Building Security Strategies: How To Keep Data Safe and Secure

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Published:
Aug 30, 2023
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Updated:
Jan 16, 2024
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Data is one of an organization’s most valuable assets in a fast-paced, ever-changing digital landscape. Whether it is customer information, financial records, or intellectual property, safeguarding sensitive data has never been more essential. The experts at Secure Data Recovery, the authority in RAID, SSD, and hard drive recovery, understand the importance of a comprehensive security strategy and provide tips on how to keep data safe and secure.

What is Data Security?

Data security is the practice of protecting data from unauthorized access, modification, destruction, or publication. It encompasses all measures taken to prevent exposure of personal or private data.

The main goals of data security include:

Confidentiality. Ensure that stored data is only accessible to authorized individuals or parties. Confidentiality is crucial regarding customer or client data, as organizations must adhere to specific information storage rules and regulations.

Integrity. Maintain accurate, consistent data throughout its lifecycle. Emphasizing data integrity reduces the risk of unauthorized edits, accidental errors, or deliberate tampering that could compromise the reliability of information.

Availability. Ensure that important data is available to authorized individuals or parties whenever required. Making data available enables business continuity and improves operational efficiency.

Authenticity. Verify the origin and validity of data. Confirm that it comes from a trustworthy source. Authentication prevents data from being altered or falsified during transmission or storage.

Growing Significance of Data Security

Law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity analysts have witnessed an alarming surge in attacks and data breaches in recent years. These security incidents can significantly impact organizations worldwide, leaving countless companies and individuals reeling in the aftermath of a cyberattack. Stolen data can undermine customer trust and lead to enormous financial losses and reputational damage.

Despite impressive technological advancements, digital infrastructure and stored data remain vulnerable. Those vulnerabilities pose ongoing challenges for organizations and individuals, stressing the following aspects of data security: 

Protecting against cyberthreats. The financial consequences of cyberattacks and data breaches are staggering. According to IBM’s recent report on data breaches, the global average cost was $4.45 million in 2023, representing a 15% increase over the past 36 months. Cybercriminals and other malicious actors continue to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access to sensitive data. Effective data security measures defend against these threats, reducing the risk of breaches.

Preserving confidentiality. Many companies store massive amounts of confidential information, such as customer data, financial statements, and trade secrets. Securing that information is paramount to ensuring privacy and preventing disclosure. 

Building customer trust. People expect organizations to handle personal data responsibly. Data breaches erode trust and loyalty, potentially leading to a ruined reputation and loss of business. Companies can demonstrate their commitment to customers and earn trust by prioritizing data security.

Complying with regulations. Numerous regulations, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), mandate certain security standards. Non-compliance can have severe legal consequences and financial penalties.

Avoiding financial losses. Cybersecurity incidents can result in substantial financial losses between mitigating the data breach, conducting forensic investigations, notifying affected parties, and preparing for legal action. Furthermore, businesses can incur financial losses due to a disruption of normal operations or customer attrition following an incident.

Maintaining data integrity. Data could be tampered with without proper security measures, leading to poor decisions or financial errors. 

Creating competitive advantages. In a global marketplace, data-driven insights provide competitive advantages. Securing proprietary data and research can sustain that edge.

Safeguarding intellectual property. Intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, or designs of exclusive technology, is invaluable. Implementing a data security strategy is essential to protecting these assets.

Preventing identity theft and fraud. Personally identifiable information, including full names, addresses, and Social Security numbers, can result in identity theft and fraudulent transactions. 

13 Data Security Challenges

Challenges are inevitable in the constantly changing world of cybersecurity. These challenges involve technology’s rapid development, the emergence of unique cyberthreats, human error, organizational idiosyncrasies, and resource limitations.

Here are some common data security challenges that organizations must address:

1. Cyberattacks and data breaches. Ever-evolving threats pose daunting problems for cybersecurity professionals. Malicious actors constantly adapt and employ new techniques or ransomware infections to breach systems and steal valuable data.

