How to ensure data security when outsourcing IT operations?

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Do you remember when we told you that the client onboarding process is the best moment to make precise arrangements before the project kick-off? One area you should discuss is security–a major concern for companies all around the world. With an average cost of a single data breach adding up to $3.86 million, compromised security can translate into a shattered brand image and loss of customer trust.

As if finding an IT outsourcing partner wasn’t hard enough, thinking about security in outsourced projects can get even more overwhelming. You probably have many questions, for instance, what type of data can you share with your external developers or what ways can you secure your sensitive business information. If that’s the case–read on!

First things first: your internal security policies

Sharing sensitive business data is always risky. While the lion’s share of security responsibilities will most likely stay with your IT outsourcing partner, your team needs to take an active stance, too.

As a rule of thumb, never share any piece of information unless you are 100% sure it is essential. Later on, control what you share on an ongoing basis and pay attention to who has access to particular pieces of information.

Bear in mind that a ‘piecemeal’ outsourcing approach and a lack of security procedures on your side can affect development speed and quality. A well-thought-out policy will speed things up, pointing your IT outsourcing partner in the direction of your custom requirements–and maximising the odds of success.

At Scalo, we always adjust security standards at the project level to our client’s policies. We believe this is the only way to create coherent infrastructure, processes, and tools on the client and our software developers side–reducing the risk of security gaps in the entire ecosystem.

Let’s talk about physical data security

The location and security of the facilities where your project data is stored and processed are of paramount importance.

Take the opportunity to visit the premises of your IT outsourcing company to assess the safety of the surrounding area and their offices. Pay close attention to the measures they take to restrict access to server rooms and other highly controlled areas in their offices. Do they use video surveillance? Is their entrance manned around-the-clock?

Ask about their policies governing the access of their employees to your sensitive data and how they ensure that none of it gets shared. For instance, at Scalo, we use smart locks in all rooms in which software development work takes place. Only specialists bound by the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can access such areas–this is our standard preventive procedure.

Add another layer of protection with the NDA

You probably heard it a thousand times before but let me stress it again. Never start any work without having your IT outsourcing partner sign the NDA first. This type of contract outlines confidential information you and your software developers are sharing and restricts any rights for disclosure–helping to protect both the business idea and the source code.

Apart from the range and type of protected data, your NDA should include information on the agreement duration, governing law, breach-of-contract consequences, and penalty clauses. Typical sanctions include contract termination, fines, or jail time–all designed to deter disclosure of your sensitive information.

Ask your IT outsourcing partner about their security practices

Last but not least, check what types of information security systems and procedures your partner has in place.

Ask if they comply with international standards, such as ISO/IEC 27001 or PCI DSS. By implementing a range of controls included in such regulations, your IT partner will be better positioned to protect the confidentiality and integrity of your data.

At Scalo, we often build custom security policies on such standards, just as we recently did when building teams for one of our clients who specialise in AI-enabled systems. Taking ISO 27001 as a basis, we expanded it with additional process elements reflecting more restrictive procedures for our client–creating a more consistent ecosystem and eliminating security loopholes.

Moreover, when it comes to ensuring the security of the so-called ‘data-in-transit’, we carry out all the work on our client’s infrastructure, using virtual machines and secure VPN connections. We always pay close attention to the equipment performance to avoid hampering the team’s velocity.

Make sure you check how your software developer protects their development, deployment and production environments, including the servers where your application is located. What complex verification do they use and do they adhere to the Principle of Least Privilege?

Some other elements to look for in your IT outsourcing partner’s procedures include secure log-on methods, password protection, cryptographic key management, network security, and the use of a robust firewall.

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