What is Data Security?

Data security is the practice of protecting corporate and customer data against unauthorized access and other threats. This involves protecting data against data breaches, ransomware, and other threats.

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What is Data Security?

The Importance of Data Security in Today's Digital Age

Data is most organizations’ most valuable asset, and companies commonly collect large volumes of sensitive data. This data is a prime target for cybercriminals who access and steal this data for sale or for use in future attacks. Data security solutions can help to reduce an organization’s vulnerability to these types of attacks. By doing so, they protect the business from various risks, including those to its reputation, finances, and regulatory compliance.

Types of Data Security Threats

Companies face a variety of threats to their data security. Some common examples include the following:

  • Phishing: Phishing attacks may be used to trick the recipient into handing over sensitive data or deliver malware designed to collect and exfiltrate data to an attacker.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware poses a threat to both the confidentiality and availability of an organization’s data. Modern ransomware malware commonly steals data as well as encrypting it, enabling the attackers to breach or sell the data if the ransom is not paid.
  • Hacking: An attacker with access to an organization’s systems and applications may be able to extract and exfiltrate sensitive data from them.
  • Insider Threats: Trusted insiders may place corporate data at risk either intentionally or accidentally. For example, data may be accidentally exposed on insecure cloud storage or taken by a departing employee.

Data Security vs. Data Privacy

Data security and data privacy are distinct but related concepts. Data security provides protection to an organization’s data against a wide variety of threats. This could include attacks by unauthorized users (ransomware, data breach, etc.) as well as threats posed by authorized users or insiders.

Data privacy is focused on managing access to potentially sensitive data. While some parties within an organization may have “need to know” for certain types of data, others do not and should not have access. For example, access to customers’ financial information may be necessary for the billing department but not for IT.

Types of Data Security Solutions and Techniques

An organization’s data security faces various threats, and several different types of data security solutions exist to protect against them. These are some of the most important capabilities that a company needs to protect its data security.

Data Discovery and Classification

To adequately protect the data in its possession, an organization needs to know what data it has and the data’s security requirements. Data discovery and classification tools help an organization achieve visibility into the data it holds and automatically classify data so that appropriate security controls can be applied to it.

Data Protection

Data can be protected against unauthorized access in various ways. Some examples include the following:

  • Encryption: Encryption algorithms render data unreadable to anyone who lacks the secret key used for decryption.
  • Minimization: Data minimization involves only collecting and retaining the sensitive data that an organization actually needs.
  • Masking: Data masking replaces sensitive data with non-sensitive characters, such as replacing all but the last four digits of a credit card number with asterisks.
  • Tokenization: Tokenization replaces a sensitive value with a non-sensitive token that can be used to represent it in systems that lack the need for access to the real data.
  • Anonymization: Anonymization strips customer records of data that can be used to uniquely identify them. However, true anonymization is difficult to achieve.

Data Security Solutions

Data security solutions help to protect an organization’s data against various types of threats. Some examples include the following:

  • File and Activity Monitoring: Monitoring files and user activity can help to identify anomalous or malicious behaviors that point to data security threats. For example, ransomware performs an unusual number of file reads and edits while encrypting data.
  • Vulnerability Management: Vulnerability scanners can help to identify security issues that place data at risk. By identifying vulnerabilities and assessing risk, an organization can better manage data security.

Best Practices for Data Security

An organization can reduce the threat to its data by implementing data security best practices, including the following:

  • Use Data Security Solutions: An organization’s data should be properly classified, encrypted while at rest or in transit, and blocked from exfiltration with data loss prevention (DLP) solutions. These controls increase the difficulty for an attacker to access and steal the data.
  • Implement Least Privilege: Managing access to sensitive data is vital for data security and regulatory compliance. Implementing least privilege — where users only have the access needed for their roles — limits the risk of data breaches and other threats.
  • Secure User Accounts: Compromised accounts can be used to steal data or plant malware. Enforcing strong passwords and the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) and privileged access management (PAM) solutions can help to reduce the risk that attackers can access corporate systems and data.
  • Train Employees: Many data security risks involve an organization’s employees. Training employees to properly manage sensitive data and respond to phishing attacks can reduce data security risks.

Data Security Regulations

Companies are subject to a wide variety of data security regulations, and more are actively in development. Some examples of laws that mandate the protection of sensitive customer data include the following:

Data Security with Check Point

Data security should be a core component of any corporate cybersecurity strategy. Also, as cloud usage grows, so do the risk of cloud data breaches and the need for cloud data protection. To learn more about protecting data in the cloud, read Check Point’s cloud security blueprint.

Check Point CloudGuard offers organizations the tools to secure their cloud-based data. For more information on protecting your cloud environments, sign up for a free CloudGuard demo today.


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