All it takes is one brief moment of opportunity for a bad actor to infiltrate your network and gain access to valuable client data. Virtually all companies and organizations have gone digital to some degree, but the staggering efficiency of online data storage and networking comes with an equally powerful vulnerability—which is why cybersecurity must be taken seriously.
This task can be especially difficult for staffing companies that manage millions of individual pieces of confidential data about potential placements, often linked to clients who expect confidentiality. What’s more, many staffing companies also offer comprehensive onboarding and other HR services that require them to have access to their clients’ computer systems.
Enacting effective data security measures for your business and your clients doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it does require some up-front effort and ongoing maintenance. Here are five steps that will help you protect your staffing company (and your clients) from a data breach:
- Know what to protect
- Create a written cybersecurity plan
- Take due diligence seriously
- Train employees
- Know what to do if your system is breached
1. Know What to Protect
You can’t protect your data if you don’t have a solid grasp of where it’s stored, how it’s shared, and ultimately what its vulnerabilities are. This is why a thorough audit of your networks and data storage methods must be the first step.
Start by sitting down with employees in charge of HR, IT, operations, and security and identifying how your business transfers data or shares information and the person or department responsible for protecting it. This list will form the basis of your data security plan.
Of particular importance for staffing companies is that they have access to their clients’ computer systems to know who has authority to log-in to each system, the IP address of the computer being used, and the scope of the data being viewed or transferred.
2. Create a Written Cybersecurity Plan
Any network security plan should be written out, listing every step required to keep information secure. Free online resources can help you develop a plan, which should cover protections from both external and internal threats, including:
- Anti-virus software (and updating)
- Malware protection
- Password managers
- Social media controls
- Employee training
- Authentication protocols
In cases where a certain employee or group may regularly work with a client’s computer system or data, a comprehensive plan might also address limiting log-ins to certain IP addresses. Controls can also be put in place regarding the amount of time that a particular staffing employee is given access to a specific client.
3. Take Due Diligence Seriously
How are smaller companies managing this effort? Brandon Metcalf, founder of staffing and recruitment “software as a service” company Talent Rover, completed a lengthy review and due diligence process before deciding to build the company’s business on Salesforce.com’s cloud-based platform.
The decision means that Salesforce.com, not Talent Rover, is responsible for protecting all of the company’s online activities, including log-ins, data management, information storage and transfer, IP address tracking and password protection. Thus, when a Talent Rover employee works with a client to implement a comprehensive staffing plan, or logs into a client’s system, these activities take place through Salesforce.com.
However, Metcalf warns, it’s not enough to rely on a buzzword such as “cloud-based” as assurance that a service provider truly incorporates sufficient cybersecurity protections. You need to investigate every entity that will handle your data or interact with your servers. Remember, all it takes is one little crack in the armor for a potentially devastating data breach to occur.
4. Train Employees
Again, just one point of weakness is all it takes to expose your company’s sensitive data (or that of your clients) to hackers. Proper employee training around issues of security and protecting client data is key. Never assume your employees will always use common sense when it comes to protecting against security breaches. Exhaustively explain the company’s cybersecurity policies with examples of threats and risky behaviors.
Cyber safety best practices for employees are similar to those for personal computer use. They include the following:
- Teach employees how to create strong passwords when creating account credentials. These should be based on things other than family or pet names and dates that can easily be gleaned from social media (also, they should be changed at least quarterly).
- Instruct employees that they should never “click on a link” to access a client’s website or to enter a work or customer system. Better to type the new address themselves.
- Provide specific examples of “phishing” language or malware that can trick employees into infecting computer systems.
- Prohibit downloads of anything onto a work computer or network without explicit authorization
- Establish a process for reporting suspicious or unusual network activity, emails, or other signs of a possible data breach attempt
5. Know What to Do if Your System is Breached
If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself the victim of a cybercrime, unplug your servers (or disconnect from your offsite host) and go “offline” as quickly as possible until the threat is located and isolated. Then, change the passwords for all hacked systems and communicate openly and honestly with employees and customers about what happened and what is being done to fix the situation.
Such a scenario may require that you call in an outside cybersecurity expert to help find the source of the leak and fix it, but the sooner you act the better off you and your clients will be. Also, remember that certain laws require organizations to publicly report any data breach that impacts customer or client data.
Learn More About Management, Recruitment, and HR
Without proper cybersecurity measures in place, even the most successful recruiting agency can be taken down by a determined hacker. Learn more about best practices for recruiting top talent and managing your company with expert insights from Monster.
Legal Disclaimer: This article is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice. Always seek the professional advice of an attorney regarding any legal questions you may have.