consider many aspects of security, and there are multiple ways to help keep data safe. Here are a few things to consider setting your team up for safety and success.

Build Strong Passwords and Keep Them Safe

Keeping passwords safe is so, so crucial to protecting project data. That’s because stealing passwords is one of the easiest ways cybercriminals can access information. Make it an essential best practice to enforce strong passwords and build policies that educate your team on creating strong passwords. Also, make it a priority to avoid password sharing among team members.

It’s a good idea to leverage password managers and 2-factor identification. These help ensure your team members aren’t locked out and provide an added layer of protection by having teams verify before gaining access. 

Control Your Team’s User Access Privileges

Not everyone in the company needs access to all of your company data all the time. For example, marketing doesn’t need to access sensitive financial information, and DevOps doesn’t need HR-related documentation. Therefore, limiting user access privileges to areas that relate directly to an employee’s work function is a good idea. Project managers can classify data according to sensitivity levels and has IT check or set permissions.

Use a VPN

VPNs are an excellent layer of protection, especially if you have employees working off-site. With a VPN, IP addresses and data are funneled through a safe connection to help mask third parties from seeing online activities. When off-site workers use a VPN, their connection becomes secure and third parties cannot access their private data or sensitive company information.

Secure User Devices

Project managers should work with their IT team to help monitor company devices. The technology surrounding data breaches continues to evolve. Therefore, it’s essential to stay up to date with software patches and introduce solutions that can remotely wipe devices if they fall into the wrong hands. Project managers should equip their teams with the most up-to-date software, operating systems, and malware/antivirus solutions to protect everyone equally. Throughout the project, they will also need to stay in touch with IT and their team to ensure updates and patches are delivered and in working order so that there are no holes in security at any time.

Make a Plan for Backing Up and Managing Data Appropriately

If you and your team manage sizable quantities of information, use a data hosting provider to help keep everything organized and secure. Data hosting providers can provide various layers of protection and support 24/7.

As a project manager, you should prepare for the worst and build contingencies into your approach to data. This includes taking into consideration what you might do during incidents of equipment failure or cyber-attacks. Make sure you build strong backup and recovery plans into your processes so that, if something happens, retrieval is possible. 

Encrypt Your Team’s Data

Encryption allows you to encode data to block an unauthorized actors’ access. When you encrypt your data, only those with access keys can read or manipulate the data. Encryption makes it hard for cybercriminals to exploit data leaks, and while it’s not 100% foolproof, it does help provide an extra layer of security.

Provide Data Safety Education to Everyone Involved in Your Project

Education on data safety protocols is essential. However, don’t stop at your team. Make sure your client or customer is also aware of the safety precautions you are taking, and be sure to discuss your plans within the greater context of your organization. 

As a project manager, you can help your team understand the danger of cyber crimes and what they should be looking out for. If there’s a new or imminent threat, send out an alert so your team can be extra vigilant. Ensure each person is educated on malware, phishing, ransomware, scams, and more so they recognize the signs and keep an open dialogue with your team and IT. 

Employees should double-check the URLs they use, the email addresses they interact with, and the links they receive. Anyone who sees something suspicious should be comfortable enough to flag it for you and/or IT. Even if mistakes are made, the sooner a breach is caught and quarantined, the safer everyone will be. 

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