Data security is the practice of preventing sensitive data from being accessed by unauthorized parties. The practice encompasses all actions to safeguard against external and internal data breaches. Having an all-inclusive data security strategy is essential to confronting expanding threats.
Potential Cost of Data Breaches
In 2021, the average victim of identity theft lost $1,551 and spent nine hours resolving issues.
In comparison, a well-coordinated cyber attack on corporations can compromise intellectual property and limit productivity for months. The average data breach in the United States in 2022 cost $9.44 million. That prohibitive figure leads to 60% of small businesses shutting down within six months of an attack.
And most experts project cyber attacks to increase in 2023.
To achieve data privacy, companies and individuals should maintain robust cybersecurity standards throughout the information lifecycle.
We understand the devastating effects of cyber attacks and malware at Secure Data Recovery. To that end, we recommend a proactive posture. Data protection is more cost-effective and reliable than reactive efforts. Because once a data breach has been identified, containing it can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming.
Data Security Best Practices
Even the simplest steps can have an impact. Other protocols require more to implement but provide an additional layer of protection.
Creating comprehensive information security policies can differentiate successful and unsuccessful attacks.
The following data security practices offer a strong foundation for organizations and users.
To realize the goal of data privacy, security teams and users must intimately understand the types of data being stored.
Classification identifies and organizes all available data into groups with common characteristics. Once completed, classification enables decision-makers to craft more informed data usage policies. These policies authorize privileged users to manage classification and define the conditions for data access for non-privileged users.
There cannot be a clear plan to secure data without classification.
Encryption is often the first (and sometimes last) line of defense for well-protected entities.
Encryption involves enciphering information to prevent unauthorized parties from accessing the original version. An algorithm generates a unique, random key to unwrap the encrypted data. While deciphering the information is possible without possessing the key, it requires sophisticated equipment and knowledge.
There are two types: hardware-based and software-based encryption. Each presents opportunities and challenges.
Hardware-based, or full-disk encryption, encodes information within the device itself. Full-disk encryption utilizes a more secure, independent processor to authenticate users and scramble data. The dedicated processor encrypts data on the hard disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD) when recording and decrypts information when retrieving it, eliminating potential attack vectors.
Full-disk encryption has numerous advantages, including ease of use for the end user and superior performance. Also, in the event of desktop or laptop loss or theft, hardware-based encryption adds another barrier for hackers to overcome before obtaining the data. However, these features come at a price.
For smaller businesses and individuals, full-disk encryption for workstations and external storage media might be the price of doing business in the modern world. Assess the value of information to determine if hardware-based encryption fills specific needs.
Software-based encryption is another option. Unlike hardware-based encryption, the computer’s processor powers disk encryption software and performs all cryptographic operations.
Unlike hardware-based encryption, disk encryption software is powered by the computer’s processor, which performs all cryptographic operations. That makes disk encryption software more affordable and scalable but comes with effectiveness and performance trade-offs.
Still, software-based encryption is a better alternative to a setting without encryption.
Because data exists in multiple states and repositories, it is vital to establish where and how it is stored.
Data at rest refers to data that is not being accessed and remains stored. Data in transit indicates that data is being transferred between devices or networks. Data in use applies to data that is being accessed and processed by an application.
At the same time, data often resides in large-scale infrastructure, such as databases or cloud environments.
Discovery is the evaluation of systems to diagnose vulnerabilities and reduce or remove them. The objective of discovery is locating and securing sensitive data in all states and environments.
Companies looking to incorporate discovery into their practices can consult information security services or consider automated solutions.
Insider threats pose more danger than most recognize. Threats are categorized as accidental, negligent, or malicious.
According to research from Verizon, insiders accounted for 22% of all incidents that compromised data security in 2021. And these incidents are becoming more frequent.
Data monitoring addresses insider threats with advanced tracking tools. These tools follow team members through their organization’s networks, noting accessed, edited, or shared files. Over time, the monitoring software analyzes activity and spots anomalies. At that point, it alerts relevant parties. It also restricts access to sensitive information, like classified materials, trade secrets, financial statements, or personal data.
In an ideal world, data monitoring identifies insiders before the information is compromised.
Another security measure to accomplish data privacy is data masking.
Data masking renders sensitive data incomplete or unclear to unauthorized users while remaining usable to authorized personnel and software. There are various methods of modification. The two most common masking techniques are substitution and shuffling.
Substitution replaces the authentic dataset with an imitation, retaining the structure of the information without exposing sensitive data. Forms that store personal data, such as national identification numbers, passport numbers, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers, use substitution. The greatest requirement for substitution to succeed in masking information is assembling an extensive dataset.
Shuffling has a crucial difference. Instead of sourcing replacements from a separate dataset, shuffling rearranges the authentic dataset into a random order. While successful against parties unfamiliar with the information, someone with intimate knowledge could reproduce the data.
