Maintaining the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of information is absolutely vital for the operational success and security of any organization. "Information" has different meanings, depending on what the information contains. A restaurant’s menu can be classified as information but so can a government’s nuclear launch codes. Naturally, some information must be treated differently than others. Non–public information is a category of information defined by its sensitive nature and, as a result, requires rigorous information security measures to ensure its protection.

Non-public Information

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of what exactly constitutes non–public information and explain why it holds such importance for organizations. We’ll explore some information security best practices for managing non–public information securely. With this knowledge, you and your organization can implement effective information security measures that not only protect non–public information but also comply with regulatory standards and bolster trust with your customers and partners.

What is Non–public Information?

Non–public information refers to data or knowledge not meant for general public dissemination. Non–public information encompasses various categories of sensitive data that businesses and organizations must protect. These categories include proprietary, confidential, and protected information. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Proprietary information: Data exclusive to a business that provides a competitive edge. This category typically includes trade secrets, product formulas, and unique methodologies. For example, a company’s secret recipe, a tech firm’s software code, or an innovative manufacturing process would fall under proprietary information. Protecting this data is crucial as its disclosure could undermine a company’s competitive position and financial health.
  • Confidential information: A broader scope of information that may not necessarily give a company a competitive advantage but is nevertheless sensitive in nature. It could include employee records, client information, and business contracts. Examples are an employee’s personal details, client lists, and details of a negotiation. This information is often shared internally on a need–to–know basis and is protected to maintain privacy and trust.
  • Protected information: A category of data that businesses are mandated to protect under legal or regulatory requirements. This can include personally identifiable and protected health information (PII/PHI) and financial information. For instance, a patient’s health history, an individual’s social security number, and credit card information are all examples of protected information. This data requires robust data protection measures to comply with data privacy regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, and others, all with the focus of preventing identity theft or fraud.

Distinguishing between proprietary, confidential, and protected information is fundamental for implementing effective information security strategies. These strategies are designed to mitigate risks, including financial, legal, and reputational damages that can arise from data breaches or unauthorized disclosures. By understanding and categorizing non–public information, organizations can apply the appropriate level of protection and ensure compliance with information governance best practices.

Non–public Information vs. Controlled Defense Information (CDI) vs. Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)

For businesses that hold government contracts or engage in sensitive operations, the classification of information into non–public information, controlled defense information (CDI), and controlled unclassified information (CUI) is crucial.

Non–public information is a broad category that includes any data not intended for public release. This can range from proprietary business information to sensitive personal data. On the other hand, controlled defense information (CDI) is specifically related to defense contracts and pertains to unclassified information that is either sensitive or proprietary to the Department of Defense (DoD). Controlled unclassified information (CUI), by contrast, encompasses a broader range of information that while not classified, is still sensitive and requires safeguarding or dissemination controls pursuant to and consistent with applicable laws, regulations, and government–wide policies.

The distinction between these categories is crucial for understanding the scope of information governance required. For defense contractors, classifying information correctly as or CUI is essential for compliance with federal regulations like CMMC and ITAR and safeguarding national security interests. Non–public information, while encompassing CDI and CUI, also includes proprietary or confidential business information not covered under these government–specific designations. The correct classification impacts how organizations must handle, share, and store information, thereby influencing their information security strategies and compliance postures.

Improper Handling of Non–public Information: Risks and Consequences

Handling non–public information haphazardly can expose organizations to regulatory, financial, legal, and reputational risks. Regulatory bodies have established stringent guidelines and laws governing the management of sensitive non–public information. For instance, in the United States, regulations such as the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) set forth requirements for the protection of federal information and protected health information, respectively. Improper handling of non–public information can lead to non–compliance with these regulations and result in substantial fines, legal actions, and damage to an organization’s reputation.

The unauthorized disclosure of non–public information can also have severe financial repercussions. These include loss of competitive advantage, litigation, and remediation costs following a data breach. Longer–term, the reputational damage that follows a data breach can have long–lasting implications for business relationships, customer trust, and market position.

Ultimately, the importance of implementing robust governance practices to protect non-public information cannot be stressed enough. These practices not only protect an organization’s sensitive information assets, but also ensure regulatory compliance, build trust with the organization’s stakeholders, and preserve an organization’s reputation.

Best Practices for Handling Non–public Information

Developing and implementing a comprehensive information security program is essential for the protection of proprietary, confidential, and protected information. Key components of this program should include:

  • Information Classification: Organizations should establish a formal process for classifying information based on its sensitivity and the potential impact of unauthorized disclosure. This enables the application of appropriate safeguards for different categories of information.
  • Access Controls: Limiting access to non–public information through access controls to only those individuals who require it for their job function is a fundamental security principle. Employing zero–trust or the least privilege and need–to–know principles helps minimize the risk of accidental or intentional data breaches.
  • Encryption: Encrypting non–public information both at rest and in transit provides a strong layer of protection against unauthorized access. Encryption is particularly important when transmitting data across unsecured networks or storing it on mobile devices.
  • Employee Training: Regularly educating employees on the importance of information security, the types of non–public information, and their responsibilities in protecting it is critical. Human error is often a contributing factor in data breaches, and security awareness training programs that inform your employees of this too–frequent cyber risk may be your first line of defense.
  • Incident Response Planning: Having a well–defined incident response plan in place ensures that the organization can react swiftly and effectively in the event of a data breach. This plan should include procedures for containment, investigation, remediation, and notification to affected parties.

