What is Data Security? The Ultimate Guide

By Haseeb Awan

Your life is drastically altered by living in the digital age. As opposed to the past, when you were only in contact with your pals, family, and neighbors, you can now connect with anyone. The internet has evolved into a global network of individuals with whom you can connect and interact via various media platforms. The constant worry that your privacy is being violated and the uncertainty of whether your data is secure are two of the most significant drawbacks of being a member of the internet generation.

Most things must be kept private, including phone locks and bank lockers. Two factors influence why people value privacy so highly. People want to ensure their safety given easy access to a wealth of information. Imagine what would happen if the incorrect person learned your details. Your life could be at risk if that happens. Likewise, as a businessperson, the confidentiality of the data belonging to your company is crucial. You must avoid losing business to your rivals by having employee and client data leaks.

In recent decades, data security has remained an essential element. Data can be misused while it is being transferred. The persistent data breaches have raised this demand across the board. As a result, it's essential to create techniques for data security.

What Data Must Be Secured?

Businesses typically need to protect two main categories of data:

  1. Business-critical data refers to the data assets necessary for your business's operation and maintenance. Examples include inventory, designs, budgets, trade secrets, etc.
  2. Customer profiles, supplier agreements, employee HR and payroll data, and personal medical histories are examples of private information.

The most critical data is protected with the highest level of security thanks to a robust cybersecurity strategy that offers the company's information assets differentiated protection. Or else, you will waste time and resources trying to protect every file and folder, whether or not they contain valuable intellectual property or just pictures from the company picnic.

Data Security For Small Businesses

Today, operating any kind of business without creating or gathering data is essentially impossible. Some of that data will undoubtedly be private customer information, while some of it will be vital data required to keep the company alive.

Both issues must be resolved if any company is to remain healthy. Businesses must have access to sufficient business data to support their operations. Still, they also have to protect the privacy and security of customer information.

A company might only be able to operate effectively if its data were recovered. Although that is bad enough, it primarily has an impact on the company itself. On the other hand, if a company lost customer data, it might face legal repercussions like government investigations, fines, civil lawsuits, and severely damaging verdicts. A company's stock price may also suffer after a public data breach. 

Data Security - Definition

Securing company data throughout the lifecycle and minimizing risks like unauthorized access, illegal modification, public exposure, destruction, or theft. These dangers can be brought on by malicious insiders, outside cyber attackers, natural disasters, unintentional harm, and human error.

Data security's technical aspects include software, hardware, storage systems, and end-user equipment. Organizational aspects include administrative controls, user access, and data management policies.

Key Components of Data Security

When it comes to data security, all organizations should adhere to the three basic principles of confidentiality, integrity, and availability. The "CIA Triad" is a set of ideas that serves as a security model and the cornerstone of top-notch data security. Here are the definitions of each integral part of safeguarding your sensitive data from data theft and unauthorized access.

Confidentiality. Guarantees that only users with valid credentials are able to access data.

Integrity. Assures that the stored data is credible, correct, and not prone to unauthorized changes.

Availability. Assures that data is easily accessible for the company's strategic needs and that it is accessible in a secure manner.

Transit Data Security

Order data of this nature "transits" frequently. The customer's web browser makes the first transit to the e-commerce web server. Contrary to popular belief, we don't actually "visit" websites; instead, they come to us. We download web pages to our computers, interact with them there, and then transmit data back to the website's server.

In this case, the customer entered their credit card information on their computer before sending it to the web server as the final step in entering the shopping cart data. The internet is extremely hostile and dangerous, and this confidential credit card data is sent there.

Data is useless by itself because it will typically be transferred numerous times throughout its lifetime. Customers' names and addresses are required information for shipping companies, credit card companies, and order fulfilment staff members to understand what was ordered and how much they should charge the account for.

Since it is unlikely that all of this will take place in one location, the information will likely be sent to several locations, including, in some cases, organizations that are not affiliated with the original company that collected the data. All of those transfers must be carried out using a secure method.

Corporate Data Security

While all forms of private information are significant, businesses and other industries are the areas for which the need and demand for data protection are most prevalent. Most businesses have large volumes of data or info they might want to keep confidential and secure from outsiders. To safeguard this type of data, corporate data security comes into play. As data increases, organizations frequently need help to develop real-time security policies. It also has trouble tracking all the information coming from a single location in big data platforms. However, specialized IT teams are therefore established to address these issues and offer total data protection.

 

Data Management

Data must be adequately managed and monitored in addition to being secured and protected. Data management is the creation and application of the procedures, processes, architectures, and policies that manage a company's entire data lifecycle needs. This specific description of data management is quite inclusive and can be used in any industry or profession.

