Sensitive data is information that is not accessible by the general public. If this type of data is leaked, the potential for individual or institutional harm increases significantly.
Do you actually need personal information from individuals who use your services? Why? If you can't think of a good reason, there is no need to keep the potentially harmful material. If you can do your job without using others' private information, don't ask for it.
Use unique identifiers other than Social Security Numbers to keep track of individuals. Only collect and keep the information that you will need.
If you determine that you must keep sensitive data, you need to encrypt it. It is best if you encrypt it both on the drive and when sending it over the network. Doing so ensures that data cannot be read by others.
1. No Storage - Not keeping sensitive data at all is the safest method.
2. Desktop Computer Hard Drive - Storing sensitive data on a personal computer places a great deal of responsibility on you as the computer owner. If you choose to do so, you should:
3. Removable Media - Memory sticks, USB flash drives, CDs, DVDs and other removable media are poor options for storing sensitive data because they are easily lost or stolen. You can keep backups on removable media; however, the data should be encrypted, the media kept under lock and key and the passwords stored separately from the encrypted items.
4. Laptop Computer - Due to their portability and popularity with thieves, laptops are not great devices for storing sensitive data.
5. Network Server
If you keep sensitive data on a computer you own or control, you are responsible for making sure that the data is secure. You can do this by following safe computing practices and using encryption. For data that is stored on a server, the server owner/administrator normally is responsible for security practices on that machine. However, individuals who collect and store sensitive data on a server are not absolved of responsibility should a breach occur.