Cyberattacks are an ever-present threat. Anyone can fall prey to cyberattacks, from small businesses to government agencies. During the 2020-2021 financial year, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) received over 67.500 cybercrime reports, indicating an increase of around 13% compared to last year. This equates to one report every 8 minutes, with a large number of cyberattacks considered as having a substantial impact.
Ransomware is one of the most common attacks carried out, with nearly 500 reports, showing an increase of nearly 15% compared to the previous financial year. Because of this, the ACSC considers it as one of the most significant threats to organisations within the country. Larger organisation in the Australia continue to be victims of increasingly complex cyberattacks, which lead to unauthorised access to data, data breach and theft, and extortion.
The increasing growth and complexity of cyberattacks have highlighted the need for more stringent data security measures to secure and protect data. We deal with data every day, whether in conducting transactions, communicating, doing research, or managing databases on our devices.
When you access applications or websites through mobile devices or a computer, you may be sharing sensitive information and there’s always a risk of data breach. Regardless of the industry, not prioritising data security can compromise data integrity and make you more prone to data breaches and data theft.
In this article, we’ll look into data security, what it is, why it’s important, and how you can benefit from implementing data security strategies for your organisation. Given that more people have been working remotely since last year, let’s take a look at how data security can protect your organisation’s digital information from threats like unauthorised access, data breaches, and data theft.
What is Data Security?
Data security refers to the process of protecting sensitive data or personal data from unauthorised access, modification or data corruption, erasure or theft, and misuse. It covers all aspects of information security, including physical hardware, networks, security controls, and even software applications. In addition to these, it also encompasses your organisation’s policies, procedures, and management practices.
Data security operates on three basic principles, which are confidentiality, integrity, and availability. It provides protection of sensitive data from unauthorised users by way of data encryption, multi-factor authentication, and monitoring, among other measures.
Moreover, it lets you keep your data safe from unwarranted data erasure or modification and ensures that appropriate security controls are applied across various controls, networks, hardware, and software without necessarily restricting access for authorised users.
Types of Data Security
Data security has many iterations that work to prevent common data security risks such as insider threats, data loss in cloud computing, phishing, ransomware attacks, and accidental exposure due to human error. Common data security measures include:
Data backup is one of the most crucial processes in protecting data. This allows you to retrieve or restore your data in case of data loss, which can be brought about by viruses or ransomware attacks, human error, or even theft.
The process itself is relatively simple: you create a copy of critical data and store it in a secure and separate location, such as an external hard drive or a cloud service. By backing up your critical data, you’re protected from cyber threats that may result to data loss. Keep in mind though that cyber threats aren’t the sole reason for data loss. It’s possible that your hardware may become worn out, which can bring about the same results.
For businesses, data backup is critical if you want to save your customer databases, operating systems, and configuration files.
A firewall moderates the incoming traffic from external sources, acting as a barrier that prevents malicious traffic from getting into your internal network. Aside from monitoring incoming traffic, it also monitors your outgoing network traffic, as well as track data packets based on the security rules you’ve set up.
Data encryption uses encryption software, which involves an algorithm that transforms your data into something that’s unreadable to unauthorised users. These encryption keys scramble your data, thus limiting user access only to users.
Data erasure can also be used as a data protection strategy. By incorporating it into your data security measures, you’re allowing the software to completely overwrite data, effectively erasing it and rendering it unrecoverable.
Data masking or data obfuscation “masks” your data, which means you’re creating an alternative but still realistic version of your organisation’s data. It helps you protect sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information (PIIs) while giving you something that’s still functional and can be used for purposes such as trainings or demos.
In case of cyberattacks, your enterprise data, financial data, and other critical data will be rendered useless to attackers without compromising their functionality or shareability for authorised users.
Using a legitimate antivirus software
An antivirus software can protect you against viruses, Trojans, and other forms of cyberattack that may result to a data breach. It scans files or directories for any malware and removes any malicious code or program from your system. Furthermore, it detects and blocks malware, keeps your online accounts protected, and prevents phishing.
How the Lack of Data Security Compromise Your Sensitive Data
Without data security solutions in place, you’re exposing yourself to several security threats. These include:
Malicious attacks aren’t the only cause of data breach. Sensitive data can also be exposed due to a user’s negligence, resulting in the sharing or losing of valuable data. Providing employee training that emphasises security policies may help reduce the risk of accidental exposure.
Having better access controls and using data loss prevention strategies are two of the best practices you can implement within your organisation.
Social engineering attacks
Social engineering attacks (SEA) refer to malicious activities that provide data access to cyber attackers. This is accomplished by tricking a user into sharing their personal data. One example is phishing, where an attacker assumes a legitimate identity and tricks a user into sharing data, such as login details or financial data, which may result in unauthorised purchases or identity theft.