In conclusion, non–public information is a critical asset that requires the highest levels of protection due to its sensitive nature and the substantial risks associated with its unauthorized disclosure.


What is Non-public Information – Key Takeaways
  1. Non-public Information Definition:
    Encompasses proprietary, confidential, and protected data like trade secrets, employee records, Pll, and PHI.
  2. Importance of Classification:
    Classifying non-public information based on its sensitivity lets organizations apply appropriate safeguards and demonstrate compliance.
  3. Distinction from CDI and CUI:
    Understanding the distinction between these information types ensures compliance with federal regulations like CMMC and ITAR.
  4. Risks of Improper Handling:
    Mishandling non-public information can expose organizations to regulatory fines, legal actions, financial losses, and reputational damage.
  5. Best Practices for Protection:
    Implementing advanced security technologies and establishing clear policies and procedures help mitigate non-public information exposure.

Information Security Strategies for Safeguarding Non–Public Information

Protecting non–public information requires a multifaceted approach. This involves deploying advanced information security technologies, establishing clear policies and procedures, and fostering a culture of security awareness among employees. Let’s take a closer look at each of these information security strategies:

Deploy Advanced Information Security Technologies

Implementing cutting–edge security technologies is crucial for protecting non–public information from unauthorized access or breaches. Technologies such as encryption, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems are fundamental. They ensure that protected information remains secure, mitigating risks associated with cyberspace threats and vulnerabilities.

Establish Clear Policies and Procedures

Clear, comprehensive policies and procedures form the backbone of effective information security governance. They provide a framework for managing and protecting non–public information, ensuring that all employees understand their roles in safeguarding sensitive data. These guidelines help in preventing inadvertent disclosures and maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of information.

Foster a Culture of Security Awareness Among Employees

Creating a culture of security awareness is pivotal for the protection of proprietary, confidential, and non–public information. Regular training and awareness programs educate employees about potential security threats and the importance of adhering to information security policies. This proactive approach empowers employees to recognize and respond to security risks efficiently, promoting a safer information environment.

Protecting non–public and other sensitive information requires not only safeguarding the information but also ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to it. By implementing a layered security strategy, organizations can defend against cyber threats like cyberattacks, insider threats, and accidental disclosures.

Finally, regular audits and assessments are essential components of an effective information governance program. Audits help identify vulnerabilities in the information security framework and ensure compliance with applicable regulations. By proactively addressing these vulnerabilities, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches and their associated costs.

Information Security Solutions for Protecting Non–Public Information

Locking down non–public information, whether it’s proprietary, confidential, and protected information, lets organizations not only protect sensitive content but also demonstrate compliance with data privacy regulations. The following are just some of the critical information security features organizations should utilize to protect non–public information:

  • Data Encryption: A fundamental security measure that encodes information, making it accessible only to those with the decryption key.
  • Secure Access Controls: Restricts access to sensitive data, ensuring that only authorized personnel can view or modify it.
  • Network Security Solutions: Firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and other solutions protect the network from unauthorized access and cyber threats.
  • Cloud Computing Services with Advanced Security Features: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure offer advanced encryption and identity management features, helping businesses safeguard sensitive data against unauthorized access. By customizing security settings, organizations can ensure their private information remains protected in the cloud.
  • Multi–Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA is an authentication method that requires users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to resources, adding an extra layer of security.
  • Regular Software Updates: Applying security patches and generally keeping software up–to–date are critical actions businesses can take to protect against vulnerabilities and exploits.

Kiteworks Helps Organizations Protect Their Non–public Information with a Private Content Network

Protecting of non–public information, including proprietary, confidential, and protected information, is a herculean task that requires meticulous attention to detail and a comprehensive strategy encompassing technology, policies, and human factors. The risks and repercussions associated with exposing non–public information have become a major concern for businesses and government entities alike. As a result, organizations must implement information governance best practices, such as classifying information accurately, enforcing strict access controls, utilizing encryption, educating employees, and preparing incident response plans, to effectively mitigate these risks.

Regulatory compliance is another major driver in shaping the strategies organizations adopt to secure non–public information. By embracing a proactive and informed approach to information security, organizations can not only protect their sensitive data and demonstrate regulatory compliance, but also maintain their competitive edge and reputational integrity. As the threat landscape continues to evolve and increasingly jeopardize non–public and other sensitive information, organizations must make concerted efforts to safeguard the non–public information assets.

The Kiteworks Private Content Network, a FIPS 140-2 Level validated secure file sharing and file transfer platform, consolidates email, file sharing, web forms, SFTP and managed file transfer, so organizations control, protect, and track every file as it enters and exits the organization.

With Kiteworks, businesses utilize Kiteworks to share confidential personally identifiable and protected health information (PII/PHI), customer records, financial information, and other sensitive content with colleagues, clients, or external partners. Because they use Kiteworks, they know their sensitive data and priceless intellectual property remains confidential and is shared in compliance with relevant regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, U.S. state privacy laws, and many others.

Kiteworks deployment options include on-premises, hosted, private, hybrid, and FedRAMP virtual private cloud. With Kiteworks: control access to sensitive content; protect it when it’s shared externally using automated end-to-end encryption, multi-factor authentication, and security infrastructure integrations; see, track, and report all file activity, namely who sends what to whom, when, and how. Finally demonstrate compliance with regulations and standards like GDPR, HIPAA, CMMC, Cyber Essentials Plus, NIS2, and many more.

To learn more about Kiteworks, schedule a custom demo today.

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