In today's world, data security has become a top priority for businesses of all sizes. With cyberattacks and data breaches becoming increasingly common, it's more important than ever to implement effective data security best practices to protect sensitive information.
In this blog, we'll be sharing our top 10 data security best practices that you can implement to safeguard your data from potential threats. By following the steps in this article, you can minimize the risk of data loss, theft, and unauthorized access, and ensure that your business remains secure and compliant with industry regulations.
So, let's dive into the top 10 data security best practices that you need to know.
Best Practices for Data Security
Implementing the following ten data security best practices will help to protect your sensitive data and the reputation of your company, and comply with the relevant data security regulations.
1. Discover and classify your critical data
Knowing what data you store, and where it is located is a crucial best practice of data security. By classifying data, organizations can implement appropriate security controls that align with the level of sensitivity of the information they store. Data classification also helps organizations comply with regulatory requirements and standards, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
2. Establish and enforce a strong password policy
Developing a strong password policy and applying it consistently is a crucial best practice for preventing data breaches. Companies should also keep track of login activity and receive real-time alerts when anomalous account access is detected. As a loose rule of thumb, passwords should be at least 8 characters long and should contain uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Users should not use the same password for multiple accounts and they should change their passwords every 90 days or less.
3. Use multi-factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides an extra layer of security beyond just a username and password. With single-factor authentication, if someone gains access to your password, they can easily access your account. However, with MFA, even if someone knows your password, they still need access to another factor (such as a code sent to your phone) to gain access to your account. This significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access and helps to protect sensitive information, which is why it’s a necessary best practice for data security.
4. Adhere to the principle of least privilege
To prevent data breaches, organizations should follow the principle of least privilege (PoLP) by limiting employee access to systems and data based on the requirements of their job. By regularly reviewing and reducing permissions, organizations can mitigate the impact of data breaches caused by social engineering attacks, job restructuring, and employee turnover. It is also best practice to monitor any changes to permissions, as unwanted or unauthorized changes might lead to permissions sprawl.
5. Monitoring access to sensitive data
According to a report by Forrester Research, 58 percent of sensitive data security incidents in 2022 resulted from insider threats. Monitoring access to sensitive data is one of the most important best practices for data security.
Monitoring access to sensitive data involves keeping track of who has accessed the data, when it was accessed, and from where. This is typically done through the use of access logs and audit trails. By monitoring access to sensitive data, organizations can quickly identify any unauthorized access attempts and take appropriate action to prevent further damage.
One way in which monitoring access to sensitive data helps improve cloud data protection is by allowing organizations to detect and respond to security breaches in a timely manner. If an unauthorized user gains access to sensitive data, monitoring tools can alert security personnel so that they can take action to contain the breach and prevent further damage.
Another way in which monitoring access to sensitive data improves cloud data protection is by enabling organizations to enforce access controls. Access controls are policies that limit who can access sensitive data and what they can do with it. By monitoring access to sensitive data, organizations can ensure that access controls are being followed and that any violations are detected and addressed.
In addition, monitoring access to sensitive data can help organizations comply with data protection regulations and standards. Many regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), require organizations to keep track of who has accessed sensitive data and when. By monitoring access to sensitive data, organizations can demonstrate compliance with these regulations and avoid costly fines and penalties.
6. Streamline incident response procedures
You will need a tried and tested incident response plan (IRP) in place to reduce the time between detecting and responding to data breaches. An effective IRP should have a clear set of well-defined procedures that are followed for each type of threat or breach that is identified. Additionally, it should have designated roles and responsibilities for key personnel such as IT staff and executives. It should also include external factors, such as coordination with law enforcement or third-party vendors, to ensure the best possible outcome. Finally, a good IRP should include regular testing and training to ensure that everyone is prepared to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a breach or attack.
7. Ensure physical protection of data
When it comes to securing data, physical security measures are frequently disregarded. It is advisable to secure server rooms with locks, alarms, and cameras, and lock your workstations when you're away to prevent theft of data. Another recommended best practice for data security is to set a BIOS password, which will help to prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to your operating system. Additionally, it is necessary to take measures to secure portable devices such as USB drives, tablets, and laptops.
8. Use endpoint security systems to protect your data
Secure your data using endpoint security systems by implementing measures such as anti-virus software, pop-up blockers, firewalls, and intrusion prevention systems. These tools prevent malware from infecting your devices, block unwanted pop-ups, and provide a barrier against cyber criminals. It is important to regularly scan and maintain the health of your system to mitigate the risk of data breaches.
9. Document your cybersecurity policies
Reliance on informal sharing of information and gut instincts is not advisable for ensuring cybersecurity. It is essential to meticulously document your cybersecurity guidelines, standards, and procedures, as this will ensure effective training, checklists, and communication of relevant knowledge to all the concerned parties.
10. Conduct security awareness training
Provide your staff with cybersecurity training, which teaches them about your company's policies and best practices for keeping data secure. Keep them informed through routine meetings about any updated protocols or changes being implemented around the globe. Use actual examples of security breaches to illustrate what can happen, and request their input on the state of your security posture.
How Lepide helps to Secure your Data
The Lepide Data Security Platform will discover and classify your critical assets and supports a wide range of file types, including Word, text, and Excel documents. It can also classify data at the point of creation/modification. Via the intuitive dashboard, you can identify excessive permissions and see how those permissions are being granted. You will also receive recommendations for changes based on who is accessing the data.
In addition, the Lepide platform monitors changes to permissions in real-time to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data and can automatically respond to changes that deviate beyond a given baseline or threshold. With over 300 pre-defined reports and real-time alerts, you'll never miss a critical change that can affect your security and compliance posture. With hundreds of pre-defined audit reports, the Lepide platform is perfect for meeting GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, SOX, PCI, FISMA, GLBA, and more.
If you’d like to see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can help you keep your sensitive data secure, schedule a demo with one of our engineers or start your free trial today.