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Handling Data Security Challenges In Slack

Slack is one of the most useful team collaboration apps online, and almost every organization uses it. It’s a fantastic tool to improve business workflow. Regardless, it still has its own data security challenges that make it challenging to secure.

Various data security issues can make a business vulnerable, but they are not without resolution. Here’s how to handle data security challenges in Slack and keep cybersecurity airtight.

Understanding Security Issues In Slack

Unlike some instant messaging apps, Slack doesn't offer end-to-end encryption, making it a security vulnerability. One of the main reasons for this is that enterprise executives desire to maintain a clear view of communications over multiple channels and workgroups.

In addition, a security breach that affects Slack could have adverse consequences for its users. There is a possibility that this could happen again, as it has happened in the past. Additionally, if the stolen data contains sensitive data subject to compliance regulations, the organization that owns the data will be held liable.

Due to Slack's nature as a web application, the software employs HTTPS encryption just like any legitimate website that collects potentially sensitive information. In this way, data is encrypted both during transit and as it rests on Slack's servers, but it is ultimately up to the platform's security protocols to ensure the information is protected.

A hacker may gain access to the data if they obtain the key to decryption. They may have access to messages you have sent throughout your life. There's no way to protect trade secrets on the platform because companies share confidential data. Because of the volume of messages created on Slack, you can't expect to monitor it manually due to its large attack surface.

In addition, somebody may use Slack maliciously, either intentionally or accidentally. A phishing portal appears one way on the surface, but it can be a spoof site instead.

In addition, former employees who leave the business on bad terms yet still have access to the workspace may post malicious content of their own volition. However, such scenarios cannot be blamed solely on the platform, as the potential dangers are all very similar.

Addressing Compliance Issues With Slack

One of the most significant issues for the platform is FERPA and HIPAA compliance for Slack. Slack is missing any way to secure the system for HIPAA compliance on any level, from Basic to Pro, and even Plus. This could be problematic, especially with how valuable the service is.

Even Slack knows that its lack of HIPAA compliance, primarily due to the nature of the app, means it cannot transmit Protected Health Information (PHI). There are a few ways to deal with this if your business truly wants to stay within Slack’s ecosystem.

Slack Enterprise Grid offers a way to set up HIPAA compliance by letting the organization assume control. For example, it allows businesses to implement their own encryption keys and data loss prevention (DLP) measures.

Monitoring and granular visibility are essential to Slack compliance. With tools, it is possible to monitor Slack exchanges, including messages, files, and snippets.

Although these tools may sound intrusive, they are focused and automated. They don't monitor what your employees say; they look at what data they share.

Companies can automatically set pre-defined data classification policies and utilize artificial intelligence to scan and redact sensitive data within tools like Slack automatically. This can help prevent accidental data exposure and eliminate the risk of potential data theft.

Mitigating User Error

Slack has its own issues in its code, and not even data engineers within your company can correct those. In some situations, however, the problem may lie within the users. This security issue may come from details left from the company’s onboarding and guest inclusion within human resources.

One feature of Slack is its all-in-one chat function, which combines channels for general conversations with business channels within the company. This makes Slack lively and easy to use and a powerful way to help onboard new hires and temporary team members.

On the flip side, once members leave the organization, having their accounts connected can result in data theft. Leaving them with access to sensitive company information can be problematic. Several quick actions can quickly resolve this.

Human resources and IT need to work together in sync to know when to create and delete user accounts. It’s best to remove users at the soonest possible convenience when the user does not have anything more to do within Slack. This can happen even before they entirely cut affiliation with the company.

Regular reviews of external guest accounts are a must too. Limiting the channels where guests can go should also help prevent them from accessing information they should not be privy to.

Issues With Third-Party Integrations

Third-party integrations are among the best features for Slack. Getting the ability to automate, add documents, and share information with other apps makes life easy. However, it is not without its issues.

When you have systems like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box deployed, it becomes possible for hackers to access employee email accounts. When employees download content from these services, it opens another avenue of breach.

Most applications require authentication, but in situations like this, credentials can be revealed. Avoid uploading secure data to shared drives and DropBox. Instead, make it an option to share documents through corporate networks.

When possible, it’s best not to use third-party integrations to prevent problems in the first place. If your organization has to use them, verify the authentication procedure used by the integration. Have your IT team look into the process and see how you can maximize both security and privacy.

Final Thoughts

Slack should not pose any cybersecurity concerns to your company if you understand how to manage the common security risks for the app. Unfortunately, a data breach or hack can occur at any time, so it's always advisable to have an IT advisor available.

Organizations should carefully plan the process of user provisioning and de-provisioning. Cybersecurity controls must be implemented thoroughly and mitigated by insider threats.

A robust and regularly updated training program is crucial for security and compliance. Clearly explain what employees may and may not discuss in Slack and on other channels and why. Slack is fantastic software, and there are many ways to make it work for your business without risking company secrets.


Author's bio

Regi Publico writes about why small businesses matter too in the fight against climate change and how they can make an impact.


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