What is data security?

In the most simple terms, data security includes all practices aimed at protecting digital data from unauthorized access, corruption, or theft. When we talk about data security, we assume several aspects, including:

  • Physical security (hardware and storage devices)
  • Software security
  • Administrative and access control
  • Specific policies and procedures
  • Modern-day businesses and companies create, manipulate, collect, and store huge volumes of data daily. And, due to the growing popularity of hybrid offices and the consequences of the pandemic, the value of data has increased, while the security challenges have become more serious.
    What is more, recent work trends have been putting forward the use of various communication and collaboration tools that make their users and the data they exchange easy targets for cybercriminals.

Why is data security important for businesses?

More startups, companies, and enterprises have been investing a lot of money and effort into ensuring their data is safe and secure at all times. Security measures are meant to prevent businesses from compromising or losing sensitive data and jeopardizing their companies’ privacy. Some of the reasons why business organizations should implement a comprehensive data security strategy include:

  • Protecting digital information: The most important aspect of data security is safeguarding personal and sensitive data such as usernames and passwords.
  • Meeting security compliance requirements: For most modern businesses, protecting data remains essential for maintaining compliance with national, international, and global regulations such as the GDPR, EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or ISO/IEC 27001.
  • Saving money: If a company implements effective security measures early on, it can save a lot of money in case of a data breach or cyber attack.
  • Improving reputation: Establishing a reputable company and ensuring long-term success will mostly depend on businesses’ social responsibility. With effective data security, most organizations will be able to gain consumer trust and a good reputation in the global market, ultimately attracting more investors and other business partners.

Data security within the framework of online collaboration tools

So, how does all this data security information fit into the framework of online collaboration tools? Well, as more and more companies start using various collaboration technologies, security concerns also increase. Businesses have to work hard to ensure a safe IT environment for their employees and users, so they choose to invest more money in online collaboration software, among other things.

When the pandemic hit the world in 2020, most businesses were unprepared for what soon became reality for them — the expansion of the hybrid work model. To avoid closing their companies and letting employees go, businesses simply had to adapt to the new working circumstances and adopt the new tools that would ease communication and collaboration among remote workers..

What are online collaboration tools?

Online collaboration tools

Most often, collaboration tools include team chat and video conferencing apps, document sharing platforms, and project management tools. They are designed to facilitate communication and boost productivity. The number of users soared since the beginning of the pandemic, making communication and collaboration technologies invaluable for the success of most businesses. For example, the number of Microsoft Teams’ daily active users rose from 2M in 2017 to 115M in 2021. It’s pretty much the same with Discord and the number of its monthly active users that reached 150M in 2021.

Online collaboration tools have quickly become a prevalent way for communication among employees and that’s mostly because they:

  • Ensure effective communication among team members
  • Boost productivity levels
  • Reduce time spent on mundane tasks like writing emails and searching for information
  • Enable continuous workflow
  • Support the expansion of remote work
  • Promote team spirit and cooperation

You know how there are always two sides to one story? Well, that’s true in this case as well. Despite their numerous advantages, online collaboration tools and apps can easily turn into security threats if not handled with utmost seriousness and precision.

Potential risks arising from using online collaboration tools

Considering that collaboration platforms are being actively and widely used in professional settings, most cybersecurity professionals and legal officers are worried about the security risks they pose for companies and enterprises. Some of the concerns include:

  • Greater chances for data loss or erasure: Considering that many employees get access to sensitive data and confidential information, the chances of intentional or accidental data leakage or deletion become higher.
  • The increasing volume of documents, chats, and other data records: As more and more companies start using team chat apps, document sharing platforms, and video conferencing apps, the volume of the data exchanged or stored is rapidly increasing. In some cases, the data can contain proprietorship or confidential information, which makes them easy targets for cybercriminals.
  • Unauthorized data distribution: To speed up their work, employees tend to exchange passwords or sensitive data via collaboration tools. This can increase the possibility of a cyberattack or lead to a violation of important security standards.
  • Employee use of unlicensed tools and personal devices: Using personal laptops, computers, or other devices for work purposes will leave little room for control and potentially jeopardize the entire business.

Collaboration tools and user data collection

A significant aspect of data security is online data collection. This is particularly relevant within the framework of online collaboration tools. Although they are great promoters of effective communication, they can still be a frequent source of data security threats due to employee negligence.
What does this even mean? Well, although a growing number of (remote) employees have started using team chat apps to ease everyday communication, some haven’t been sufficiently or properly instructed on how to use them. This can be problematic because they tend to exchange all sorts of information, both personal and confidential, yet aren’t aware of how they might be putting their company at risk.
In addition, most users don’t feel that using their personal devices, like laptops or phones to access team chat apps and connect with their teammates can lead to something serious like a data leak or cyber attack. However, this has become quite a frequent occurrence.
So, to gain a bit more perspective into how online collaboration tools affect users’ privacy and how secure they actually are, let’s take a closer look at two popular collaboration tools, Slack, as the most popular team chat app, and Pumble, as one of the most effective alternatives to Slack.

