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What is Data Security?

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By: Nihad Hassan

June 30, 2021

In today’s information age, organizations of all sizes and across all industries are leveraging digital solutions to interact with customers and facilitate operations. The integration of digital solutions in all business functions is what is referred to as digital transformation.

The most apparent evidence of the widespread adoption of digital technology is the proliferation of digital data. Nowadays, most data is created and consumed digitally. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the global datasphere is projected to grow to 175 zettabytes (of data created, captured, and replicated every year) by 2025.

Data is everywhere, and protecting it has become the top concern of every organization around the world.

Data security is a set of processes and procedures for protecting files, databases, and user accounts on a network by implementing a plethora of controls, programs, and techniques that identify each dataset importance concerning regulatory compliance and other criteria set by the organization; different protection measures are then applied to secure these assets.

The primary data security elements are confidentiality, integrity, and availability; these three elements are also known as the CIA triad. This is a security model used by organizations to guide their security policies to keep their sensitive data secure from unauthorized access and other threats, such as data leakage and exfiltration.

  • Confidentiality is the set of rules for ensuring that authorized users only access data.
  • Integrity ensures that data is accurate, trustworthy, and reliable. Data must not be altered during transit, and unauthorized access to information should be denied to prevent outside parties from modifying or destroying the data.
  • Availability makes sure data is always available and accessible to authorized users. This includes maintaining all IT infrastructure and systems that hold data and display it.

To properly protect data, the following should be considered:

  • Define the location of sensitive data so it can be appropriately protected.
  • Who can access this data? Organizations should know exactly who can access their stored data at all times. Leaving data with open access risks data available to various threats like misuse, theft, or abuse.
  • Continuous monitoring and alerting should be implemented to detect any abnormal file activity, suspicious account access, and other actions that violate the data security policy.

Data Security Technologies

The following is a list of critical data security technologies to secure data from the growing number of threats.

Data Auditing

This is an important measure to track data usage. When a data breach occurs, forensics investigators need to have a mechanism for identifying any changes to data access controls, like knowing which file was opened by any user and when is vital for discovering the root cause of a security incident. Data auditing solutions can also play a defensive role; they allow IT administrators to have full visibility over their data by detecting any suspicious changes to data and preventing them before they lead to a breach.

Real-Time Alerts

According to IBM, it took organizations 280 days, average time, to identify and contain a data breach. The longer a breach remains undetected, the more damage and losses it will bring to businesses. An IBM study estimated that organizations that contained a breach in under 30 days saved more than $1 million compared to those that take longer.

Although most organizations know about their data breaches from their customers or other external sources, these breaches should be discovered internally. By having a real-time alerting system, cyber-attacks and other malicious activities threatening an organization’s data can be detected early, reducing its potential damage.

Data Encryption

This robust technology is the most used in preventing unauthorized access to data resources. Through encryption, data is scrambled and denied access without the appropriate decryption key.

Data Masking

Hiding specific areas of data can protect it from unauthorized access or accidental disclosure. For example, a credit card number stored in a database can be masked with (*), leaving only the last three characters clear.

Data Destruction

When data is no longer needed, it must be deleted securely from all storage locations. Most organizations replace their computers periodically; hard drives and other storage units must be erased securely and thoroughly to prevent malicious parties from applying data recovery techniques to restore data from discarded devices.

Data Resilience

This allows an organization to recover its data after a natural disaster, technical problem, or cyber attack.

Summary

Data security is an essential component of any cybersecurity defense plan. In this current information age, data is subject to a growing number of threats. The majority of these threats originate from external sources. However, organizations should also focus on protecting their data from internal attacks (e.g., disgruntled employees or hardware/software misconfiguration issues). Data security is vital for keeping a business running and meeting security obligations due to regulatory requirements, such as GDPR.

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