2. Phishing and social engineering. These tactics manipulate authorized users into revealing confidential data and represent a considerable risk to organizations. 

3. Insider threats. Employees, contractors, or consultants with malicious intent can compromise data security. Accidental errors from authorized users could also jeopardize efforts. Insider threats can range from intentional theft to unintentional data loss and disclosure due to improper handling, insufficient access controls, or vulnerable transfer mechanisms.

4. Weak passwords and authentication. Poor password practices can lead to unauthorized access and data breaches. Do not use common or short passwords. Do not reuse the same password across multiple accounts.

5. Lack of encryption. Failing to encrypt sensitive information increases the risk of unauthorized actors obtaining or intercepting data. 

6. Patch and system updates. Software updates are essential for addressing vulnerabilities. Delayed, overlooked updates leave systems susceptible to exploits.

7. Compliance and privacy regulations. Meeting all the data protection requirements of regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA can be difficult, particularly for companies operating across different jurisdictions.

8. Third-party risks. Data shared with third-party vendors or services is vulnerable if their security measures are not robust. 

9. Cloud security. Migrating data to cloud environments presents new security challenges, including misconfigurations, shared responsibility models, and potential exposure due to provider vulnerabilities.

10. Inadequate employee training. Lack of familiarity regarding security strategy increases the likelihood of incidents caused by humor errors. Greater awareness of threats and practices is the best method of prevention.

11. Data growth and management. The exponential growth of data in terms of complexity and volume makes protecting an organization’s information even harder.

12. Legacy systems. Aging, unsupported systems may have vulnerabilities that are no longer patched, leaving them especially susceptible to exploitation.

13. Mobile device security. The prevalence of mobile devices introduces new entry points for cyberattacks, often necessitating specialized measures.

Navigating this perilous landscape and ensuring data remains secure requires a comprehensive, proactive approach. The best security strategies address all facets of data protection. A fragmented, reactive approach exposes organizational data to persistent, evolving threats.

Best Data Security Strategies To Implement in 2023

A thoughtful, structured strategy is vital to protecting sensitive data. Organizations and individuals should consider the following policies, procedures, and practices when designing a data security program:    

Risk Assessment

An extensive risk assessment is the first step in understanding an organization’s vulnerabilities. Risk assessments allow decision-makers to detect potential threats and weaknesses and allocate resources toward addressing the identified gaps. 

Assess vulnerabilities. Assessments must evaluate the entire infrastructure, including networks, systems, applications, and storage devices or services. 

Understand threats and attack vectors. Understanding current cyberthreats and vulnerabilities can help organizations realize possible attack vectors and prevent unauthorized access. Another option is using threat modeling to anticipate malware, phishing, or an internal data breach.

Categorize risks and prioritize the most pressing ones. After completing the assessment, organizations must prioritize the risks based on their impact and likelihood. Address the most probable and significant threats first. Implementing mitigation strategies, process improvements, and more advanced technologies can strengthen an organization’s cyberdefenses.

Asset Inventory

A complete asset inventory is essential to securing data. It involves classifying assets and determining the structure and flow of information. The process reinforces data protection efforts by focusing on valuable assets.

Classify based on sensitivity. Start by identifying critical information that requires the most protection. Sensitivity levels typically include:

  • Low Sensitivity Data: General information deemed safe for public consumption, such as website content. This data cannot be compromised.  
  • Medium Sensitivity Data: Private information shared within the organization. There could be mild consequences if someone leaked this data. 
  • High Sensitivity Data: Critical information shared with a limited number of executives or specialists. A data breach would be catastrophic. 

Map assets. Data mapping visualizes an organization’s structure and flow of information, including its interaction with different systems and users. It offers insights into where sensitive data resides and how it is stored, transmitted, and accessed. This intelligence enables organizations to make more informed decisions about data protection and establish priorities.