Because it would be challenging to monitor and protect data without proper management, data management is crucial. Data may be used improperly in various applications if it needs to be defined clearly. It would only be possible to satisfy the user's needs if the data were clearly defined.

 

What Impact Does It Have On A Business?

To gain an advantage, you work to gather information about your strategies, operational practices, and what your rivals are doing. However, your business will fail as a result of your end's data leak. Your organization and you will lose credibility if competitors use your data against you. When you fail to secure your sensitive data, your competitors may perceive that you are handing over your company to them on a silver platter.

Three components protect data or information privacy:

  1. The right of individuals to privacy and control over their data
  2. Securing the handling, gathering, and distribution of personal data
  3. Regulations governing data privacy must be followed.

Why Is Data Privacy Important?

It's a good question, and there are numerous reasons why you should use a data security service to protect your sensitive information. The idea of data privacy is unfamiliar to many people, and they do not value it highly. Let's look at some critical factors that demonstrate how data security should be used.

Reduce Data Losses:

Data loss from data leaks is a death sentence for your company. It might be information about your clients or employees. One of the most important considerations is the security of your company's sensitive data, which must be prioritized.

Enhance Brand Identity: 

Building a foundation of trust with your customers, staff, and visitors will help you to better communicate your assurances about data security. The audience will pick you over the competition as they feel safe with you. It is the most effective way to strengthen your brand's public image.

Ethics compliance: 

Upholding ethics by refusing to share data will strengthen your relationship with clients and staff in today's digital age. Additionally, this will help create enduring, dependable relationships that will be advantageous to the company. The visibility of data movement provided by data security will help you locate any gaps in data security.

Observing privacy standards

The government itself supports your right to privacy. At all costs, you must protect your sensitive information; this is required by law. Data security will guarantee data privacy and protect you from government legal action. The European Union has implemented a set of regulations known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to safeguard the personal information of its citizens. The GDPR imposes harsh fines on those who breach its data privacy and traffic control provisions to shape Europe's digital future. Violations of GDPR rights may incur heavy fines.

Data Privacy vs Data Security

Data privacy is the separation of information stored on a computer system into non-private information that is shareable with third parties and private information that cannot (private data). Enforcing data privacy primarily entails two things:

• Access control ensures that only authorized individuals can access data and no other person has access to it.

• Data protection ensures that no matter if unauthorized individuals access the data, they will not be able to make changes or harm the data. Data protection techniques ensure data encryption, which does not let anyone from accessing data which does not have a private encryption key, while data loss prevention technology prohibits the users from transmitting any sensitive data.

Data security and data privacy quite often intertwine. A company's data security plan includes the same measures that protect data privacy.

The key difference is that while data security focuses primarily on thwarting malicious activity, data privacy places emphasis on maintaining data confidentiality. For instance, encrypted data might be sufficient to protect personal information but insufficient to protect data security. Even after the data has been deleted or encrypted twice to prevent access by authorized parties, an attack could still cause harm.

What Might A Data Leak Cost A Company?

• Reputational harm - A data leak could be very detrimental to a company. Not only does it result in data loss, but it also harms a company's reputation. Others may judge the company that had its data compromised as careless with data security.

• File loss - Accidental loss of customer files or databases may prevent a business from continuing its marketing efforts.

• Loss of confidentiality - Any company or business with confidential and private information accessed by a third party or unauthorized party runs the risk of disclosing sensitive data.

• Threat of monetary loss - Financial loss is possible when crucial bank account information and other similar data are lost. When an unauthorized party or individual learns bank information, they may use login details to steal money.

Data Security Technologies

Your organization can prevent breaches, lower risk, and maintain protective security measures by utilizing the appropriate data security technologies.

Data Auditing 

It is impossible to prevent security failures, so you must have an established procedure for dealing with the underlying issue. Data auditing solutions track and report file paths used, control changes to data, and provide details as to who accessed confidential data.   The breach investigation process requires the use of each of these auditing techniques. IT administrators can identify potential security vulnerabilities and unauthorized changes thanks to efficient data auditing solutions.

Real-Time Data Alerts

Companies typically become aware of a data breach several months after several months have passed. Too frequently, customers or outside distributors and vendors rather than internal IT departments are the ones who alert businesses to breaches. By incorporating real-time systems and data monitoring technology, you can find breaches more quickly. Doing this can reduce the risk of personal data being destroyed, lost, altered, or accessed without authorization.

