Your organization’s knowledge base, or knowledge engagement platform, is one of its most valuable assets. It houses a wealth of organizational data only available to company employees, and the information within this centralized hub empowers your workforce to work autonomously, drives more meaningful interactions, and helps your team consistently deliver the best possible experience to the people you serve.
Anything that compromises this asset compromises your entire company—and that’s why protecting your knowledge base should be one of your team’s leading priorities.
As cybersecurity risks continue to grow and employees are entrusted with more responsibility in collecting, storing, and sharing information, safeguarding your knowledge base is becoming more challenging. As a result, knowledge base security has never been more critical.
To effectively protect your knowledge engagement platform, it’s important to understand existing threats and the different security approaches for comprehensive protection. This guide outlines the most effective steps to improve your knowledge base security.
Select a SOC 2 Compliant Provider
No matter what type of security you use to protect your organizational network, your data is only as secure as the partners you work with. That’s why you must ensure that any third-party company you choose uses effective security protocols. When choosing the right knowledge management system, it’s essential to look beyond the software’s features and consider the vendor’s practices.
SOC 2 is an auditing procedure developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) to ensure any third-party vendors or service providers you use take every possible measure to protect your data. When choosing any SaaS vendor—including a knowledge base provider—it’s crucial you ensure they’re SOC 2 certified.
A knowledge base’s main benefits include improved productivity, communication, and collaboration. This means the knowledge base holds essential information like company reports, training material, sales information, and legal documents. The requirements to maintain SOC 2 compliance demand that such critical information stay protected.
To become certified, a vendor submits an assessment by an independent auditor. A SOC 2 evaluation covers the following principles:
- Security: How well does the organization protect its systems against unauthorized access? Web application firewalls (WAFs), multi-factor identification, and intrusion detection can help companies protect against threats that exploit software vulnerabilities.
- Availability: Does the vendor’s system, product, and/or service availability meet the minimum acceptable performance levels stipulated in the service level agreement (SLA)? This important step ensures that the product/provider will perform as expected during a critical security event.
- Processing integrity: Processing integrity refers to whether or not a provider’s data processing is valid, complete, accurate, authorized, and timely.
- Confidentiality: How well does the provider retain data confidentiality? For example, do they restrict access and disclosure to only specific sets of authorized personnel? And do they leverage data encryption to protect information during transmission?
- Privacy: Does the vendor comply with its privacy notice when it comes to collecting, using, retaining, and disposing of personal information like names, addresses, and social security numbers? SOC 2 certification also requires a vendor to have a written policy describing how personal identifiable information (PII) is protected.
Many modern cybersecurity threats depend on software vulnerability to gain access to a network. Once access is achieved, hackers can work through the company’s network and access higher privilege levels to access sensitive data. By selecting a SOC 2 compliant provider, you can help ensure the software provided by a third-party vendor doesn’t act as a weak link to your company’s most sensitive data.
Organizations must re-evaluate their processes every three years to retain SOC 2 certification. As a client, you can request that your knowledge base provider regularly issue you a SOC 2 report (once per year or even every six months) to ensure they adhere to the five principles.
Set Appropriate Permissions for Each Team
There’s no doubt that knowledge retention and easily accessible company information are critical to high productivity and performance levels. However, most modern cybersecurity practices demand a zero trust model.
An important strategy in zero trust security is to provide users with the least amount of access they need to accomplish a certain task. In other words, while employees should have access to every resource they need to do their job correctly, they shouldn’t automatically have access to all of the sensitive data within the company.
One of the best ways to enhance your knowledge base security and prevent these adverse outcomes is to set permissions based on factors like experience level, job role, job requirements, and security clearance. In some cases, it may also make sense to set up different instances of your knowledge engagement platform or different groups within the platform to control who has access to sensitive information.
Foster Smart Knowledge Base Security Habits Among Staff
Even if you set permissions to restrict sensitive data, it’s not always enough to prevent mistakes and mismanagement of data. Regularly training and refreshing your workforce on knowledge base security habits is essential to protecting your knowledge engagement platform—especially when some or all of your employees are working remotely.
The most basic level of cybersecurity hygiene suggests that all devices should be updated and contain the latest version of the company’s antivirus software before accessing your knowledge base. Adopting a VPN when using public Wi-Fi is also essential to ensuring protection outside of the office.
Arming your employees with knowledge about cybersecurity best practices is one of the most effective ways to protect your knowledge base. All employees should be educated in these areas:
- Passwords: Devise a written procedure for all employees to follow that outlines required password strength and how frequently passwords should be changed. Set standards to avoid password sharing between family members or colleagues.
- Email: Knowledge is power when it comes to avoiding modern phishing attacks. Educate employees at all levels about the indicators of a phishing scam and the dangers of downloading attachments and clicking links from emails. Set standards for how information is shared and what types of information can be shared through email correspondence.
- Device security: Ask your team never to leave their devices unattended in a public area or to access the company knowledge base from personal devices. Set policies for remote device use and include enforcement actions to ensure they follow the rules.
- Software downloads: There are many apps and tools employees may want to download to their business devices. Although they may seem harmless, not all of these programs follow the same rigorous security protocols as your company and the carefully vetted vendors you’ve partnered with. Remind team members never to download any software without IT approval.
Adopt Security Monitoring
Accidents still happen even if you’ve trained employees on handling security risks and best practices for mitigating threats. In fact, 82% of data breaches involve a human element, like misconfiguring a database or making a mistake that allows criminals to access the system.
Modern phishing attacks can introduce malware to your network with a single click. More concerningly, these sophisticated attacks often appear exactly like genuine correspondence from a trusted business or even an employee or manager within the company.
Security monitoring and threat intelligence can help protect your organization by scanning uploaded files for suspicious components (like viruses) and identifying whether your data is compromised. This way, when mistakes occur or vulnerabilities are exposed, your security team can act quickly—before too much damage occurs.
Choose Integrations Wisely
Like most companies, you likely use a variety of enterprise technology applications to manage business operations and streamline various processes—and centralizing information and data from these tools is one of your knowledge base’s greatest benefits. However, it’s important you ensure your software integrations are safe and secure.
Like third-party software, integrations can introduce vulnerabilities to your system. When you select ways to integrate different technologies into your knowledge base, it’s important to work with your knowledge base provider to ensure knowledge transferred through these integrations will be well protected by accurate security measures.
Ask Your Provider About Their Security Protocols
Any time you work with a third-party provider, their security is paramount to your security. For this reason, it’s essential to know your service provider’s plan for a security incident.
Alongside ensuring that your vendor is SOC 2 certified, you should ask for detailed information about the company’s security protocols. This checklist can help you cover the most important questions to ask your knowledge base provider about secure operations:
- Who is your hosting provider?
- Do you store payment information like credit card numbers? How is that information protected?
- Are external connections to your website secure?
- Does your application encrypt data?
- How does the application protect users’ identities and credentials during authentication?
- Are your products and services compliant with common regulations like HIPAA and GDPR?
- Does your website support HTTPS for all of its pages?
- Does your application support data backup in multiple locations?
- What roles and permissions are supported by your application?
In many ways, your knowledge base is the heart of your organization. Without the information and insights it holds, you may not be able to provide the same high-quality service your customer base has grown to expect or access the data you need to inform high-stakes decisions. By protecting your knowledge base using these knowledge base security best practices, you can keep your data safe and available when you need it most.
This blog post was originally published in April 2020. It was expanded and updated with new information and best practices in October 2022.