5 Reasons To Protect Your User Data

Data protection regulations vary all over the world, and some countries don’t even have any regulations. Wherever you are in the world, data protection regulations or not, the security of students' and staff’s personal data should be a priority. Asking the question of why data protection is important is valid; laws are made to protect us, and if your country has not implemented laws around data protection, they can seem unneeded. However, over the years, we have seen countless countries jump on the data protection bandwagon after realising the threat that their data subjects face due to cyber criminals with malicious intent. Here are five reasons why your organisation should want to protect your personal data:

1. Protecting data from falling into the wrong hands

When we speak of personal data, we are speaking of the data that you control and process within your organisation and the third-party services you use. This includes your students, staff, parents, and past students and former staff too. As a school, the safeguarding and protection of your students will be a high priority for your organisation. It’s very easy to see a user’s data as simply a string of 0s and 1s, yet identifiable and special category data can be just as dangerous as physical threats if taken into the wrong hands. When planning a school trip or activity, there is always a need for a risk assessment of anything that could be a threat or hazard to students and how one can prevent it from happening. In the same way, your school must have a similar system for online threats to the personal data entrusted to your organisation. By completing a privacy impact assessment ("PIA") when a processing activity poses a heightened risk to your data subjects’ rights and freedoms, you will be able to document your findings, evidence your compliance with local data protection regulations, and prioritise the appropriate mitigating procedures to ensure no harm is done.

2. Cyberattack

The online threats posed to your students and staff in general are reason enough to want to protect them. The most prevalent attacks that we see are malware, phishing, identity theft, information leakage, and ransomware. Watch our YouTube video on "Why Cyber Security Matters" for more information on protecting against cyber threats.

Even if you haven’t yet encountered a data protection incident, you should assume that at some point you will. Having your systems compromised can be detrimental to your organisation and leave your school out of action for a significant amount of time. As there is such a high risk to personal data when it comes to cyber attacks, it’s imperative to map your data, assess the level of risk associated with the services that you are using and your processing activities, and have mitigating procedures in place to prevent cyber security incidents or minimise their impact on your organisation should they occur.

3. Reputation

When you encounter a data incident or breach, not having the correct mitigating procedures in place can be detrimental. Not only this, but current and prospective parents can see this as a lack of care and safeguarding for their children. For example, if there has been a cyberattack and parents’ financial credentials are stolen, there is a direct attack on the parent and their finances. If this were to happen, the current parents would feel that their children and themselves are not protected at the school, meaning that there is a possibility of a student’s withdrawal from the school. When this breach is reported, prospective parents may have the same view surrounding protection within the school, thus leading to a decrease in student enrolment and a damaged reputation.

This works both ways: if your organisation can demonstrate that it is protecting user data, you can promote your successes in the security of your subject data and encourage new students to enrol at your school. Sufficient data protection within schools shows an extended element of care and safeguarding, which is appealing to prospective parents and leads to an advanced local reputation for your school.

4. The inevitability of data protection regulations

We have been seeing data protection laws popping up all over the world, and as countries develop technologically, so do the country’s rules and regulations surrounding the matter. We have most recently seen Thailand announce the Personal Data Protection Act. After realising the dangers associated with an increasing usage of technology in schools, the Government of Thailand announced the implementation of suitable data protection provisions in correspondence with increased data intake.

If there are no data protection regulations in the country that you reside in, it can seem trivial to implement any form of data protection procedure within your organisation. However, when regulations are inevitably implemented within your local area, your school will be better equipped to face the challenges that could likely arise from this. The implementation of regulations can seem abrupt sometimes, leaving organisations with what seems like very little time to work towards compliance. Implementing data protection requirements into your organisation isn’t a one-month process; it is a continuous journey of planning, mapping data, and understanding the risks associated with your data processing so that they can be mitigated. If you can administer effective data protection standards within your school before laws are introduced, you will be able to concentrate on a streamline business plan within your organisation, knowing that you will be compliant when the regulations come into play.

5. Peace of mind

Recovering from a data incident or breach is time-consuming and stressful. Without the correct frameworks and systems in place, it is hard to know how long your systems could be down when they are compromised by an attacker. Research from the National Cyber Security Centre states that "nearly all schools in the research (97%) said that losing access to network-connected IT services would cause considerable disruption." This is consistent with the anecdotal accounts we’ve heard over the last year. This goes to show the importance of cybersecurity and data protection within your organisation. If your school is protected against system intrusion and has a suitable business continuity plan, you will be better equipped to get your systems back up and running with minimal down time.

Considering these five factors, it is evident that data protection revolves around more than just regulations and legality, and it is the responsibility of your organisation to protect students from online threats. If you'd like to bring our experience to the table, the "Contact Us" button above will enable you to engage with the team.

The 9ine app will allow you to ensure that you are documenting and understanding your data processing, visualising where your subject data is being shared, and taking action when there is a risk that must be mitigated. 9ine’s GRC software is the number one global platform, trusted by schools big and small, to demonstrate accountability with privacy compliance.


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