Data masking can prevent insider threats from crippling operations through substitution, shuffling, or another method.
While the best administrators adopt a holistic approach toward data security, the importance of endpoint data protection remains.
Data protection is the constant, cumulative effort to defend sensitive data from attack or misuse.
But enhanced infrastructure and systems are necessary to achieve endpoint security.
What does endpoint security entail?
It is the process of securing end-user devices to prevent actors from exploiting vulnerabilities and gaining unauthorized access.
Despite a portion of users believing anti-virus software is sufficient, endpoint data protection must evolve with threats. That means using a combination of hardware, software, and training to meet the moment.
In addition to encrypting hardware, there are other physical controls that administrators should enforce to attain enterprise-grade data security. Those controls include continuous surveillance to observe direct access to critical infrastructure, including file archives and servers. For corporations, that might mean around-the-clock guards. Individuals and smaller businesses might opt for motion-activating video surveillance. Regardless, the physical security of data is paramount.
On the administrative front, professionals and proficient amateurs can implement more technical controls. The first is the installation of firewalls to isolate computers or networks and shield them from unwanted traffic. A firewall inspects incoming and outgoing packets of data. Based on its specific configuration, the firewall allows or blocks the traffic. A well-maintained firewall can impede external threats and intercept internal irregularities.
Permissions are another control to enforce. According to experts, administrators should adhere to the principle of least privilege. The principle of least privilege states that administrators should just grant users the permissions needed to complete their assigned tasks. Once instituted, administrators should keep access control lists.
Patch management is a central component of endpoint data protection and security. Regularly testing and updating applications and operating systems prevents out-of-date software from serving as an attack vector.
But security systems are still essential. At an absolute minimum, administrators should have reputable anti-virus software and a pop-up blocker to protect against ransomware and spyware.
Though often neglected, education or training is instrumental. In cybersecurity, systems are only as strong as their weakest link. Having well-informed users is an asset in preventing security breaches. Basic practices like using a VPN, strong passwords, and multi-factor authentication can harden defenses. Being able to detect phishing attacks and other forms of social engineering can be invaluable.
Sometimes data security means preparing for the worst.
A data backup copies mission-critical files in the event of attack or hardware failure.
Selecting the proper backup plan requires careful consideration.
Full backups preserve all stored data at regular intervals but demand a significant amount of time and resources. Differential or incremental backups can supplement a full backup to minimize the performance impact.
Differential backups duplicate modified files since the last full backup. While not as intensive as full backups, differential backups become larger with each successive version.
An incremental backup copies modified files since the most recent backup, regardless of type. As a result, each incremental backup is much smaller and saves disk space over other options.
No matter the chosen backup method, Secure Data Recovery’s experts advise following the 3-2-1 Rule: Maintain three copies of irreplaceable data, on two different media, with one offsite.
On occasion, prepared parties can still suffer data loss.
Data recovery is the process of retrieving corrupted, deleted, or otherwise inaccessible data from damaged or defective storage devices.
In most cases, certified data recovery services can resolve data loss scenarios.
Reuniting users with priceless data is a simple sentiment but a complicated undertaking. It requires experienced technicians, state-of-the-art facilities, and specialized tools to deliver the best results. Attempting to recover data from failed media without the proper expertise or equipment jeopardizes lost files.
Data security practices even extend to end-of-life assets.
Specialists concur that proper data destruction procedures are indispensable.
Learn how to dispose of hard drives to secure sensitive data. Failing to sanitize old hard drives or outdated storage media could compromise all other efforts. Companies and users lose control of their data after improper hard drive disposal. Acquiring unsanitized devices is one of the cheapest vulnerabilities to exploit.
Investing in proven data destruction strategies could prevent irreparable harm.
The Goal of Data Privacy
While data privacy cannot be guaranteed, it is a worthwhile goal for everyone.
For corporations, data privacy is not just a moral stance. It is a compliance issue. With laws like the United States Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), businesses cannot afford to mishandle customer data. Limiting data collection to essential information and pursuing strict data security practices is imperative.
Alongside improving their security measures, concerned users should review privacy policies in apps and opt out of excessive data collection.
As data breaches become more damaging and frequent, organizations and individuals must strengthen their cybersecurity standards.
Adopt the preceding guidelines when applicable. Conduct regular risk assessments and penetration tests. Continue to acquire more knowledge and adapt to shifting landscapes.
It is impossible to eliminate all threats.
However, it is possible to mitigate most threats with appropriate planning and training.
At Secure Data Recovery, we have received numerous requests from businesses to salvage the situation after a catastrophic attack. Too often, the requests are too late.
For that reason, we offer clients the following reminder:
You cannot be too cautious with sensitive data.