Data Risk Evaluation

Your organization can determine which of its sensitive data is overexposed by conducting a data risk assessment. A thorough risk analysis will also provide dependable, repeatable steps for identifying, prioritizing and addressing significant security risks. Finding sensitive data accessible through global groups, stale data, or data with erratic permissions is the first step in the process. Important findings, vulnerabilities, and prioritized remediation recommendations will all be outlined in an accurate risk assessment.

Data Consolidation

Organizations have typically seen having as much data as possible as advantageous. There was always a chance that it would be useful in the future. From a security perspective, large data sets are now a liability. There are more potential targets for hackers hence more data you have. As a result, data consolidation has emerged as a crucial security tactic. Follow all advised data consolidation techniques, and only store necessary data.

Delete Old Data

Data cannot be compromised if it doesn't exist on your network. You should therefore delete any outdated or pointless data. It would be best if you used tools that automatically archive largely unused files and track access. Networks of any size likely have countless forgotten servers retained around without any reason in the modern era of annual acquisitions, reorganizations, and "synergistic relocations."

How Data Security Interacts With Other Security Aspects

Getting Enterprise-Level Data Security

A successful data security strategy must be implemented across the entire organization, using a risk-based approach to data protection. Stakeholders should pick one or two sources of data that have the most private information and begin there a little earlier in the process of developing a strategy, taking into account business goals and legal requirements. After establishing explicit and strict policies to protect these constrained sources, they can prioritize applying these best practices to the remainder of the company's digital assets. Effective practices can become much more scaleable with automated data security and tracking features.

Cloud Computing And Data Security

Security for cloud-based infrastructure and services demands a different approach from the conventional strategy of defensive positioning defences at the network's perimeter. Effective risk management, ongoing activity monitoring, and tools for classifying and discovering cloud data are necessary. Tools for cloud monitoring can be used to track data in transit or reroute traffic to your current security platform, sitting between a database-as-a-service (DBaaS) solution from a cloud provider. This enables consistent policy to apply regardless of the location of the data.

BYOD And Data Security

The prevalence of using personal computers, working through tablets, and mobile platforms in corporate computing environments is rising, despite the legitimate concerns security leaders have about the risks that this practice can present. Employers who allow their workers to BYOD and let them connect to the corporate networks must install security software. This will enhance your device's (BYOD) security while increasing centrally controlled data monitoring and movement. Two additional strategies include fostering a security-first culture throughout the organization and educating staff members on the value of using complex passwords, frequent software updates, multi-factor authentication, device backups, and data encryption.

Data Security Risks

Here is a list of common challenges that companies of all sizes face when they try to safeguard sensitive data.

Accidental Exposure

A sizeable chunk of data breaches is caused by the accidental or unintentional disclosure of private information, not a malicious attack. Employees often mishandle, lose, share, or gain access to sensitive information either unintentionally or because they do not know security protocols. To address this serious problem, it may be necessary to use employee education along with other strategies like improved access controls and data loss prevention technology.

Social engineering attacks such as phishing and others

Hackers frequently employ social engineering strategies to access private data. This involves intimidating or deceiving individuals into disclosing private data or providing access to password-restricted accounts.

One popular social engineering technique is phishing. Sending messages that seem to be from a reliable source is a scam. Attackers are able to successfully compromise targets' devices or gain access to an organizational network when victims help them, such as by submitting personal data or clicking on a phishing scam.

Internal Threats

Employees who deliberately or non-deliberately jeopardize the safety of a company's data are an insider threat to your company. Insider threats come in three different forms:

• A user who may cause harm due to negligence, an accident, or a lack of understanding of security procedures is a non-malicious insider.

• An insider with malicious intent is actively trying to gain access to data or harm the business for personal gain.

•The users that aren't informed that an outside attacker has accessed their accounts or credentials are called compromised insiders. The attacker can then act maliciously while assuming the identity of an authorized user.

Ransomware

Data in businesses of all sizes is seriously threatened by ransomware. Ransomware is malware that targets business computer systems and encrypts data so it cannot be accessed without the decryption key. Intruders frequently use a ransom note, in which they request payment in exchange for providing the key, to communicate their demands. However, doing so recurrently fails to work and compromises the data.

Numerous ransomware variants spread quickly and have the ability to infect reasonably large portions of a network. If a business doesn't regularly back up its data or the backup servers are successfully infected by ransomware, there may be no way to recover.

SQL Injection

SQL injection is a tool that attackers frequently use to access databases unlawfully to perform unauthorized actions like stealing or altering data. It works by adding malicious code to a presumably unsuspecting database query.

SQL injection modifies SQL code by altering the query's context by inserting special characters or numbers. When the database is prepared to process user input, malicious script or other code advantageous to the attacker begins to be processed. SQL injection can also have detrimental effects by disclosing client information, stealing proprietary information, or providing attackers access to a database's administrative console.

