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POPI is here – Step-up IT security for compliance

Michael Morton, Solutions Architect at leading IT South Africa-based managed IT security services company, Securicom.
Michael Morton, Solutions Architect at leading IT South Africa-based managed IT security services company, Securicom.

Email security, archiving, and data loss prevention should be high on the agenda for South African companies with the Protection of Public Information (POPI) Act having commenced on 1 July 2020. Companies now have less than a year to get fully compliant.

While POPI places obligations on all businesses that process personal information, the implications for organizations can become quite onerous, depending on their industry and the nature of the information they handle about their customers. Companies in the Financial Services, Healthcare and Marketing sectors, in particular, will be affected by this Act. Even small businesses are going to have to treat IT security far more seriously if they are to ensure compliance with POPI.

Those that have the bare minimum in place in terms of email security, archiving and data storage are literally going to have to start from scratch. While POPI isn’t an overly-technical piece of legislation, becoming compliant might take some time.

“POPI provides conditions and regulates how companies that process personal information should handle, store and secure that data. While the legislation is not all that technical, it is strict and the penalties for non-compliance aren’t to be sniffed at. Contravention of POPI can result in a potentially-debilitating fines and even possible jail time.

“With data being the lifeblood of every business, protecting it should already be a top priority. Now with the commencement of the POPI Act, it is also an issue of compliance. Companies need to look closely at their IT security and how effective it is at protecting the information they keep about their customers, employees and suppliers.

“This includes email security, and security on laptops, endpoints, servers and mobile devices, to control access to information and prevent data loss. Staff should also be given training to inculcate information security awareness across the organization.

“Furthermore, companies need to consider how they are to protect the confidentiality and integrity of information that employees, in terms of their roles within the organisation, are actually authorised to see,” says Michael Morton, Solutions Architect at leading IT South Africa-based managed IT security services company, Securicom.

Data leakage, which is the intentional or accidental exposure of information, can occur in a variety of ways, from employees talking about their employers’ business and customers in emails, on the phone or online, right through to staff members losing or misplacing discs or flash drives containing critical business information.

So, aside from robust tools to secure and protect the information they process and store, companies should also have well-defined security policies and procedures in place that define and regulate the acceptable use of information by employees. These policies should include guidelines for reacting to a breach.

Employees of course, should also be aware of these policies. They must understand what they can and can’t say, what type of information is protected and therefore cannot be shared, and the consequences of not sticking to the rules or being careless.

With uSecure – a new managed service offering from Securicom – companies can help drive secure employee behaviour through up to date user training and awareness of cyber risks. The intelligent training platform identifies users' individual cyber security knowledge gaps and then, crafts personalised programmes that address their unique learning needs. Retention is measured and future training modules are deployed to fill knowledge gaps. Offered on a subscription basis, it is suitable and affordable for companies of all shapes and sizes.

Editorial contacts
Kerry Webb 082 496 0713 Kerry-lee@mweb.co.za
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