Data security is crucial to safeguarding classified information, protecting the privacy of research participants, and abiding with appropriate protocols and conditions. Many research universities offer data security suggestions and support through their IT desks and dedicated staff in their institutions to help with this issue.
In addition to working with data security professionals, it is also vital for researchers to develop a working knowledge of document security issues to guarantee the seamless integration of security measures within the research workflow and abide to the relevant data security protocols.
Also, securing and protecting research data, it is also imperative that researchers ensure that their associates, trainees, faculty, executing partners and data providers have an elemental insight into data security protocols.
The need to secure research data
The correct data security measure must be calibrated to the risk of harm of a data breach and should comprise all conditions levied by the data provider. That’s because a data security breach can result in grave consequences for research subjects, the researcher’s home institution and the researcher.
Besides, research participants may also experience unintended exposure of sensitive identified data that could disclose them to humiliation, identity theft, fraud, financial loss, emotional and reputational damage and more.
In addition, a data breach could also activate added compliance conditions such as registering the data breach to the Institutional Review Board and in specific circumstances to every participant and stakeholder whose data was compromised.
Suppose document security protocols are not adhered to. In that case, research material may be disclosed in several ways, including emails, loss of device, file sharing applications, incomplete file erasure from hardware that has been donated, disposed or reclaimed.
In addition, any hardware that comes into contact with research material must also stay shielded, such as computers, external drives, internal hard drives, smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices. A cyberattack by a threat agent could target either the specific data set or the researcher’s home institution and wipe out the researcher’s data set or modify the data. Hence, sensitive information must be protected at all times from such threats.
How to minimize research data security threats
Reducing the research team’s classified, individually identifiable data may considerably cut down the possible harm caused by a data breach and the necessary data security measures needed to be put in place. All this could often encourage and rev the research data flow.
Besides, data security threats can also be diminished by only obtaining the required quantity of classified details precisely needed for the research material.
Necessary measures and precautions to consider
Researchers can look at some of the critical measures and precautions to ensure that the participants’ data is as safe as possible.
- Know the law: It can be complicated to understand the law surrounding document security and privacy. However, the Data Protection Act is designed to ensure that data must be processed in ways that cut down risks to privacy.
- Anonymizing research material: The first step to securing research data is to ensure it is anonymized. In face-to-face research, this could involve declining the names of participants in scripts and substituting them with non-personally identifiable descriptors. Anonymizing content offers double benefits. The first is that clients and managers cannot associate replies with specific customers that could stop selling under cover of research, while at the same time deterring companies from treating customers differently depending on their answers. The second reason for anonymized data is that if the worst should occur — a data security breach — the perpetrators will be incapable of attaching it to the research participants involved in the study.
- Control access: The best and only proven way of protecting research data is to assume complete control over the research material through digital rights management [DRM]. DRM offers comprehensive controls in the hand of the researchers, enabling them to control who has access to the information and when. Besides, access can only be given to those who actually need to use it, and once it has been reviewed, access to the file can be revoked, or the documents could be set to automatically expire.
- Encrypting research information: One of the most common yet useful methods for achieving data security is file encryption. Encryption protects data and PDF files transmitted across devices and networks. The information cannot be deciphered in the absence of access to the encryption key. However, if both the creator and the recipient have the same cypher, the data can be processed to its original form.
- Maintaining backups and copies: Paramount to every data security policy is to ensure that participant data is controlled and secured through backups and replicas. To this end, all research data must have backup copies stored in secure locations with end-to-end encryption.
The best way to protect research data is through encryption and DRM. Through its complete range of copy protection controls, you can eliminate theft, sharing, and unauthorized access or disclosure of your research material.
Additionally, DRM can be used to prevent printing, copy and pasting, and screenshots, and apply watermarks to identify users. Protect your research data with the right PDF DRM system that is simple and easy to use without complicated policies and procedures to set up and manage.
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