Data Loss in the Cloud

Many businesses are moving their data to the cloud to have easy and secure ways for collaboration and information sharing. However, when data is moved to the cloud, it becomes easier to manage and prevent information loss. Users access data through unsecure networks and mobile devices. Sharing documents or files with strangers unintentionally or maliciously is far too easy to do.

Insecure coding practices frequently cause SQL injection vulnerabilities. If programmers use available reliable methods for accepting users' input, SQL injection can be avoided fairly easily.

Cloud Data Security

Combining technologies, practices, and policies is required for cloud data security to safeguard cloud platforms, applications, and data.

Data security is crucial throughout the entire lifecycle of data and the cloud computing process. Your strategic plan must take into consideration the multiple data security risks posed by cloud environments. A data breach or attack represents the main risk.

Along with the risks to on-premise infrastructure, cloud computing also poses new risks. In the cloud, common data threats include:

• Insecure APIs – Cloud services and applications frequently rely on API functionalities, making them vulnerable to API flaws.

• Account takeover: Attackers can use weak or compromised credentials to access user accounts in the cloud.

• Insider threats – tracking nefarious insiders is more difficult in the cloud. 

The lack of transparency regarding who is in charge of security in cloud environments is yet another significant problem. The organization is solely in charge of on-premises security, whereas in the cloud, security is shared with the vendor. It can be challenging to navigate shared security controls, as well as the shared responsibility varies across cloud models.

The physical infrastructure and the customer's data security are always the cloud provider's responsibility. Other security-related issues may be unclear. To put it briefly, you need to be aware of the precise details of your cloud vendor's shared responsibility security model and make sure you put the proper safeguards in place.

How To Protect Data Technologies for Data Security?

Data encryption: 

Encryption keys use an algorithm to transform simple characters into an indecipherable format, scattering data to ensure that only authorized users can decipher it provided the encryption key. The final line of defence is provided by file and database encryption solutions, which conceal the entire content of sensitive information through encryption or tokenization. The majority of solutions can also manage security keys.

Disk Encryption: 

One of the most frequently used data security technologies or methods is disc encryption. It allows for the encryption of data stored on hard drives. There are two main forms of this technology: software and hardware. Data is transformed into unintelligible codes during disc encryption so that it can't be accessed or decoded by unauthorized individuals. Disk encryption can be done in various ways and with various tools, each with a different level of security and features. Utilizing this method has a lot of advantages, but it also has some flaws or vulnerabilities.

Data protection methods based on hardware and software: 

In addition to disc encryption, data protection methods based on hardware and software are also an option. In order to prevent data theft, software-based security systems encrypt the information. However, hardware-based security solutions can block write and read access to data. Hardware-based security solutions provide strong defences against tampering and unauthorized access. But with software-based solutions, a hacker or malicious program could easily capture and corrupt the data files, rendering the system virtually useless and making the files indecipherable. As a result, hardware-based rather than software-based solutions are frequently chosen. The need for physical access to compromise hardware-based systems makes them more secure. This system works much better when an operating system seems to be more susceptible to attacks from hackers and viruses.

Backups: 

Taking regular a backup of your data is one of the simplest yet most effective methods for avoiding data loss or the loss of crucial files. You can back up your data in various ways and decide how many copies you want to keep. While maintaining a backup of all files at a secure location is still commonly done using external hard drives, cloud computing has emerged as a more convenient and affordable alternative. Although a backup won't stop data loss, it will at least make sure that no crucial information is lost.

Data masking: 

Data masking is yet another data security method employed by those wishing to protect their data. Data obfuscation, another term for data masking, is the practice of concealing original data with random characters, numbers, or codes. When you need to protect classified information and prevent access to or reading that information, this method is particularly helpful. This is an effective way to ensure that only you and authorized users can access the data.

Data erasure: 

Also referred to as data clearing or wiping, data erasure is a software-based technique for overwriting data to completely erase any data that may be stored on a hard drive or other media location. This technique purges all data and information disc while leaving it functional. 

How To Develop A Data Security Strategy For Your Company

Identifying the data important to your company and its locations is the first step in developing a data security plan. Examples of this include customer information, financial information, employee information, and any other sensitive data. You can start creating a plan for protecting data once you know what information needs to be protected.

Physical, logical, and encryption security measures are just a few of the ways you can safeguard your data. Physical security measures aim to protect data from physical dangers like fires and floods. Logic-based security measures shield your data against online dangers like viruses and hackers. Data is encoded through the process of encryption so that only those with the proper permissions can access it.

