The amount of data about each person, government entity, business, transaction, manufactured object, and natural resource is staggering. This data has immense value for those who legally own it, those who legitimately control it, and those who desire to have it. The complication is that some people want access to the data illegally, and many wish to use the data they capture to commit crimes. Whether those crimes are theft of trade secrets, sabotage, espionage, identity theft, ransom, or some other sinister scheme, the liability for protecting the data belongs to each entity that collects, stores, transmits, or otherwise interacts with it. Data security involves securing three categories: the hardware, software applications, and the people with access to the data. Security includes regulatory compliance, organizational policies and procedures, and industry best practices. In short, data security means every activity that protects data during its entire life cycle.
Some common data security risks include:
- Accidental exposure: Employees accidentally leave sensitive data vulnerable because of negligence.
- Malicious insider: Employees intentionally steal or compromise data.
- Compromised credentials: An employee’s credentials are unknowingly used by an external attacker to access data.
- Ransomware: Software blocks access to data until a sum of money is paid.
- Phishing: Fraudulent emails are sent with the intent to induce people to reveal sensitive information.
The potential adverse outcomes of a security breach can be profoundly disruptive and even catastrophic to a business, and may include:
- Loss of confidentiality
- Loss of data
- Corruption of data
- Criminal misuse of data
- Litigation by those affected
- Government fines
- Reputational damage
- Loss of revenue
- Trade secrets falling into the hands of competitors
Data Security Checklist
The following checklist can help reduce the risk of a data security breach:
- Perform a data risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities and prioritize remediation strategies.
- Monitor data activity to detect potential breaches in real- time.
- Only collect and keep data that is needed. Excess data means vulnerability and liability.
- Encrypt data when possible.
- Install anti-virus software.
- Perform regular software updates to remain current on recent issues.
- Select and manage passwords according to password hygiene’s best practices.
- Implement firewalls to prevent unauthorized Internet users from accessing private networks.
- Quarantine sensitive files. Only those who need access to the data should be permitted to access it.
- Backup data daily to recover quickly in the even of data theft, corruption, or erasure.
- Use authentication to verify user credentials.
- Perform an audit to assure compliance with government regulations. Regulations require organizations to (1) track sensitive data in their possession; (2) produce that data on demand; and (3) show auditors that appropriate steps have been taken to safeguard data. Beyond this, some regulations are specific to types of data and geographic regions. It is vitally important that organizations comply with all applicable data security laws nd regulations.
- Where appropriate, create modified or fake (but legitimate- looking) versions of data. Known as data masking, this ensures that only authorized employees can see the actual data.
- Create a workplace culture that is respectful and mindful of data security. Employees should be adequately trained in security protocols, alert for potential red flags that may indicate breaches, and feel safe reporting potential vulnerabilities and breaches.
The immense amount of data security threats is astounding. In the modern digital economy, an organization’s survival can depend on how seriously it accepts its legal responsibility for data security. Your organization should be compliant with every item on the data security checklist above. If not, it’s time to make data security a top priority immediately.
For companies handling digital information, a Trust Center is essential in helping your customers understand how you are keeping their data private and secure. It’s also crucial to your future growth, customer confidence, and peace of mind.
You may contact one of our trust center experts to find out how to get started with a reliable trust center.
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