The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is often considered the strictest regulation in the world for securing users’ private data. It applies to all organizations that process the personal data of European Union citizens and residents, and the fines for non-compliance reach up to €20 million.
In this article, we explore the nature of this regulation, list its key principles, and offer a seven-step checklist for meeting GDPR compliance requirements. This article will be helpful for companies that already follow the GDPR and for those who are going to enter the European Union market.
What is the GDPR?
The General Data Protection Regulation is a data privacy and security regulation adopted by the European Union (EU). It imposes obligations on all organizations that collect and process personal data of EU residents, even if these organizations operate outside the EU.
The GDPR provides EU residents with control over their personal data and obliges organizations to:
- Gather, collect, and manage personal data legally and according to strict rules
- Protect data from misuse and exploitation
- Respect the rights of data owners
The two cornerstones of the GDPR are personal data and data processing:
It’s also important to be familiar with specific terms the GDPR introduces to define roles associated with data handling: data controllers, data subjects, and data processors.
Who must comply with the GDPR?
Any organization that stores or processes personal information about EU residents is obliged to comply with the GDPR, even if the organization is located outside the EU.
Yet there are some nuances. For instance, organizations that have fewer than 250 employees are free from the majority of record-keeping obligations (see Article 30.5), though they still have to to meet other GDPR requirements.
However, even if your organization employees fewer than 250 people, you might be obliged to keep records according to strict GDPR rules in case your processing of personal data:
- is likely to result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of data subjects
- is not occasional
- includes special categories of data as referred to in Article 9
- includes personal data relating to criminal convictions and offenses described in Article 10
Why should you comply with the GDPR?
Meeting GDPR compliance regulations isn’t only about complying with mandatory requirements. It can also help your organization do the following:
Protect personal data
GDPR articles implement high standards for personal data security, obliging data controllers and processors to secure “any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person.”
Maintain your reputation
You never know how neglecting data privacy regulations may affect your reputation. It could be that a data breach will lead to investigations, fines, and potential lawsuits. Staying compliant with GDPR requirements helps you maintain a reputation as a trustworthy and professional organization. And ensuring secure data processing is a reliable way to minimize the risk of security incidents.
Increase customer loyalty
People want to know that their data is safe and that they have control over it, especially since the GDPR has ensured their rights. Customers and businesses are more likely to choose a trustworthy and GDPR compliant service provider or subcontractor compared to a non-compliant one.
Avoid fines and penalties
Article 83 of the GDPR states that the maximum fine for non-compliance is up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million (whichever is greater). Fines for GDPR non-compliance depend on multiple factors, including:
- the duration and severity of the violation
- the degree of cooperation with the supervisory authority
- the categories of personal data affected
Ensuring GDPR compliance requires a deep understanding of the regulation in the first place. So before proceeding to the checklist for GDPR compliance, let’s take a quick look at the key principles behind the GDPR.
Key principles of the GDPR
GDPR requirements are based on the seven principles laid out in Chapter 2. They embody the main ideas of the regulation and explain the key reasons for implementing all its requirements.
Compliance with these principles is essential for good data protection in general and for compliance with the detailed provisions of the GDPR in particular.
Now let’s move to a concise checklist that offers seven basic steps to ensure compliance with GDPR requirements.
How to comply with the GDPR
Check your GDPR compliance
Although there’s no mandatory audit to confirm GDPR compliance, that doesn’t mean organizations can get away with non-compliance. In case a data breach occurs or a violation of data subjects’ rights is noticed, supervisory authorities and regulators will investigate the incident and check an organization’s compliance.
Since the GDPR came into effect in 2018, organizations have reported a total of 160,921 personal data breaches according to the DLA Piper GDPR Data Breach Survey 2020. Data protection regulators have imposed €114 million in fines for a wide range of GDPR infringements.
To both minimize the risk of data breaches and avoid fines, organizations that are obliged to comply with GDPR requirements should take this regulation seriously.
How to ensure GDPR compliance
1. Establish a lawful basis and transparent method for data processing
The best way to meet GDPR requirements for lawfulness and transparency is by following these six practices:
- Inform individuals about collecting personal data before doing it
- Provide valid reasons for collecting and processing data
- Gather only the data you need for the purposes stated
- Specify the period of data storage
- Receive consent from data subjects for data processing
- Notify data subjects whenever you make any changes to your data collection processes
Asking for users’ consent also has some nuances. Make sure to receive consent for data processing through some sort of opt-in action, such as clicking a checkbox.
It’s also a good decision to provide information about data collection, processing, and storage clearly and concisely. All this information should be easily accessible.
2. Review your data protection policies
Another thing that will help you comply with the GDPR is developing and implementing a GDPR compliant data protection policy. If you already have one, make sure to review it.
Ensure that this policy unites all other security policies, implements the privacy by design principle, and sets all privacy settings at the highest level by default.
The goal here is to validate that all data is collected, stored, and processed securely and isn’t accessible to more individuals than necessary. Also, check that your systems process only the categories of personal data necessary for your specific purposes.
3. Determine your supervisory authority
According to Chapter 6, each Member State must provide one or more independent public authorities responsible for monitoring GDPR compliance.
Find out who your supervisory authorities are to ask them compliance-related questions. In case a data breach happens, inform them about the incident within 72 hours of its detection.