Insider threats are brought about by peers who accidentally or intentionally compromise your data. Accidental exposure falls under this banner, as employees may be unaware of your security protocols or have had their accounts compromised unknowingly. A more threatening prospect is a user who intentionally steals data to damage your organisation.
Ransomware attacks can compromise any entity, whether you’re a small business or a multinational company. Using ransomware, attackers encrypt your data and ask for ransom in exchange for providing you access to your data.
Data Security Trends
Advancements in technology, aside from bringing about development, can also pave the way for newer cyber security threats. As such, these have given rise to a new set of data security trends, including:
The shift to remote work brought about by the pandemic has given rise to cloud migrations and the use of new software and hardware to cater to remote work. However, this has also drawn new threats, such as lack of or compromised security infrastructures and more complex malware attacks. These can expose your data privacy or security weaknesses and make your organisation more vulnerable to further attacks.
Increasingly complex ransomware
Ransomware attacks have also become more sophisticated. When not immediately addressed, you can lose access to valuable information, as well as deal with significant financial loss. Aside from extortion, attackers can leverage your data and use it to blackmail your organisation.
The rise of AI
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are increasingly being adopted by many companies, allowing them to fortify their security infrastructure. Both of these tools can be used to create automated security solutions that minimise the risk of human error and your data being compromised.
Attacks on cloud services
While cloud services help improve your productivity and scalability, they’re not impervious to cyberattacks. Attackers can leverage any weakness in your security protocols, potentially exposing you to data breach.
Why is Data Security Important?
Still, the question remains: why is data security important?
More than for regulatory compliance, data security is a crucial aspect of operations that no organisation should overlook. Data security can prevent the disruption of essential services and it can also help you keep up with new security threats. Having a solid data security strategy keeps all your sensitive information safe from cyberattacks, thus helping you protect your reputation.
Moreover, it gives you a competitive advantage by preventing unauthorised disclosure of plans and confidential business decisions. You’d also be able to protect your research data and your intellectual property. You’d be able to minimise the risk of ransomware threats that may cause you to lose a hefty sum or worse, your business.
Data security strategies also help you meet compliance regulations. Failure to comply may result in costly fines or penalties, which may negatively impact how consumers perceive your brand.
Protecting Your Personal Data
Implementing a data security strategy is one way to protect sensitive information. Observing best practices can help you boost your data security measures.
Other data security measures you can implement include securing your computer or mobile devices, periodically updating your operating system with the latest security patches, incorporating a digital signature for electronic document authentication, and educating your peers about data security.
One of the simplest ways to protect data properly is being vigilant when opening your email or coming across suspicious websites. Avoid opening emails or clicking links that seem suspicious. Doing so can redirect you to a malicious website that can make you vulnerable to cyber threats. If you come across an unknown website, refrain from providing your personal information.
Using a strong password, particularly for database access, also helps minimise the risk of database hacking. To create a strong password, make it longer and more unique. Try to incorporate a mix of letters, special characters, and numbers. Avoid using personally identifiable information, such as your birthday, email address, or driver’s licence number, and don’t forget to change your passwords regularly.
Using Data Security for Data Protection: Data Security Capabilities and Solutions
Ensuring data security means having a solid data security strategy in place. GA Systems provides you with data security technologies that can help you meet data security compliance. We utilise a zero-trust strategy that enables you to better manage cyber threats and provides you with data protection services, enabling you to protect your digital assets and data and achieve regulatory compliance.
We have a broad range of solutions, spanning from testing and assurance and education and awareness to network detection and response and DDoS mitigation. Contact us to help you safeguard your digital data and security systems and meet regulatory requirements.
Data Security Strategies
Protect user data by incorporating data security strategies, such as using any of the data security types we’ve previously discussed. In addition to those measures, you can also strengthen your strategy by:
· Applying access management and controls
Work with your IT department to regulate access to your database, networks, and accounts. Limit access to users who need it to complete a specific task. Don’t allow everyone within your organisation to have the same level of access as, say, your managers or IT personnel.
· Having backups
Always have backups of all your data. It’s worth noting that these should also be subjected to stringent data security measures.
· Educating your peers
One important, albeit often overlooked, aspect of data security is awareness. By educating your employees about your security protocols and best practices, you’d have an effective first line of defence against cyberattacks.
- How do data security and other security facets interact to safeguard your data?
Regardless of your software, hardware, network, or infrastructure, data security plays a crucial role in every aspect of your operations. To achieve enterprise-grade data security, you need to work on company policies and data monitoring and protection campaigns, as well as employ a number of data security strategies to effectively safeguard your data.
- What are the differences between data protection and data privacy?
Data protection and data privacy are separate concepts. The former focuses on applying restrictions that are mandated by data privacy. The latter pertains to who has access to your data and is primarily concerned with how you can address policies and guidelines.