Slack vs. Pumble: two popular collaboration tools and their data security

To better understand data security, we’ll analyze the way Slack and Pumble manage data security and what type of information they collect about their users.

Slack’s data security

Designed to help people connect and get the information they need, Slack is a widely used team chat app. However, despite its popularity and wide use, Slack can become a security risk due to the way it collects and handles user data.
For example, some of the data Slack iOS collects from its users can be linked to their identities which can be a potential risk in case of a data breach. In Slack’s case, the collected data includes:

  • User location
  • Contact info
  • User content
  • Search and browsing history
  • Identifiers
  • Usage data
  • Diagnostics

So, based on this, all of the data Slack collects about its users can be used to identify them. The data is likely to be shared with third-party companies which compromise the data in case of a data breach.
You can read more about Slack’s comprehensive privacy policy and learn more about how the company uses the data you decide to share with it.

Pumble’s data security

On the other hand, we have Pumble, another great yet free team chat app. The data Pumble collects includes the following user information:

  • Contact info
  • User content
  • Identifiers
  • Diagnostics

According to Pumble software developers and based on its privacy policy, the IOS app collects data only on the basic level. This is done to provide app users with essential functionalities and most data is stored only for as long as legally necessary.
Also, the app doesn’t access information like users’ location, search, and browsing history which can reduce the risk of unauthorized data access. None of the collected data is used for targeted ads or disclosing information to third-party agents.
In simplest terms, even if a user’s phone is compromised, cybercriminals wouldn’t be able to access any confidential data Pumble collected nor find out any personal information about the user.

The comparison between Slack and Pumble, based on their data security

If we make a comparison between the two chat apps, we can conclude that Pumble is a great Slack alternative as it is a more secure communication solution in terms of data collection.
The fewer data an app collects about its users, the smaller the chances are that any data would be compromised. Getting familiar with the privacy policy of collaboration tools and informing yourself about the ways your data would be collected before your company starts using the said tools will reduce the potential security risks.

Slack Data security
Pumble Data security

How to prevent security risks

Once you become aware of the possible security risks related to the professional use of collaboration technology, you might be tempted to stop using it. Yet, that can actually be bad for your business, considering that most companies are leaning towards hybrid offices and allowing their employees to work from home.
Rather than fearing what might go wrong, it’s better to consider proper security measures and take the necessary steps to ensure that the data security strategy you’ve implemented works properly:

Implement a data security strategy

Although sometimes it might not be possible to get ahead of a security breach or cyber attack, there are ways you can minimize the chances of it. A good start can be the implementation of a comprehensive security management system that will protect your business’s data from a variety of angles.

Manage all data properly

What’s also important is to understand the nature of data that has to be protected and apply the needed level of security. Additionally, make sure to dispose of old or unused data in a proper manner, including those stored on hard drives or flash drives.

Provide staff with adequate equipment and software

Providing your staff with reliable equipment and secure collaboration software will reduce the risk of unauthorized access, potential data leaks, and unintentional data erasure.

Educate employees about data security

You should invest time in educating your employees about the potential risks and dangers of data security breaches. With proper guidance on how to use the tools and apps, employees will be less likely to compromise your company’s confidential information. In case of potential security issues, such as a lost password or misplaced document, let employees know who to contact for further instructions.

Follow latest data security trends

Adhering to best security practices and performing regular security controls will make sure that your company stays ahead of potential cyber threats and attacks.

Inform clients and customers

Finally, providing your customers with relevant information about data security and data breaches can help maintain your reputation and keep your clients close even if your company becomes a victim of a breach.

Final thoughts

The significance of data security and collaboration tools for modern businesses can’t be denied. Although the increase in remote work brought on serious security challenges and caught many companies off guard, the situation is far from problematic. Thanks to the new working circumstances caused by the pandemic, many corporations realized how important security actually is for the success of their businesses and took the necessary steps to protect their data.
Apart from coming up with a detailed plan to ensure cybersafety, companies also have to constantly assess and update their security practices to be able to address potential threats. Considering that a great part of security risks come with the usage of online collaboration software, they should be chosen carefully.
Overall, a reliable and up-to-date security system supported by a well-informed staff, regular security checks, and the right collaboration tools will make sure that companies are always alert and prepared for problems that might happen.