Data Protection and Privacy: 12 Ways to Protect User Data

The terms data protection and data privacy are often used interchangeably, but there is an important difference between the two. Data privacy defines who has access to data, while data protection provides tools and policies to actually restrict access to the data. Compliance regulations help ensure that user’s privacy requests are carried out by companies, and companies are responsible to take measures to protect private user data.

Data protection and privacy is typically applied to personal health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII). It plays a vital role in business operations, development, and finances. By protecting data, companies can prevent data breaches, damage to reputation, and can better meet regulatory requirements.

Data protection solutions rely on technologies such as data loss prevention (DLP), storage with built-in data protection, firewalls, encryption, and endpoint protection.

 

In this article:

 

What Is Data Protection and Why Is It Important?

Data protection is a set of strategies and processes you can use to secure the privacy, availability, and integrity of your data. It is sometimes also called data security.

A data protection strategy is vital for any organization that collects, handles, or stores sensitive data. A successful strategy can help prevent data loss, theft, or corruption and can help minimize damage caused in the event of a breach or disaster.

 What Are Data Protection Principles?

Data protection principles help protect data and make it available under any circumstances. It covers operational data backup and business continuity/disaster recovery (BCDR) and involves implementing aspects of data management and data availability.

Here are key data management aspects relevant to data protection:

  • Data availability—ensuring users can access and use the data required to perform business even when this data is lost or damaged.
  • Data lifecycle management—involves automating the transmission of critical data to offline and online storage.
  • Information lifecycle management—involves the valuation, cataloging, and protection of information assets from various sources, including facility outages and disruptions, application and user errors, machine failure, and malware and virus attacks.

Related content: Read our guide to data protection principles

What Is Data Privacy and Why Is it Important?

Data privacy is a guideline for how data should be collected or handled, based on its sensitivity and importance. Data privacy is typically applied to personal health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII). This includes financial information, medical records, social security or ID numbers, names, birthdates, and contact information.

Data privacy concerns apply to all sensitive information that organizations handle, including that of customers, shareholders, and employees. Often, this information plays a vital role in business operations, development, and finances.

Data privacy helps ensure that sensitive data is only accessible to approved parties. It prevents criminals from being able to maliciously use data and helps ensure that organizations meet regulatory requirements.

What Are Data Protection Regulations?

Data protection regulations govern how certain data types are collected, transmitted, and used. Personal data includes various types of information, including names, photos, email addresses, bank account details, IP addresses of personal computers, and biometric data.

Data protection and privacy regulations vary between countries, states, and industries. For example, China has created a data privacy law that went into effect on June 1, 2017, and the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect during 2018. Non-compliance may result in reputation damages and monetary fines, depending on the violation as instructed by each law and governing entity.

Compliance with one set of regulations does not guarantee compliance with all laws. Additionally, each law contains numerous clauses that may apply to one case but not another, and all regulations are subject to changes. This level of complexity makes it difficult to implement compliance consistently and appropriately.

Learn more in our detailed guides to:

Data Protection vs Data Privacy

Although both data protection and privacy are important and the two often come together, these terms do not represent the same thing.

One addresses policies, the other mechanisms

Data privacy is focused on defining who has access to data while data protection focuses on applying those restrictions. Data privacy defines the policies that data protection tools and processes employ.

Creating data privacy guidelines does not ensure that unauthorized users don’t have access. Likewise, you can restrict access with data protections while still leaving sensitive data vulnerable. Both are needed to ensure that data remains secure.

Users control privacy, companies ensure protection

Another important distinction between privacy and protection is who is typically in control. For privacy, users can often control how much of their data is shared and with whom. For protection, it is up to the companies handling data to ensure that it remains private. Compliance regulations reflect this difference and are created to help ensure that users’ privacy requests are enacted by companies.

