If you have been exploring new ways for your teams to collaborate, chances are Slack feels like a strong contender. With Slack, communication becomes centralized, flowing much more intuitively than it tends to over email. You can share files, start video calls, leverage automation, and set reminders for yourself or others.
Slack was already experiencing healthy growth, but demand spiked in early 2020, when millions of people began working remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaboration tools, which you may have previously been considered nice-to-have suddenly became essential.
Moving forward with Slack implementation, however, you will want to consider some of the challenges it may present. Meeting compliance, regulatory, or security requirements should be a core consideration. Meet these challenges head on to proactively guard against some of the platform’s common pitfalls.
1. Platform Security
Slack boasts over 10 million active daily users, and is used by sixty-five Fortune 100 companies. With so much information exchanged between users, security becomes a concern. This is particularly true if your company handles sensitive data.
Slack has enterprise-grade data protection but you should still consider the additional or elevated requirements of your specific industry and company. Having your own measures in place will also help ensure that you meet your own internal security policies.
2020 saw an exponential increase in remote work. More employees at home means more access locations for your data. Instead of one central office, you may now need to monitor hundreds of workspaces.
You should review the access rights of your employees within Slack and have a clear strategy for this. You can enforce two-factor authentication, for example.
If you have freelance or contract workers, you will need to further review their access. Slack can be a great way to bring your freelancers/contract workers together to network and discuss projects but you need to remain mindful of channel access within Slack. Be aware of what information (especially intellectual property) is being made available, and to whom.
Provide mandatory internal employee training with regard to safe Slack usage. By having clear written policies about Slack's use, you can lay solid foundations and clear expectations. This will help to ensure compliance going forward.
2. Monitoring for Inappropriate Behavior
Slack has seen the way that employees communicate rapidly evolve, replacing water-cooler discussions or email correspondence. As a result, Slack presents a new challenge for Human Resources. Harassment, inappropriate language, or other unprofessional behavior still need to be addressed.
Slack is intended to make workplace communication engaging and more akin to a social network. Because of the rapid exchange of communication, there’s an increased risk of employees sending messages without thinking through their impact. Casual use of emojis and more playful back-and-forth can make some employees uncomfortable or unwittingly cross a line.
HR needs to consider safeguards in Slack in the same way that they would in a physical workspace. Slack stores messages, but users can edit or delete the content they’ve generated. This can make having an accurate record of behavior somewhat challenging, which has obvious implications for resolution and disciplinary action.
To circumnavigate this risk, you may want to consider an enterprise-grade archiving solution. This will capture data in real-time and can solve this thorny problem. It can prove a wise investment; a complaint can easily escalate into litigation. Businesses need to be able to show they’ve taken measures to secure any evidence they might require.
In this case, a solution like Pagefreezer can capture all electronically stored information (ESI) associated with your Slack usage. Pagefreezer’s solution can also ensure that the data is of a standard and format that will render it admissible in court.
Messages captured in real time by Pagefreezer become easy to pinpoint and view in their original state. By automating this process, HR can have peace of mind knowing that the information is always easily accessible—no evidence can be deleted by the parties involved.
To help mitigate a risk before it has been allowed to develop, monitoring services can also prove beneficial. AI-powered solutions can help refine this process by more accurately interpreting the sentiment or contextual emotions of the employee. This detection can notify HR only of potentially negative interactions. It also reduces the number of "false alarms."
3. Data Loss Prevention
We live in an increasingly digital world, but employees are still human. Education about sensitive information will only go so far. Mistakes happen and an employee might share information without thinking.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions can ensure confidential or sensitive information isn't shared over Slack. This includes information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, and health care information.
Your policy to prevent data loss should include the following:
- Identifying the sensitive data
- Putting controls in place to protect the data
- Enforcing DLP policies for files and messages
- Capture with complete audit trail all user and administrator activity
- Detect activities that pose a risk of data leakage
DLP solutions actively monitor the data in Slack and scan for keywords. This could be a hugely time consuming task if not automated. Instead, your company can have a tool in place that provides alerts, meaning that you only need review flagged conversations.
Pagefreezer has industry-leading monitoring and data loss prevention capabilities, allowing you to gain control of your Slack content. Using keyword tools, you will be alerted any time that a user posts a sensitive piece of data on the platform.
4. Regulatory Requirements
Slack offers easy communication among teams but this generates a huge amount of data, and heavily-regulated industries still need to maintain compliance with regard to records. Organizations in the financial, health, insurance, and other heavily-regulated industries realize that their online content can expose them to compliance violations.
For example, HIPAA has requirements around privacy and security protections for health information. A breach of this requirement could easily occur within Slack. The financial services industry must maintain records of all business-related communications to be compliant with FINRA, the SEC, and the FCA.
Failure to be in compliance in these industries can result in notifications from the regulatory agencies and even costly fines. Even less-regulated industries should still consider how their own policies related to external and internal record-keeping requirements relate to Slack.
Your organization needs to have a clear archiving policy around Slack communication. Having this in place from the outset will ensure that you are comprehensively capturing what is needed to show compliance and satisfy auditors. Tools for archiving should make the information easy to retrieve so that your compliance process is streamlined and auditors can always be given quick access to what they request.
Pagefreezer is a proven and trusted solution, automating the archiving of business data and perfectly preserving data. You'll never need to scramble to collect the necessary data when undergoing an audit or legal hold request.
5. Preparedness for eDiscovery and Litigation
With the prevalence of ESI, most modern legal cases involve eDiscovery. Slack records have the potential to be requested as evidence during the eDiscovery process.
For ESI to be admissible evidence in litigation, it must have been correctly stored, formatted, and presented. This includes collecting digital documents or other files, sequestering that data in a protected environment, or getting it ready for trial. Attorneys need to review not only the data, but the process used to collect it.
Your company should proactively anticipate potential eDiscovery. You must take steps to ensure that your data collection is practical and will stand up in court.
Slack communications fall into the category of unstructured data. This means that there is no specific organization to the information. Unlike platforms designed to organize client files or store account details, information flows freely on Slack. Moreover, the volume of unstructured data in tools grows exponentially over time.
Data needs to be collected in a way that ensures it is easy to find and interpret. This includes:
- Capturing the data in real-time
- Timestamping the data
- Linking all associated metadata
Companies need to ensure that Slack data is retained for possible use during litigation. And should a legal matter arise, legal teams need an easy and effective way to search, collect, and export relevant Slack evidence.
Are You Ready for Slack Implementation?
Whether you are managing a newly remote team or simply looking for better communication tools for your team, Slack may be a front runner. But as you prepare for Slack implementation, be prepared to govern its usage and take responsibility for this significant source of sensitive data.
Want to learn more? Read our blog post, 7 Ways to Mitigate the Legal & Compliance Risks of Slack.