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Safeguarding Your Assets: The Importance of Data Security with CMMS

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Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) are a revolutionizing force in helping organizations manage their assets and maintenance operations. While CMMS software offers numerous benefits, from streamlined workflows to improved maintenance planning and asset performance, the importance of data security within CMMS’s data-driven technology, cannot be overstated or overlooked. In this article, the significance of data security is explored along with key measures that will ensure the protection of valuable information.

Why is Data Security Important?

The 2021 Thales Data Report found that almost half (45%) of US companies suffered a data breach of some kind in the past year. More recently, in April 2003, Brightly Software identified a major data breach of the SchoolDude online platform affecting approximately three million customers and users. These findings alone should alert all CMMS users to the need to first, understand the importance of data security and second, to take the necessary steps to prevent data breaches from happening. 

On an individual level, data breaches can result in the theft of sensitive information exposed to unauthorized persons. Hackers can use this information to steal a person's identity and commit fraudulent activities, such as opening new accounts or making unauthorized purchases on credit cards. For businesses, the consequences of a data breach can be even more far-reaching. According to a report by Huang et al. (2023),  among other things, companies that experienced a significant data breach incident, also suffered a downgrade in their credit rating, impacting their ability and cost to secure financing as a result.

The following are several key factors relating to the importance of data security:

It Protects Sensitive Information

CMMS platforms contain a wealth of sensitive data, including asset details, maintenance schedules, inventory levels, and even personal employee information. Safeguarding this information is crucial to maintaining operational integrity, preserving privacy, and complying with relevant regulations. Unauthorized access or data breaches can lead to severe consequences, including financial loss, reputational damage, and legal liabilities.

It Preserves Asset Integrity

Asset-related data forms the backbone of any CMMS system, facilitating efficient maintenance planning, resource allocation, and performance tracking. Ensuring the integrity and accuracy of this data is paramount. Implementing robust data security measures protects against unauthorized modifications by hackers or rogue users, and ensures that critical asset information remains reliable and trustworthy. Without these security measures in place, a CMMS can be rendered useless when a significant data breach occurs.

It Mitigates Cyber Threats

As noted, the rise in cyber threats poses a significant risk to organizations of all sizes and industries. Although one of the key benefits of a CMMS platform is its accessibility using various devices, the downside is, it also presents potential entry points for malicious actors. Adopting industry-leading security practices, such as encryption, firewalls, and multi-factor authentication, helps safeguard against cyberattacks, preventing unauthorized access, data breaches, and potential disruptions to maintenance operations.

It Ensures Business Continuity

Needless to say, a data breach or security incident can seriously disrupt an organization's operations. This can result in downtime, reduced productivity, and financial losses including those associated with data recovery and future risk mitigation. By prioritizing data security within your CMMS, you can minimize the risk of such incidents and ensure uninterrupted maintenance activities. Regular backups, disaster recovery plans, and stringent access controls are key components in maintaining business continuity in the face of unforeseen circumstances.

It Complies with Data Regulations

Data protection regulations, such as the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), place legal obligations on individual organizations to protect personal data and provide authorized users with greater control over their information. Implementing solid data security measures within your CMMS ensures compliance with these regulations, preventing potential legal ramifications and harm to a company’s reputation.

It Builds Trust and Confidence

A large part of an organization's success is based on its ability to maintain the trust and confidence of its customers, and employees. Demonstrating a commitment to data security within your CMMS fosters a sense of reliability, competency, integrity, and professionalism. By prioritizing data privacy and security, organizations can differentiate themselves from other competitors and therefore, are in a better position to attract and retain customers who also place a priority on the protection of their sensitive information.

How to Enhance the Security of Your CMMS Data

As just outlined, securing Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) data is crucial and a necessary part of protecting sensitive information, maintaining data integrity, and preventing unauthorized access or breaches. Here are several ways to improve the security of your CMMS data and which should take place during its initial setup:

Access Control

Begin by implementing robust authentication mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA.). Usernames and passwords alone are relatively easy to discover since oftentimes, usernames are just an email address and passwords are simple words. MFA requires that users prove who they are by verifying their identity. There are different methods of verifying a user’s identity, but a commonly used one is sending a user a six-digit code via email or text. Once the code is inputted correctly, the user gains access to the system or app they are logging into. Using an MFA approach, only authorized personnel can access the CMMS system.

