Graham Croock, Director: IT audit, risk and cyber lab at BDO SA
Fundamentally, the power of computing is moving to the cloud. Powerful, bulky machines will be rendered unnecessary as data starts getting accessed through the even more powerful infrastructure built around the incredible processing power that now lives on the cloud. More and more companies are moving their data to the cloud, as well as government agencies and institutions. But what does this mean for data sensitivity and customer protection?
“Many businesses are reluctant to move their essential data to the cloud, which is becoming more and more accessible as technology converges, and companies run the risk of being left behind by their competitors”, states Graham Croock, Director: IT audit, risk and cyber lab at BDO SA. However, company leaders want guarantees that their cloud service provider cannot, for example, be targeted by terrorist groups or rival organisations.
So the question is, how do we deal with disaster recovery if cybercriminals attack or shut down one of the big data center servers that houses companies’ invaluable data? Can companies really be sure that they have efficient redundancy built into the business? Companies need to cover all their bases when looking to migrate their data onto the cloud. Demands such as zero% downtime and ad hoc changes to the architecture of the cloud infrastructure are conversations that need to be had by cloud servers and companies. It will be the tech savvy and innovative companies that will lead the pack, ensuring that they have a solid service level agreement (SLA) in place that protects themselves, their clients, and is in accordance to legislation.
But realistically speaking, the law is not keeping up. What are the penalties for companies losing vital data? Who will be held accountable should things go wrong? How will the client or company be compensated? These questions are still not properly addressed by South African legislation, and lawyers need to become tech savvy in this new era, to ensure that SLAs are ironclad. This is where the POPI act comes into play.
The purpose of the PoPI Act is to ensure that South African companies conduct the requirements of the act responsibly when it comes to collecting, processing, storing and sharing personal information of another body or individual by holding them accountable should they compromise a third party’s personal information. Within the PoPI Act, certain rights of protection are awarded to third parties who share their personal information with organisations. Some of these include:
- Consent as to when and how one chooses to share their information
- The type and extent of information one choose to share
- Transparency on how one’s data will be used
- Immediate notification should one’s data is compromised
- Allowing one to have access to their own information, and do with it as they pleas
- The prevention of unauthorised people accessing one’s information
- How and where one’s information is stored
- The accuracy of one’s information
The seventh point highlights the challenge that companies storing information on a cloud have. More often than not, organisations don’t actually know where the cloud is and who has access to this information.
It is important to note that while consumers now have more rights and protection, companies are also considered responsible parties and have the same obligation to protect other parties’ personal information. This includes all stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, vendors and even service providers. But in today’s day and age, people freely disseminate personal information about themselves on the internet, and it is important to remember that the PoPI Act cannot protect you if you do not protect yourself. The onus is on everyone handling delicate data to treat it as such.
When it comes to hiring a cloud server for your delicate information, ensure to chat to your risk advisor or specialist companies like BDO that will ensure that your migration is smooth and secure, and of course, that your cloud service provider is compliant to the POPI act.
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