Why Data Security Management is Important for Your Business Continuity?
If you want to understand your customers better and to make better business decisions, you need to collect the right data.
However, you also need to be aware of the various data security threats that loom above such as hackers and data breaches and do everything that you can to protect your digital information from internal and external threats, including data thefts, unauthorized access and corruption throughout the entire data lifecycle.
In this article, we'll discuss what is data security management, what are data security management threats, data security best practices, as well as tools that will help you with data security management.
What is Data Security Management?
There is no one all-encompassing definition of data security management. This is because every organization is faced with its set of data security threats and challenges and must address them as such.
Overall, however, we can say that data security management is a set of best practices, techniques, tools and processes that are employed by an organization to protect its business data from internal and external threats.
To understand data security management, you need to understand the concept of the CIA (no not "that" CIA).
CIA stands for:
- Confidentiality - Only authorized users, with the proper credentials should have access to the data
- Integrity - All data must be trustworthy, accurate and not modified without a proper reason
- Availability - Data must also be accessible by authorized users whenever it is required
What are Biggest Data Security Threats?
Today, there are many data security challenges that you need to be aware of. While the threats to your data may come from different sources and are constantly evolving, so no such list is complete, these seven are the biggest data security threats that you need to address if you want to protect your sensitive information:
- Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)
Larger organizations in particular need to be aware of Advanced Persistent Threats or APT. These are typically long-term campaigns rather than one-off attacks in which a hacker or a team of hackers enters the network system through a malicious software code and quietly operates in order to mine sensitive data.
Malware can be distributed in a variety of ways, with the most common being downloading and/or installing infected software (although a lot of time you wouldn't even be aware of this as the software might secretly install itself and run on your computer).
- Internal threats
Not all data security threats come from external sources like hackers. Many are the result of internal threats, meaning your employees.
Of these, there are two types that you should be aware of.
The first one are disgruntled employees, who, for whatever reason, may compromise your sensitive data by misusing their credentials and user privileges.
The second such threat comes from uninformed and careless employees who may unknowingly open a phishing email message and expose their username and password credentials to cyber criminals, use weak passwords, or otherwise expose critical data.
Your business, of course, needs to use various software to help it in gathering, analyzing, storing and, above all, understanding data.
However, the software that you're using may be compromised in different ways, including:
Outdated software - Software developers and cyber criminals are in a constant race. Every time new software is introduced, hackers eventually find a weak point, which the devs then have to address in a new version, which has its own vulnerabilities and so on.
Untrusted sources - Another way software applications may be abused is if a threat actor distributes malicious software that was disguised as a genuine program. This is why it's important to only get software through official sources, such as the software manufacturer itself.
While malware might be used for APT campaigns, the ransomware threat is equally worrisome for any business.
Last year (2021), data privacy, security and prevention company Black Fog recorded 292 ransomware attacks, of which most were directed toward government institutions (52), education (43) and healthcare (39).
In March of 2021, for example, there were 25 such attacks, 11 more than in 2020 (14), including a $50 million ransom demand from electronic and hardware corporation Acer.
Best Practices to Secure Sensitive Data
So how do you actually keep sensitive data safe from data breaches and unauthorized data access?
Here we'll go over some of the best data security practices to protect against such threats.
Note that no data security plan is fixed and is instead constantly evolving and adapting in real-time to make sure your organization's and customer data is safe.
Also, your company's data security plan shouldn't be copied from others, even competitors. Every organization is unique and needs to approach data security more or less uniquely.
So what does a data security plan involve?
If you wait for an attack and only then react, you've already lost half the battle. Instead, you need to make sure that you are adequately prepared for an eventual data breach by:
- Educate and train your employees - A big data security threat, as we said, comes from uninformed and careless employees in your organization. For example, a new employee might not know how to recognize a phishing email and could be lured into exposing their credentials to a threat actor, thus putting all your data at risk. This is why it's important that your employees know how to recognize these threats. (Here's how to improve your company email security hygiene).
- Stress-test your system and network - Don't expect your system to be full-proof. While it may seem at the moment that it is impenetrable, believe me, if you leave it like that eventually hackers will find a way in. It's a good idea to get one step ahead of the threat actors by considering what are the points that they might be going for, such as your critical data and how they might do it. You can do this internally, with your own people, or hire external penetration testers.
- Have a risk management plan - Of course, no data security plan is perfect and eventually a data breach might occur. So how do you handle this? By having a company-wide incident management plan. This plan should include not only the IT department, but also the upper management, PR, legal, etc. Everyone needs to know how to respond to it to limit the effect that the breach has on your organization.
- Use data backups and have a data recovery plan - Data loss can happen for any number of reasons including human error, malware, viruses, physical damage to hardware, corrupted software, theft, data erasure and so on. Make sure to keep a separate data backup for your critical data that you can go to in case any of these happen.
- Data classification and critical data identification - What data do you have that someone might want? Ensuring data security can't be done if you don't know the answer to this question. For instance, this could be intellectual property, personally identifiable information (PII), or financial information of your customers or employees, or some other type of sensitive data.
Secure Your Critical Data
Now comes the hard part and that is securing the data.
- Control who has access to the data - Does someone in the sales department needs to have access to customer payment records? Probably not, but that way you are creating a possible weak point that the cyber criminals could exploit, for instance through a spear phishing campaign. Manage access to sensitive information to those that actually need it to perform their job.
- Use data encryption - Even if hackers gain unauthorized access to your data, that's not the end of the world. By employing data encryption, you can ensure that the data they've stolen is unusable to them without the right encryption key.
- Use strong and unique passwords - Having a unique and strong password is one of the key ways to protect your digital data and to protect sensitive information. However, a lot of people really neglect this part of data security management and instead use weak passwords or repeat passwords through multiple systems. This is a field trip for hackers who can easily brute force weak passwords and gain access to the data that way.
- Use multi factor authentication - While passwords are important, they shouldn't be too relied upon to protect your organization as they can get lost, forgotten, or stolen. Instead, you want to include another layer of security here with multi factor authentication or MFA, so even if a hacker gets your password, they will still need that extra piece of information such as a PIN, fingerprint, voice recognition, or a token on your mobile phone to access it.
- Use endpoint security software - Expect your data endpoints to be under constant threat from cyber attackers. This is why you need to need to boost your security by using software like antivirus, anti-malware, firewalls, anti-spyware and more.Conclusion
Data security management is a critical part of ensuring data protection and mitigating and preventing data security threats. However, with the right data security solutions and a plan, you can ensure that your sensitive data is safe from internal and external threat actors.