It is crucial to take into account each of these security measures and decide which will be most effective for your company when creating your data security plan. You should weigh the risks your company would face if your data were compromised against the expenses involved with each method.

Implementing your data security plan after you've created one is crucial. This entails putting in place the logical and physical security precautions you've set up and routinely testing your system to make sure it's functioning properly.

Employee Training: Why Is It Important

You understand the importance of data security as a business owner. Yet one of the most crucial elements in safeguarding your data is employee training, as you may need to be made aware. A Symantec study found that 60% of small businesses felt their staff members lacked adequate data security training. Data breaches and cyberattacks are just two serious outcomes that could result from this lack of training.

What can you do to ensure that your staff members have the necessary data security training? Here are a few tips:

1. Regularly schedule data security training sessions. Make sure to talk about phishing scams, password protection, and recognizing suspicious activity.

2. Write up a policy manual with the data security guidelines for your business. Hand out the manual's copy to every employee, and ensure they are familiar with the rules.

3. Inform your staff of any modifications to the data security procedures. Remind customers regularly about the latest update to your company's data security policy.

4. Provide incentives to staff members who adhere to sound data security procedures. This will motivate your staff to treat data security seriously.

5. Be accessible to respond to inquiries about data security. Ensure that your staff members feel at ease to inquire about data security.

Data Security in Enterprise Applications

All sizes of businesses rely on enterprise applications for mission-critical power operations. Enterprise application security's purpose is to protect against possible external attacks, data thefts, and authority abuse. 

Email Security

By shielding email communications from online threats, email security works to ensure their accessibility, integrity, and dependability.

Email security protocols like SSL/TLS, DomainKeys Identified Mail, and technical standards bodies have suggested Sender Policy Framework (SPF). Both email clients and servers, like Google G Suite and Microsoft Exchange, implement these protocols to guarantee secure email delivery. Along with putting security measures in place, a secure email gateway aids businesses and individuals in securing their email from a wide range of threats.

ERP Security

ERP or enterprise resource planning is software that coordinates and integrates key business operations like accounting, supply chain management, human resource management, and inventory control into a single system. ERP systems are, by definition, mission-critical systems because they store susceptible data.

The aim of ERP security is to protect the accessibility and integrity of system data while restricting unauthorized access to an ERP system. Regular security audits of ERP systems are advised by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) to look for software inconsistencies, configuration issues, conflicts resulting from the separation of duties (SoD), and compliance with security recommendations from vendors.

DAM Security 

Digital Asset Management is a business process and technology platform for gathering, managing, and storing rich media, digital rights, and licenses. Images, audio, video, graphics, podcasts, and other forms of multimedia content are all considered rich media assets. DAM data is sensitive because it commonly stores in DAM systems and is used in critical business operations like marketing, sales, and the dissemination of media to audiences and website visitors.

Below are some best security practices for DAM:

  • Use the least privilege principle when it comes to security when using DAM.
  • When choosing file destinations, use an allowlist.
  • To restrict access by outside parties, use multi-factor authentication.

Consistently review automation scripts, restrict command privileges, and regulate the automation process using logging and alerting.

CRM Security

Companies use a set of processes, techniques, and tools called customer relationship management (CRM) to monitor, manage, and analyze customer interactions and data throughout a customer lifecycle. Because customer relationships are an organization's most valuable asset, CRM data is extremely sensitive. CRM data is governed by privacy laws and is considered personally identifiable information (PII).

The following are security best practices for CRM: 

  • Conduct regular IT risk assessment audits.
  • Monitor CRM activity to find any abnormal or suspicious usage.
  • Insist that CRM administrators adhere to best practices for security.
  • Inform CRM users of best practices for security.

If you use CRM as a SaaS, investigate the security procedures used by the SaaS provider. In a global, digital world, trust is the most important currency for any business.

By carefully protecting the personal information of your customers, you can gain their trust over a long period. They put a lot of important information in your hands, including their biometric information, address, payment information, and preferences.

However, trust is something that is easily lost. Everyone will lose trust in you after just one data security breach. They'll leave for a competitor who values data security and always upholds client privacy.

Data security is challenging. Employees need help to stay current with constantly changing protocols as cyber threats evolve. An already dangerous world has become even riskier, with remote work becoming the new norm.

Data security is crucial now more than ever because of this. The first three are strategy, people, and education. The correct infrastructure, however, is the most crucial component. A reliable data security service provider can assist you in creating a safe data pipeline that prevents unauthorized access to sensitive data. Your customers can relax knowing that their personal information is secure. Data security must be a top priority, no matter how big or small your company is. It is an essential element that keeps your business operating smoothly and safeguards all sensitive data.

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