In addition to employing a MFA protocol, individual user accounts should be created with unique login credentials for each user, and with strong password policies in place. Session timeouts and automatic logouts help prevent unauthorized access to the system in the event a user walks away from their device while logged in. Finally, conducting regular reviews and updates to user access privileges will ensure that employees have appropriate levels of access based on their current roles and responsibilities.

Data Encryption

 An effective security measure is employing encryption to protect data stored in the CMMS database. This includes sensitive information such as equipment details, maintenance schedules, and work orders. Secure protocols such as HTTPS are also routinely used for data transmission between the CMMS application and users' devices. 

Regular Data Backups

Regular backups of CMMS data ensure that in the event of data loss or system failure, you can restore the data and minimize downtime and data loss. With regular data backups, the only data that may be lost is the information inputted since the last backup. As a final precaution in this area, ensure that backup data are stored in a secure offsite location, or cloud-based backup solutions that have robust security measures are used.

Security Patches and Updates

The CMMS software can be kept up to date by applying security patches and updates provided by the software vendor. Regularly check for new releases or security bulletins related to the CMMS system. Make sure to enable automatic updates by selecting that option in the CMMS settings. In doing so, it will ensure that the system is protected against known vulnerabilities as they are discovered.

Network Security

A firewall and intrusion detection/prevention system (IDS/IPS) can monitor network traffic and prevent unauthorized access. It is also recommended to segment the network to isolate the CMMS system from other critical infrastructure or sensitive systems. As a final measure in this area, regularly scan the network for vulnerabilities using security tools or engage external security experts for penetration testing.

Employee Training and Awareness

The importance of employee training and onboarding is stressed in many articles on CMMS use. Proper education and training are integral to the effective and secure use of these systems. Since data security cannot be underestimated, it is important to emphasize it during the initial CMMS training but also during subsequent security awareness training sessions for employees who use or have access to the CMMS system. Users should be educated on the best practices for data security, such as recognizing phishing emails, using strong passwords, and avoiding suspicious downloads or websites.

Data Governance and Compliance

Companies should establish data governance policies and procedures to define how CMMS data should be handled, accessed, and protected. These policies and procedures should also comply with relevant regulations and standards, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or industry-specific requirements. Finally, regularly conduct audits and monitor access logs and system activity to detect any unauthorized access or suspicious behavior.

CMMS Vendor Security

When researching a CMMS that best meets your company’s needs, remember also to evaluate the security practices of the CMMS vendors you are considering. Ensure they follow industry best practices and have robust security measures in place. Review the vendor's data protection, data processing agreement (DPA) and privacy policy to ensure they align with your organization's requirements.

Larger CMMS providers go through independent audits through a 3rd party and receive certifications such as SOC Type 2 and ISO 27001. These certifications attest to the lengths the CMMS provider goes to ensure data security for their customers. When evaluating a CMMS for your business, it is also recommended to ask for the vendor's Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire (CAIQ), a survey provided by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) for cloud consumers and auditors to assess the security capabilities of a cloud service provider. In most cases a CAIQ-Lite works just fine, which is a more condensed version and provides enough detail on the software provider's security measures and practices.

Check out Click Maint’s cloud-based CMMS solution offering its customers a rigorous data security protocol that includes the security measures described above.

By following these steps, you can significantly enhance the security of your CMMS data and protect it from unauthorized access or breaches. As a final cautionary note, remember that security is an ongoing process; a one-time process is simply not enough. Therefore, regularly review and update your security measures to stay ahead of potential threats.

Prioritizing Data Security in CMMS

As CMMS technology continues to evolve, so do hackers’ strategies and methods. Because of this, organizations must recognize the critical role of data security in safeguarding their valuable information assets. By adopting stringent security measures, organizations can protect sensitive data, preserve asset integrity, mitigate cyber threats, ensure business continuity, comply with regulations, and build trust with stakeholders. Prioritizing data security within your CMMS through the suggested methods is not only a necessity but also a proactive step toward maintaining a competitive edge in an increasingly interconnected and data-driven world.

 

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