In its most basic and simplest form, data security means the protection of your digital assets from unauthorized access and data corruption.
When it comes to digital assets. Various factors come into play. In the case of:
- companies: we’re looking at corporate data such as financial information, employee records, customer information, research and developments (R&D), marketing strategies, etc…
- government bodies: be it federal, provincial/state or local, we are looking at things such as national defense plans, social security numbers, tax reports, population statistics, etc…
- Financial institutions: we’re looking at everything related to big money, credit reports, credit card information and more.
Digital assets can take many forms and are not just limited to the above mentioned. All are important and must be protected at all times.
Basic data protection
Nowadays, computers are an integral part of our daily lives. Virtually everyone has a smartphone and/or some form of a computer (tablet, laptop or desktop) or both at home and, in the case of businesses and institutions, even more so.
Regardless of whether you’re an individual, a company, government body or something else, the information you have on those devices needs to be protected.
The first steps to take in protecting yours data, not to mention the easiest to implement and often times the least expensive, are having:
- An antivirus and internet security software in place.
- A good on-site backup solution in place.
Antiviruses with internet security protects you against malicious code that can infect your computer resulting in corrupt data or worse, open a backdoor allowing intruders to access your system and its data. The internet security built-into it provides basic security for devices on your network and blocks intrusion attempts.
Backup solutions protect your information against both data corruption and hard drive failures. They allow you to save your data on external medias such as tape cartridges and, by having it on-site, enable you to retrieve that data quickly and easily at any given time.
This being said, it doesn’t stop there. Especially when looking at large network infrastructures with petabytes of data! Data which more often than not, is of a confidential nature, and must be protected from unauthorized access.
Business data protection
Businesses and industries have massive amounts of data they need to keep confidential and protected against unauthorized access. Not to mention that as outline in our article the “The importance of data storage”, that information is growing at an exponential rate which makes protecting it a priority and, at times, a challenge as well.
Depending on the size of the organisation, some businesses have a dedicated team of IT security experts whose sole purpose is to manage the data and insure it is secure.
Why protecting and securing information is important?
Bottom line, in the wrong hands, data can be misused and cause serious harm.
Data breaches are nothing new. They’ve been occurring ever since the first computers where built. This being said, it seems that they’ve been occurring more and more these days. Although most businesses and organizations keep quiet about data breaches they’ve suffered, often times, when you turn on the news, you hear about another breach that occurred somewhere.
It’s a problem and it’s a problem that must be mitigated as much as possible.
Loss of confidence
Loss of data
Should your customers and / or your suppliers learn that your systems have been breached, your company’s reputation will be negatively impacted.
|A damaged reputation may result in customers and / or suppliers loosing confidence in your company. Some may even choose to walk away from you.||All depending on how and what happened, a loss of data affects your reputation, customers’ and suppliers’ confidence as well as, employee productivity.||Bottom line, a damaged reputations, a loss confidence, a loss of data and finally, lost productivity absolutely results in lost revenues. Something no business wants!|
Infrastructures and security policies:
Unless you have a computer that’s completely isolated, cut off from the outside world and accessible to no one, total data security is a myth!
This being said, by combining both software and hardware platforms, as well as having strong data security policies in place, there are ways to reduce security risks down to an acceptable levels.
Below are some very basic and simple as ell as, depending on what exactly your business requires, cost effective security measures, that can be quickly and easily implemented. Some can be implemented by using off-the-shelf inexpensive security software, whereas others require more sophisticated, and more expensive, applications and / or hardware appliances.
- Strong password policies: Strong password combining both letters and numbers that are easy for the user to remember but hard for others to guess provides some level of security. Two-factor authentication such as RSA Security’s hard token two-factor authentication solution are even better.
- Strong firewalls/VPNs and intrusion detection systems (IDS): Firewalls/VPNs protect your data from unauthorized access both from within and the outside world whereas intrusion detection systems are just that. Systems that detect and warn that unauthorized access attempts have occurred. These can be implemented through software, specialized hardware appliances or a combination of both.
- Antivirus protection: Protects your data against malicious code. These must be installed on all your devices (PCs, laptops, tablets, mobile phone and servers).
- Data encryption: This is especially important for mobile devices as these can be stolen. Most manufacturers of mobile devices provide a built-in solution to encrypt data stored on their products.
- Regular local backups: As previously mentioned, a good backup solution protects you against lost data and having it locally enables you to retrieve it quickly at all times. As part of a good backup policy, full backups should occur at least once a month and those should be kept in a secure off-site location.
- Data monitoring software: Know where your data is at all times, where it is stored on your internal resources, where it’s going on your network as well as when it’s being sent to the outside world (ex: via email) and by whom. There are a number of good data security management software available and these can be configured to monitor your data for specific information data sets leaking out.
- Safely surf the web: Common sense prevails here. Do not enter any personal information, banking and/or credit card information on sites that are unsecured. When receiving emails from an unknown source, do not click any links or open attachments as these may send you to sites that can put malicious code on your systems or worse
Data security is a never ending task. It’s time consuming and in the case of large entities, can be costly but, it’s something that must be done AND, in order to stay ahead of hackers, it must be done on a continual basis
Make sure that all your security tools and hardware devices are up to date and have the latest software/firmware revisions installed on them. In other words, buy the license update support contract. If your security software licenses are not up to date, they are useless and you become vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data breaches.
If you follow those simple rules, the chances of suffering a data breach will be greatly reduced.
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