4. Сonduct a data protection impact assessment
Another essential GDPR requirement is to be able to demonstrate compliance and prove that all data is processed legally and with all possible security measures applied.
For instance, if your company has at least 250 employees or conducts high-risk data processing, it’s best to keep an up-to-date and detailed list of all processing activities with personal data.
One of the easiest ways to demonstrate GDPR compliance is to conduct a regular data protection impact assessment (DPIA). A DPIA helps you:
- Identify the possible impact of your processing activities on data subjects
- Assess whether your company is complying with the GDPR
- Identify data protection risks
- Be able to mitigate these risks before they cause data security issues
Maintaining appropriate documentation is also a large part of GDPR compliance and accountability, so consider keeping the following records (where applicable and possible):
5. Check whether users’ privacy rights are in place
Chapter 3 defines the rights of data subjects, which you should pay attention to in order to ensure GDPR compliance.
Make sure to review the privacy rights of your customers and website users to verify that they can easily do the following things:
6. Appoint a data protection officer
A data protection officer (DPO) is an in-house or outsourced specialist who oversees an organization’s GDPR compliance and reports to chief managers about any data breach risks.
The GDPR requires you to hire a DPO if you meet one of three criteria:
- Your organization is a public body or authority, with exemptions granted to courts and other independent judicial authorities
- You perform large-scale, regular monitoring
- You process data within special categories at a large scale
The regulation doesn’t oblige you to hire a DPO on a full-time basis. Depending on the organization, the DPO can work part-time or full-time.
7. Educate your staff about secure data processing
To minimize the risks of data breaches and GDPR violations, make sure all your employees are aware of both the GDPR requirements and possible consequences of non-compliance.
Consider developing a training program that covers data protection in general and those areas which relate to your company in particular. Assign employees who are responsible for courses and create a training program.
Complying with the GDPR requires organizations to spend much time and effort strengthening their data protection measures — not to mention reviewing their entire workflow to make sure that personal data is collected, stored, and processed securely and that all employees follow security policies.
Luckily, some tasks for ensuring GDPR compliance can be automated or simplified thanks to user activity monitoring software.
Using Ekran System to ensure GDPR compliance
Ekran System is a full-cycle insider threat management platform that effectively deters, detects, and disrupts insider threats.
It offers extensive functionality that helps you meet various cybersecurity compliance requirements, including those established by the GDPR.
Article 5, “Principles relating to processing of personal data,” defines under which conditions personal data must be collected, processed, and stored. It also obliges data controllers to be able to demonstrate compliance with all the principles.
Ekran System will help you:
- Make sure all users process data fairly and legally thanks to robust employee monitoring, privileged user monitoring, and third-party contractor monitoring
- Instantly detect suspicious actions with an AI-powered user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) module
- Demonstrate compliance thanks to Ekran System reporting functionality
- Protect access to sensitive systems and data with access control functionality
Article 24, “Responsibility of the controller,” obliges data controllers to implement, review, and update appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure that data processing is performed in accordance with the GDPR.
You can use Ekran System’s functionality to:
- Ensure secure data processing with audio and video monitoring and control over USB devices connected to corporate systems
- Demonstrate that data is processed in accordance with the GDPR by creating a full tamperproof audit trail of all user actions within each monitored session
Article 32, “Security of processing,” requires data controllers and processors to make sure that data processing is performed according to your instructions.
Ekran System functionality allows you to:
- Identify how users process data with complete visibility of all user actions and searchable session records
- Record monitoring data only when necessary
- Monitor, control, and block connected USB devices
- Provide temporary access to sensitive data only for authorized users and for a valid reason
- Set predefined and custom rules to block sessions or send warnings to users when suspicious activity is detected
Article 33, “Notification of a personal data breach to the supervisory authority,” obliges data controllers to notify the supervisory authority of a personal data breach within 72 hours of its detection and to provide the supervisory authority with details of this data breach.
You can leverage Ekran System functionality to:
- Quickly detect potential incidents thanks to customizable real-time alerts that notify security officers of suspicious activity
- Explore searchable video records to know what happened before, during, and after an incident
- Document personal data breaches and associated information and create customized reports in a few clicks
- Export data in a protected file format for investigation and forensic activities
Article 35, “Data protection impact assessment,” explains the nature of a DPIA and defines how and when one should be performed.
You can simplify your data protection impact assessment by using Ekran System’s comprehensive auditing and reporting functionality to analyze:
- Which users access which data and how often
- How users interact with personal data
- What apps and sites users visit
- How user activity changes over time
Article 39, “Tasks of the data protection officer,” determines the responsibilities of a DPO, including their responsibilities for monitoring GDPR compliance as well as advising the data controller, data processor, and employees.
Your DPO can use Ekran System to:
- Monitor user sessions offline in case the network connection goes down
- Extract detailed reports on user activity
- Prevent inappropriate data processing with the UEBA module
This checklist should help you achieve GDPR compliance or review your current data protection measures if you already are compliant. And if you'd also like to enhance an organization's cybersecurity and integrate top-level protection into workflows, check out our IT compliance audit checklist.
With Ekran System, you can automate monitoring and reporting processes and simplify compliance with the GDPR. In addition, Ekran System’s insider threat management platform helps you significantly enhance data and system security, instantly detect suspicious activity, and address potential threats before they cause harm. Enjoy a 30-day free trial to see for yourself how Ekran System works and take one more step toward GDPR compliance.