Learn more in our detailed guides to:

12 Data Protection Technologies and Practices to Protect Your Data

When it comes to protecting your data, there are many storage and management options you can choose from. Solutions can help you restrict access, monitor activity, and respond to threats. Here are some of the most commonly used practices and technologies:

  1. Data discovery—a first step in data protection, this involves discovering which data sets exist in the organization, which of them are business critical and which contains sensitive data that might be subject to compliance regulations.
  2. Data loss prevention (DLP)—a set of strategies and tools that you can use to prevent data from being stolen, lost, or accidentally deleted. Data loss prevention solutions often include several tools to protect against and recover from data loss.
  3. Storage with built-in data protection—modern storage equipment provides built-in disk clustering and redundancy. For example, Cloudian’s Hyperstore provides up to 14 nines of durability, low cost enabling storage of large volumes of data, and fast access for minimal RTO/RPO. Learn more in our guide to secure data storage.
  4. Backup—creates copies of data and stores them separately, making it possible to restore the data later in case of loss or modification. Backups are a critical strategy for ensuring business continuity when original data is lost, destroyed, or damaged, either accidentally or maliciously. Learn more in our guide to data availability.
  5. Snapshots—a snapshot is similar to a backup, but it is a complete image of a protected system, including data and system files. A snapshot can be used to restore an entire system to a specific point in time.
  6. Replication—a technique for copying data on an ongoing basis from a protected system to another location. This provides a living, up-to-date copy of the data, allowing not only recovery but also immediate failover to the copy if the primary system goes down.
  7. Firewalls—utilities that enable you to monitor and filter network traffic. You can use firewalls to ensure that only authorized users are allowed to access or transfer data.
  8. Authentication and authorization—controls that help you verify credentials and assure that user privileges are applied correctly. These measures are typically used as part of an identity and access management (IAM) solution and in combination with role-based access controls (RBAC).
  9. Encryption—alters data content according to an algorithm that can only be reversed with the right encryption key. Encryption protects your data from unauthorized access even if data is stolen by making it unreadable. Learn more in guide to data encryption.
  10. Endpoint protection—protects gateways to your network, including ports, routers, and connected devices. Endpoint protection software typically enables you to monitor your network perimeter and to filter traffic as needed.
  11. Data erasure—limits liability by deleting data that is no longer needed. This can be done after data is processed and analyzed or periodically when data is no longer relevant. Erasing unnecessary data is a requirement of many compliance regulations, such as GDPR. For more information about GDPR, check out our guide: GDPR Data Protection.
  12. Disaster recovery—a set of practices and technologies that determine how an organization deals with a disaster, such as a cyber attack, natural disaster, or large-scale equipment failure. The disaster recovery process typically involves setting up a remote disaster recovery site with copies of protected systems, and switching operations to those systems in case of disaster.

 

Related content: Read our guide to continuous data protection

Critical Best Practices for Ensuring Data Privacy

Creating policies for data privacy can be challenging but it’s not impossible. The following best practices can help you ensure that the policies you create are as effective as possible.

Inventory Your Data

Part of ensuring data privacy is understanding what data you have, how it is handled, and where it is stored. Your policies should define how this information is collected and acted upon. For example, you need to define how frequently data is scanned for and how it is classified once located.

Your privacy policies should clearly outline what protections are needed for your various data privacy levels. Policies should also include processes for auditing protections to ensure that solutions are applied correctly.

Related content: Read our guide to data protection impact assessment

Minimize Data Collection

Ensure that your policies dictate that only necessary data is collected. If you collect more than what you need, you increase your liability and can create an undue burden on your security teams. Minimizing your data collection can also help you save on bandwidth and storage.

One way of achieving this is to use “verify not store” frameworks. These systems use third-party data to verify users and eliminate the need to store or transfer user data to your systems.

Be Open with Your Users

Many users are aware of privacy concerns and are likely to appreciate transparency when it comes to how you’re using and storing data. Reflecting this, GDPR has made user consent a key aspect of data use and collection.

You can be sure to include users and their consent in your processes by designing privacy concerns into your interfaces. For example, having clear user notifications outlining when data is collected and why. You should also include options for users to modify or opt-out of data collection.

Here are some important trends driving the evolution of data protection.

Data Portability and Data Sovereignty

Data portability is an important requirement for many modern IT organizations. It means the ability to move data between different environments and software applications. Very often, data portability means the ability to move data between on-premises data centers and the public cloud, and between different cloud providers.

Data portability also has legal implications—when data is stored in different countries, it is subject to different laws and regulations. This is known as data sovereignty.

 

Related content: Read our guide to Data sovereignty

 

Traditionally, data was not portable and it required huge efforts to migrate large datasets to another environment. Cloud data migration was also extremely difficult, in the early days of cloud computing. New technical methods are developing to make migration easier, and thus make data more portable.

