In a 2018 report, the IDC estimated that the world’s data will grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025. Given the skyrocketing growth of data, the need for robust data security is more important than ever. In this article we'll discuss the value of data and the steps you can take to ensure that your customer data doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
Companies valued at hundreds of billions of dollars like Google and Facebook are purely data-driven companies. They grew because they were able to generate large volumes of data, store it, create insights, and monetize it. Similarly, every company has the potential to utilize its data to increase business productivity and output. This is not just for purely data-focused companies, but also for traditional businesses – all kinds of businesses, in fact. Thus, data can be a valuable asset if it can be utilized prudently.
On the flip side, data can also become a liability if adequate steps are not taken to ensure the security of the data your company holds. Data breaches are commonplace today, with thousands of instances each year exposing billions of data records. This is a huge vulnerability for businesses as well as their stakeholders. Governments are also stepping in with regulations and strict penalties to improve the data security of citizens Some of these regulations include:
More regulations will follow as data breaches continue to cause problems for businesses of all sizes, as well as the consumers they serve. In 2020, the average total cost of a data breach was $3.86 million, with businesses in highly regulated industries facing even steeper costs. Data security has to be a priority for every business, not just for data-only businesses.
Data security describes a set of tools, processes, and technologies used to protect files, personal information, personnel information, and databases from unauthorized access, use, and exposure. In addition, businesses also must comply with regulatory requirements regarding the handling and protection of data.
A general model for data security is called the CIA triad. CIA in the CIA triad stands for three core concepts that must be addressed for a secure data system: Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability.
Confidentiality in the context of data security means that protected data can be accessed only by authorized individuals. The very first step in ensuring confidentiality is to segregate data according to its sensitivity. Organizations must determine what data can be accessed by whom. It goes without saying that sensitive information should not be accessible by everyone, but only those who require access to certain data to perform their job functions. Additionally, employees should be granted access only to the data they require to perform their jobs, an idea known as the Principle of Least Privilege.
Companies can analyze usage data to create permission patterns for various users, groups, administrators, and stakeholders. Businesses can also create information dashboards showcasing the various levels of access to make allocating divisions easier for system administrators.
Access must be revoked promptly when an employee leaves the company, groups or committees have been dissolved or are no longer active, or when unauthorized access is identified. Access given to groups should be monitored regularly to know if they are still in use. Addressing such factors will reduce the number of vulnerable points for attack.
Data integrity means that data is accurate, complete, and reliable (or consistent or valid), throughout its lifecycle. In other words, data must be protected from deletion or alteration by unauthorized users. It should not be compromised when it is accessed from the server to display to the end-user, requiring complete protection over the network through which data is transmitted before reaching the end user. Ensuring data integrity can be quite difficult in the case of remote access applications, as the data will have to be sent over the internet to reach end users.
Data has little to no utility if it can’t be readily accessed by those who need it. The third tenet of the CIA triad, availability, indicates that data should be available readily to authorized users without any hiccups. It requires that systems, access channels, applications, and authorization measures must all work properly. Availability can be impacted by network outages, system failures, human error, and other factors. Conducting regular load and stress tests to ensure systems can handle the necessary workloads, and DDoS protection are all steps businesses can take to ensure data availability.
There are various tools and techniques that can be used to improve data security, which generally fall into three categories:
Data security covers a wide range of aspects for protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data. It is a constantly evolving process, and businesses should invest in modern data protection tools and technologies, as data breaches are becoming increasingly common among businesses of all sizes.