It’s data privacy week! This week-long international initiative was developed by the National Cybersecurity Alliance, and encourages all organizations to respect data through improved security and management transparency.
Rich streams of data have enabled organizations to analyze client behavior, identify opportunities, establish baselines, set performance goals, gather business intelligence and so much more. While our data-driven culture fosters continuous improvements, lack of strategic alignment around data protection can result in the loss of this asset’s value or your organization’s value – and it can happen quickly.
The average company has 534,465 files containing sensitive data. In certain industries, like finance, every employee is given access to over 1,000 sensitive files. Worse yet, more than 70% of employees have been known to share sensitive and business-critical data via insecure or under-secured platforms and devices. Data exposure can result in reputational damage, legal penalties and other unwanted business outcomes.
Proactively address privacy and data protection requirements with future-proof strategies, technologies, and other positive measures. Doing so means differentiating your enterprise, increasing your organization’s value proposition and building consumer trust.
10 data privacy tips to protect your organization
1. Locate and identify data. You can’t protect your firm’s information effectively if you don’t know that it exists, where it’s located, or what data you retain. Data can easily get lost within home-grown systems, documents, emails and retired legacy applications.
Your organization’s security team needs to understand where all critical systems and data are stored within the business. The security team also needs to track who has access to which data, why, and how it is being used, if at all. In turn, this will enable your security team to develop processes, controls and safeguards through which to ensure sufficient data protection and regulatory compliance.
2. Create clear security policies. When new regulations come into play, organizations commonly try to follow laws by implementing complicated policies as addendums to existing policies. While this approach may accomplish legal objectives, employees often struggle to understand and apply the new policies to their day-to-day tasks.
Organizations need to establish clear and easy-to-understand security policies. Policies need to address global security and privacy compliance requirements. They also need to be consistent. Pursue opportunities to simplify your data protection and privacy policies and processes. In so doing, you will assist everyone who genuinely strives to protect your organization’s data.
3. Develop connections. Security often involves a maddening number of stakeholders, especially within larger enterprises. To meet data privacy expectations, security teams will need to develop strong working relationships with professionals across all departments that need to secure data. In addition to better communication, policy development, and implementation, cross-departmental connections may allow your organization to discover and address non-compliance issues before an external auditor reports them.
4. Employee awareness. Educating employees about cyber security risks, data protection policies, and data protection best practices allows you to broadly reduce vulnerabilities. A strong awareness program should include educational content, follow-up messaging, testing, and measurement of employee involvement in said programs. Set your organization up for success by focusing on data protection best practices and by engaging in cross-team collaboration to create a data security and privacy ecosystem that supports evolving regulations and business growth.
5. Data loss prevention (DLP). Data loss prevention refers to a series of strategies and tools that organizations can employ to prevent data theft, loss, or accidental deletion. Organizations commonly use DLP to protect Personally Identifiable Information, to adhere to corresponding regulations, to protect intellectual property, to achieve greater data visibility, to secure the distributed workforce and to secure data on remote cloud systems.
Ahead of adoption, determine the most appropriate DLP deployment architecture or combination of architectures for your organization. In addition to helping achieve the aforementioned objectives, adoption of DLP also allows CISOs to retain the necessary reporting capabilities that enable frequent data security updates to management.
6. Backups, snapshots, replications. All three of these things have a role to play in data protection. While the three are often confused, all of them are intended to protect your data in different ways:
Data backups: In the event of loss or corruption, data backups enable you to restore systems to a previous point in time. Data backups create “save points” on your production servers. Because data backups can take a while to create, many firms schedule them at night or on weekends. Data backups are critical for compliance purposes.
Data snapshots: A data snapshot copies the state of an entire system at a certain point in time, presenting a virtual ‘snapshot’ of a server’s file systems and settings. In contrast with backups, snapshots only copy the settings and metadata required to restore data after a disruption.
Data replication: The term ‘data replication’ refers to copying data to another location – whether that’s a storage system within the same data center or a system in a remote data center. This data storage methodology enables all users to work from the same data sets. Data replication results in a consistent, distributed database.
7. Firewalls. While your company might have a firewall, are the networks still vulnerable at their core? Ensure that your firewall solution is configured securely. Take the following steps: Disable insecure protocols like telnet and SNMP or use a secure SNMP configuration. Schedule regular backups of the configuration and the database. Add a stealth rule in the firewall policy to hide the firewall from network scans. More in-depth insights here.
Guides to firewall security are often available from security vendors and third parties, such as the Center for Internet Security (CIS), which publishes CIS Benchmarks Network Devices. Also, see the SANS Firewall Checklist.
8. Authentication and authorization. These types of controls assist with the verification of credentials and ensure that user privileges are applied appropriately. Typically, these measures are implemented in conjunction with an identity and access management (IAM) solution and in tandem with role-based access controls (RBAC).
9. Endpoint protection (EDR). As part of a layered cyber security approach, endpoint protection helps secure desktops, laptops and mobile devices. Essential features of an endpoint solution include: anti-malware, behavioral analytics, the ability to enforce compliance with enterprise security policies, data encryption, sandbox inspection, secure remote access, and URL filtering.
When it comes to endpoint security solutions, the right choice depends on the endpoints in question and a given organization’s unique needs. Your organization might also consider an XPR/XDR solution, which integrates endpoint security, cloud computing security, email security and other security architectures.
10. Data erasure. By deleting data that your organization does not need to store and does not use, your organization can limit its liabilities when it comes to data protection. Under many compliance rules, erasure of unnecessary data is a requirement. In short, data erasure is a critical element of the data lifecycle management process.
Protecting the privacy and integrity of data helps your organization stay competitive, increases value and improves trust.
To learn more about data privacy week and executive-level data privacy protection strategies, see CyberTalk.org’s past coverage.
Lastly, don’t miss registration for the most important cyber security event of the year; CPX 360 2023. Register here.