Security professionals of today are inundated with headlines about the potential consequences of a data breach.
Making headlines for a data breach can cost you – and more than just reparations or a fine. Data breaches are the worst of bad press and can impact your finances for years to come.
As security professionals work to manage vast amounts of data throughout various physical and virtual locations, it’s no surprise that protecting data is getting more complex. So how can you best safeguard your data?
Step One: Catalog Assets AKA Know What Data You're Storing
The first step in protecting critical data is understanding the full extent of what you're storing. All data is important, but it's especially critical to identify and catalog sensitive information. For example, this may include:
- Transaction and account records.
- Customer lists and contracts.
- Personally identifiable information (e.g., Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, etc.)
- Note: breaches that involve personally identifiable information are typically the most expensive for organizations to mitigate.
- Proprietary corporate details that are, such as financial documents, marketing plans and trade secrets.
- Employee records.
This list, of course, is endless and unique for every business type. Taking inventory of the types of information that you are storing and identifying which are the most sensitive will assist in implementing the best safeguards.
Related Reading: How a Data Security Breach Puts Your Organization at Risk
Step Two: Identify Where Data Is Stored
The percentage of workers operating remotely has skyrocketed in recent years. This trend presents additional complexity for security professionals, especially when you add other trends -- such as BYOD (bring your own device) -- into the equation.
After identifying the types of digital information stored and which are highly sensitive, you must also inventory where that data resides to effectively keep it safe. For example, locations may include:
- Portable drives
- Network drives
- The Cloud
- Mobile devices
After identifying all the locations -- physical and virtual -- security professionals are faced with the important question "OK, now how do we protect this data?"
Step Three: Protecting Data
Protecting data involves safeguarding the exchange of information between all systems, employees, customers, and trading partners. For example, an effective security solution should:
- Encrypt important information at rest and in transit.
- Enforce strong password policies.
- Allow you to limit access.
- Include accountability, showing who has accessed data, when, and from what location and device.
- Have multi-factor authentication.
- Leverage safeguards that ensure you are alerted if important data is leaking or stolen.
- Ensure that regular data backups are in place to safeguard data in case of an unexpected event.
Security threats won't be slowing down anytime soon, but advanced security solutions allow organizations to more effectively safeguard business data. As a result, organizations are able to mitigate business risk, reduce liability and provide customers with greater confidence.