Data Security Policy

Organizations must design comprehensive data security policies that outline clear rules and procedures for handling sensitive data. These policies set employee, stakeholder, and internal user expectations regarding data protection. It should cover workstation security, acceptable usage, remote access, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) rules. A well-communicated policy raises data security standards across the organization.

Set clear rules and controls. Develop policies that outline specific rules, controls, and procedures for handling, storing, and sharing important data. Ensure all practices are consistent throughout the organization.

Utilize a risk-based approach. This approach considers the inherent dangers of using, storing, and transmitting data in a particular manner and reduces those risks. Address high-risk areas before other concerns.

Undergo regular audits and update policies. Conduct regular audits and improve policies to remain prepared for an evolving threat landscape and compliant with regulations.

Mobile Data Security

Considering their increased usage, data security for mobile devices is critical for organizations. Storing and accessing data on mobile devices demands stricter controls, given the potential for loss or theft. Measures like multi-factor authentication (MFA), encryption, and secure communication channels are crucial to keeping data safe.

Implement access controls. Multi-factor authentication requires each user to provide multiple forms of identification before accessing data or systems. Once verified, users can interact with the information. Avoid public WiFi or untrusted networks to minimize the risk of data breaches or interception.    

Centralize security. Managing the security settings of mobile devices from a central platform enables organizations to enforce uniform policies and quickly respond to incidents and threats.  

Protect mobile data with encryption and remote wiping. Encrypting data stored on mobile devices offers an additional layer of security if it is lost or stolen. In the event of a lost or stolen device, remote wiping allows organizations to erase sensitive data without physical access, preventing potential breaches.

Database Security

Securing databases often involves a multi-faceted approach to protect confidential information from unauthorized access, downloading, or sharing. Organizations should set administrative controls, update database software, encrypt files, apply multi-factor authentication, segment and duplicate data, and conduct routine audits to prevent devastating breaches or regulatory non-compliance.

Establish administrative controls. Set up stringent administrative controls for databases, limiting access to authorized, relevant personnel. Restrict administrative controls to those that require them to perform their job. Implementing Just-in-Time Privileged Access Management (JIT PAM) grants users temporary access to specific data, minimizing the potential attack surface.

Encrypt stored data. Robust encryption safeguards sensitive information even if attackers penetrate the database’s other defenses. Without the appropriate decryption key, intruders would need to decode the data before accessing it.

Conduct audits. Set up an auditing system and monitor the database. Review audit logs to detect unauthorized access and unusual behavior. Enabling real-time alerts for suspicious activities can lead to quicker incident response.

Cloud Security

Cloud security demands special attention due to the unique characteristics of the environment. Organizations should have access controls, encryption standards, and employee training programs to secure data stored in private or public cloud environments.

Institute access controls. Strict controls and authentication mechanisms help organizations manage user access to cloud storage and resources. Permit appropriate access based on their role. Review and update privileges to reduce the risk of unauthorized access.

Use encryption to protect privacy. Cloud services can usually encrypt data at rest and in transit to prevent interception and unauthorized access. The best protection strategies secure data in each of its three states. Determine if the cloud storage provider uses industry-standard algorithms and practices. Examine the service’s privacy policies and compliance certifications as well.

Maintain backups and disaster recovery plans. The cloud is not immune from human error or natural disasters leading to data loss. Organizations should back up irreplaceable data to a separate cloud server or keep additional copies at a secure, offsite location. These redundancies might seem unneeded, but they protect against sudden data loss from cyberattacks, natural disasters, or hardware failure. Organizations might still require professional data recovery services in some situations.

User Behavior

Monitoring user behavior helps identify insider threats and compliance issues. Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) tools track user behavior and provide insights to aid decision-making. Custom-built analytics and scalable solutions enhance visibility and improve responsiveness to potential threats.

Discover insider threats. Analyzing user activity for abnormal or suspicious behavior, including data exfiltration or misuse of privileges, can reveal insider threats within the organization beforehand.

React to real-time anomalies. Systems that can detect real-time anomalies provide organizations with a more complete overview of user behavior and network traffic. These systems use machine-learning algorithms to establish a normal baseline and flag irregular activity.

