As Governments across the globe introduce new and/or improved data privacy regulations, organizations must ensure that they have the necessary tools in place to demonstrate their compliance efforts to the relevant supervisory authorities.
Due to various reasons, such as the increased adoption of cloud services and the increase in the number of employees working remotely, IT environments have become increasingly more distributed, which has led to a change in the way we think about data security.
As the traditional moat-castle approach to safeguarding our critical assets becomes less relevant, we’ve shifted towards a more data-centric approach, which focuses more on people, and the way they interact with our data.
What is Data Security?
Data security is a set of tools, processes, and practices which serve the purpose of safeguarding our IT environment, and of course, the data contained within it. An effective data security strategy will incorporate numerous procedures and technologies that are designed to protect files, databases, accounts, applications, servers, and so on. A data security program should take into consideration which assets are the most sensitive, and those that are most at risk of being compromised.
Why is Data Security Important?
Of course, companies have a moral obligation to protect the sensitive data they are entrusted with, which is important, right? For most companies, it’s the costs associated with a data breach that provide the greatest incentive for them to implement a comprehensive data security strategy. After all, a serious and well-publicized data breach may cause considerable damage to their reputation, which will likely result in a loss of business. On top of this, they may be subject to costly lawsuits or fines. There are also costs associated with recovery/remediation, and in some cases, such as a Business Email Compromise (BEC) attack, they might inadvertently hand over large sums of money directly to the attacker.
What are the main components of a data security program?
Identity and access management (IAM)
All IAM strategies involve some sort of authentication and authorization mechanism, which serves to confirm the identity of the user and determine which resources they are allowed access to.
Backup & recovery
It’s better to be safe than sorry, as they say. All companies must have a reliable backup and recovery strategy in place to protect themselves against system failure, ransomware attacks, data breaches, data corruption, and potential disasters.
Secure disposal of sensitive data
When documents containing sensitive data are no longer required, they need to be disposed of in a secure manner. Simply moving them to the trash can would not be considered a sufficiently secure method of removal. You will need to ensure that the deleted data is unrecoverable, which may require either writing over the data, or using a dedicated disk wiping solution.
Data encryption and masking
In an ideal world, all sensitive data is encrypted, both at rest and in transit, which means that anyone who doesn’t have the decryption key, won’t be able to view the data. Another technique that is used to make sensitive data unreadable is called “masking”, where the sensitive information is obscured in some way, perhaps using numbers, letters, and special characters. In this case, the original document can only be viewed by authorized users.
Data resiliency is about ensuring that your network and data remain available at all times. This involves the use of technologies designed to cover power outages and other system failures.
Data Security Best Practices
Discover & classify your critical assets
An effective data security strategy should start off with some kind of risk assessment, which helps organizations understand what data they store, where it is located, and the likelihood and consequence of a data breach.
However, carrying out a risk assessment is difficult when you have large amounts of unstructured data spread across multiple repositories. A sophisticated data classification solution will scan your repositories (both on-premise and cloud) and automatically classify sensitive data as it is found. They can also classify the data at the point of creation/modification.
Once you know exactly what sensitive data you store, where it is located and who has access to it, you can start to make decisions about what data is most at risk, and implement the appropriate controls to safeguard it.
Purge stale data, accounts, applications, and servers
As you can imagine, the less data you store, the easier it will be to keep it secure. Companies store large amounts of ROT (Redundant, Obsolete, and Trivial) data, and are often unaware of it.
Even when they are aware of it, they are often hesitant to delete it in case they need it at some point in the future. It is important for companies to have a formalized process in place, as well as the necessary technologies that will enable them to identify unused data, and either dispose of it securely or archive it in some way to ensure that it is still retrievable.
The same is also true for inactive user accounts. Most sophisticated real-time auditing solutions can automatically detect and manage inactive user accounts. In some cases, companies have servers full of information that have been forgotten about but are still technically accessible from the internet. Companies need to ensure that they keep an up-to-date inventory of all data, accounts, applications, and servers, to ensure that they are not trying to safeguard assets that are no longer relevant.
Monitor your accounts and data in real-time
As mentioned previously, data security has shifted from a predominantly perimeter-based paradigm to one based around the users and the data they interact with. A real-time change auditing solution can detect, alert, and respond to changes made to your privileged accounts and the sensitive data they have access to.
They can aggregate and correlate event data from multiple platforms – both on-premise and cloud platforms. Having visibility into who has access to what data and when is crucial if you want to prevent data breaches and identify unauthorized changes.
Of course, data breaches can (and probably will) still happen, which means that you will need an immutable record of all events that took place prior to the incident. Most sophisticated real-time auditing solutions will also enable you to generate reports at the click of a button, which are customized to meet the requirements of most relevant data privacy regulations.
How Lepide Helps Improve Data Security
The Lepide Data Security Platform allows you to get true visibility over the security of your sensitive data. Using our platform, you can accurately locate and classify your sensitive data so that you know where and what it is. You can also see which of your users have access to this data, spot users with excessive permissions, and get alerts whenever permissions change; helping you to govern access through a policy of least privilege. Lepide also enables you to analyze user behavior and interactions with your data and will alert you in real-time when anomalies are spotted that could put your data at risk.
If you’d like to see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can help give you more visibility over your sensitive data and protect you from security threats, schedule a demo with one of our engineers or start your free trial today.