A related issue is portability of data within clouds. Cloud service providers tend to have proprietary data formats, templates, and storage engines. This makes it difficult to move data from one cloud to another, and creates vendor lock in. Increasingly, organizations are looking for standardized ways of storing and managing data, to make it portable across clouds.

Learn more in our detailed guides about:

Mobile Data Protection

Mobile device protection refers to measures designed to protect sensitive information stored on laptops, smartphones, tablets, wearables and other portable devices. A fundamental aspect of mobile device security is preventing unauthorized users from accessing your corporate network. In the modern IT environment, this is a critical aspect of network security.

There are many mobile data security tools, designed to protect mobile devices and data by identifying threats, creating backups, and preventing threats on the endpoint from reaching the corporate network. IT staff use mobile data security software to enable secure mobile access to networks and systems.

Common capabilities of mobile data security solutions include:

  • Enforcing communication via secure channels
  • Performing strong identity verification to ensure devices are not compromised
  • Limiting the use of third-party software and browsing to unsafe websites
  • Encrypting data on the device to protect against device compromise and theft
  • Perform regular audits of endpoints to discover threats and security issues
  • Monitoring for threats on the device
  • Setting up secure gateways that can allow remote devices to connect securely to the network

Ransomware

Ransomware is a rising cybersecurity threat, which is a top security priority for almost all organizations. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts user data and demands a ransom in order to release it. New types of ransomware send the data to attackers before encrypting it, allowing the attackers to extort the organization, threatening to make its sensitive information public.

Backups are an effective defense against ransomware—if an organization has a recent copy of its data, it can restore it and regain access to the data. However, ransomware can spread across a network over a long period of time, without encrypting files yet. At this stage ransomware can infect any connected system, including backups. When ransomware spreads to backups, it is “game over” for data protection strategies, because it becomes impossible to restore the encrypted data.

There are multiple strategies for preventing ransomware and in particular, preventing it from spreading to backups:

  • The simplest strategy is to use the old 3-2-1 backup rule, keeping three copies of the data on two storage media, one of which is off premises.
  • Security vendors have advanced technologies that can detect ransomware at its early stages, or in the worst case, block encryption processes as they begin.
  • Storage vendors are offering immutable storage, which ensures that data cannot be modified after it is stored. Learn how Cloudian secure storage can help protect your backups from ransomware.

 

Related content: Read our guide to ransomware data recovery

Copy Data Management (CDM)

Large organizations have multiple datasets stored in different locations, and many of them may duplicate data between them.

Duplicate data creates multiple problems—it increases storage costs, creates inconsistencies and operational issues, and can also result in security and compliance challenges. Typically, not all copies of the data will be secured in the same way. It is no use securing a dataset and ensuring it is compliant, when the data is duplicated in another unknown location.

CDM is a type of solution that detects duplicate data and helps manage it, comparing similar data and allowing administrators to delete unused copies.

Disaster Recovery as a Service

Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is a managed service that gives an organization a cloud-based remote disaster recovery site.

Traditionally, setting up a secondary data center was extremely complex and involved massive costs, and was only relevant for large enterprises. With DRaaS, any size organization can replicate its local systems to the cloud, and easily restore operations in case of a disaster.

DRaaS services leverage public cloud infrastructure, making it possible to store multiple copies of infrastructure and data across multiple geographical locations, to increase resiliency.

Data Protection and Privacy with Cloudian HyperStore

Data protection requires powerful storage technology. Cloudian’s storage appliances are easy to deploy and use, let you store Petabyte-scale data and access it instantly. Cloudian supports high-speed backup and restore with parallel data transfer (18TB per hour writes with 16 nodes).

Cloudian provides durability and availability for your data. HyperStore can backup and archive your data, providing you with highly available versions to restore in times of need.

In HyperStore, storage occurs behind the firewall, you can configure geo boundaries for data access, and define policies for data sync between user devices. HyperStore gives you the power of cloud-based file sharing in an on-premise device, and the control to protect your data in any cloud environment.

Learn more about data protection with Cloudian.

Learn More About Data Protection and Privacy

Data protection and privacy is a broad topic. A successful data protection procedure can prevent data loss, or corruption and reduce damage caused in the event of a breach. Data privacy methods ensure that sensitive data is accessible only to approved parties.