Prepare incident response plans. Reviewing user logs after an attack can determine the scope and probable impact of the incident. This practice provides more information about the specific method, recognizes compromised data, and helps formulate an incident response plan, including containment and mitigation strategies.

Data Privacy

Respecting data privacy is not only a moral obligation. It is also a legal requirement. Organizations should have privacy policies that align with their operational structure to comply with regulations and reduce the risk of a data breach.

Develop comprehensive data privacy policies. Establish unambiguous privacy policies that govern how personal or private data is collected, processed, stored, and shared.  

Secure storage devices and encourage responsible data handling. Data is as safe as its weakest link. Organizations should have robust security measures to protect user privacy against cyberattacks and unauthorized access. Ensure the physical safety of storage devices, encrypt sensitive data, and update protocols as necessary.

Comply with data protection regulations. Remain compliant with all relevant data protection regulations, such as GDPR or CCPA.

Least-Privilege Access

The principle of least privilege (PoLP) states that administrators grant users the minimum access required to perform tasks. Least-privilege access ensures that critical assets are shared with fewer people, which minimizes the organization’s exposure to data mishandling or misuse. Enforcing the principle of least privilege requires clear governance and multi-factor authentication.

Define access controls. Granular access control mechanisms assign permissions based on user roles and responsibilities. Avoid blanket permissions that grant excessive access to data or systems. If needed, adopt a Just-in-Time Privileged Access Management (JIT PAM) approach and revoke permissions once employees complete the task.

Assess user access and privileges. Regular assessments of user access can locate outdated and unnecessary permissions for members who have transitioned to new roles or left the organization.

Audit privileges. Scheduling audits of the organization’s permissions can uncover attempts to exceed privileges or engage in unauthorized activities. It also records who accessed what data and when, which can be critical in internal investigations and ensure compliance.

Employee Training

Educating employees on handling corporate assets and spotting malware, phishing, and other forms of social engineering is essential. Frequent training provides up-to-date information on the threat landscape and advances a people-centric approach to data security. Having more knowledgeable employees mitigates the probability of data breaches and multiplies the effectiveness of most measures.

Hold regular training sessions. These training sessions will increase employee awareness by explaining the latest security threats and reinforcing the best preventative practices. Cover topics such as phishing and other social engineering techniques, password hygiene, and immediately reporting potential incidents.

Customize training for specific roles. Recognize that different jobs have unique data security considerations and tailor the training sessions to address those challenges. For example, the accounting department might need additional resources on financial fraud prevention. In contrast, IT might need specialized training on securing networks.

Foster a culture of security awareness. Promoting a security-aware culture among employees strengthens every aspect of a data protection strategy. Urge employees to report potential threats or incidents promptly. A straightforward reporting process helps escalate matters to the appropriate personnel for investigation and resolution.

What To Do When Data Security Strategies Fail

A well-designed, integrated data security strategy that involves continuous training and updating is critical in protecting sensitive data from unauthorized access. Adopting these practices and remaining vigilant against emerging threats empowers organizations to prevent catastrophic data breaches and cyberattacks.

However, security is not a guarantee.  

When disaster strikes, Secure Data Recovery has the experience and expertise to retrieve lost data from any storage device, regardless of manufacturer, operating system, or file type. Since 2007, our skilled engineers have encountered every data loss scenario and resolved over 100,000 cases, including complex situations requiring invasive repairs or custom script development.

We specialize in challenging recoveries that other services would declare unrecoverable. Despite that, we have maintained a 96% success rate and continue to offer flexible service options and a “No Data, No Recovery Fee” guarantee. You get your data back, or you pay nothing.

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Timothy Burlee

Timothy Burlee is a content writer for Secure Data Recovery Services. He specializes in various topics in the data industry, including data recovery technology, storage devices, and digital forensics. Throughout his career, he has covered complex concepts and provided accessible solutions for users. Before joining Secure Data, he worked as a freelance technical writer.

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