Ready to Start Your Career?

Understanding Data Integrity

Ryan Stewart's profile image

By: Ryan Stewart

March 8, 2019

What is data integrity and why is it so important? Data integrity is about protecting your data against manipulation, harmful maintenance practices, or unwanted modifications. It is crucial for applications and services that require accurate, protected data. Integrity, the "I" in the CIA Triad, is an integral part of keeping data secure. This could be software code, medical records, or any other type of data that needs to be consistently accurate. This section will explore example cases where data integrity is crucial, its different types, and best practices to maintain it in your organization.

Criticality of Integrity

Data integrity is crucial to the function of many institutions and organizations. The most referenced example is software development. Developers need to ensure that their code remains unmodified in order to properly develop applications. A single character error can break a compiler or render an application unusable. Financial data for businesses requires consistent data integrity. Simple errors or glitches in this data can lead to great financial risks. In hospitals, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have integrity as a top priority. Maintaining integrity in these records is, quite literally, a matter of life and death for patients. There are other cases in which this is a top priority.There are two types of data integrity: Logical and physical. Logical is associated with the accuracy of the data itself. This means ensuring that the organization’s information is logically consistent and rational. Logical data integrity is assessed through the standard channels with which an organization accesses its data. Physical is concerned with the physical devices that store the data. Issues with power supply, physical corrosion of data storage devices, and even radiation are all threats to physical data integrity. As a whole, making sure there is a source of truth for data is a matter of ensuring accurate data by reviewing information and physically securing storage mediums like hard drives, disks, et cetera.

How can an organization maintain data integrity?

Best practices. One of the most frequently used methods is to create a backup. Periodically scheduled backups ensure that your data maintains integrity in the event of data loss or fatal errors. Encryption is another method that prevents unwanted access or modification to your organization’s data. Input validation requires all user-inputted data to be verified by a third-party, and this helps to verify that your data is accurate and consistent. Lastly, access controls can prevent unwanted modifications to your organization’s data. If only certain users can access the data via verified credentials, it is less likely an error or malicious modification is made to your data.As you can see, data integrity is essential for many organizations both public and private. While some organizations carry out data integrity practices voluntarily, other organizations are required to maintain data integrity as a matter of public safety and proper function. Any organization can benefit from taking steps to guarantee the logical and physical integrity of their data. Creating regular backups of your data, encrypting the flow of your data within the organization, employing systems of input validation, and implementing access controls are all ways to ensure data integrity. Without these practices, many of our modern institutions simply could not function.TL;DR - Data integrity is the practice of ensuring the accuracy of an organization’s data. There are several frequently used practices to ensure physical and logical data integrity. This article explores examples where integrity is important, the two types of clean data, and best practices for maintaining information integrity.Interested in learning more? Read what Cybrary's Security Researcher, Joe Perry, has to say about December 2018's Quora breach, or read about Marriott's massive data breach.
Schedule Demo