There’s a lot more to learn about data protection and privacy. To continue your research, take a look at the rest of our blogs on this topic:

Keeping Up with Data Protection Regulations

The widespread usage of personal and sensitive data, has raised the significance of protecting this data from loss, and corruption. Global authorities have stepped in with regulatory compliance like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The GDPR emphasizes the personal data rights of EU residents, including the right to change, access, erase, or transfer their data. Personal data refers to any information that relates to an individual. This includes names, physical traits, addresses, racial or ethnic characteristics, and biometric data like DNA and fingerprints.

You can learn more about data protection regulations in our article:

Keeping Up with Data Protection Regulations

 

Data Availability: Ensuring the Continued Functioning of Business Operations

Businesses rely on data to deliver services and products to their customers. To keep their data available at all times, companies need to keep the IT infrastructure active even in the case of a disaster. This state of guaranteed access to data is known as data availability.

This article reviews the basics of data availability and its challenges, and offers techniques to maintain a high level of data availability.

Read more: Data Availability: Ensuring the Continued Functioning of Business Operations

 

How You Can Maintain Secure Data Storage

Organizations usually store sensitive data on their computers, servers, and on the cloud. Without a proper data security policy, sensitive information can fall into the hands of attackers, enabling them to gain access to your network, and expose the personal information of customers and employees.

This article introduces the concept of data security and the different tools and methods you can use to protect your data and prevent a disaster.

Read more: How You Can Maintain Secure Data Storage

 

Data Encryption: An Introduction

Data encryption is a process of converting data into encoded information, called ciphertext. The encoded information can only be decoded with a unique decryption key. You can generate the key either at the time of encryption or beforehand.

Encryption ensures the integrity of data by protecting it from unauthorized modification. Encryption reduces the risk of accessing data from untrustworthy sources by verifying data’s source.

Read more: Data Encryption: An Introduction


Continuous Data Protection

Continuous Data Protection is a method for backing up data every time a change is made. A  continuous data protection system maintains a record of all data changes and enables you to restore a system to any previous point in time.

This type of backup solves the problem of losing data created between two scheduled backups. It also provides protection against attacks like ransomware or malware, as well as accidental deletion of data.

Read more: Continuous Data Protection


GDPR Data Protection

The GDPR is a legal standard that protects the personal data of European Union citizens. Any company that processes and stores personal data of EU citizens, even if it is not physically located in the EU, must apply to the GDPR rules.

There are two main roles in the GDPR: the GDPR Data Processor is an entity that holds or processes this type of data on behalf of another organization, and a GDPR Data Controller that collects or processes personal data for its own purposes.

Read more: GDPR Data Protection


S3 Object Lock — Protecting Data for Ransomware Threats and Compliance

Amazon S3 Object Lock stores objects using a write-once-read-many (WORM) model. Object Lock prevents object version deletion during a user-defined retention period. Immutable S3 objects are protected using object, or bucket-level configuration of WORM and retention attributes.

This functionality provides both data protection, including extra protection against accidental or malicious deletion as well as ransomware and regulatory compliance.

Read more: S3 Object Lock — Protecting Data for Ransomware Threats and Compliance


Office 365 Data Protection. It is Essential.

The cloud-based subscription of Office 365 enables employees to work anywhere, anytime without the need to host their own content and emails. However, these files are not always protected from failure, disaster, or attack. Organizations can achieve this by backing up data in secure and reliable storage, on-prem or in the cloud.

Read more: Office 365 Data Protection. It is Essential

See Our Additional Guides on Key Data Protection Topics:

We have authored in-depth guides on several other data protection topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of data backup. Also refer to the complete guide to data breaches.

Data Backup Guide

Data backup is critical to ensure organizations can recover from various types of data losses. Learn how to successfully implement data backup techniques.

See top articles in our data backup guide:

Ransomware Data Recovery

Ransomware attacks prevent access to critical databases, systems, and networks. Learn how ransomware attacks work, and key ransomware data recovery techniques to recover your data.

See top articles in our ransomware data recovery guide:

 

Health Data Management Guide

Health Data Management (HDM), also known as Health Information Management (HIM) is the systematic organization of health data in digital form. Learn what is health data management, the types of data it encompasses, unique challenges and considerations for storing Petabytes of health data.

See top articles in our health data management guide: