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Data security best practices are crucial guidelines and tactics that companies must adopt to safeguard their confidential data against unauthorized access, data breaches, and cyberattacks. In light of the increasing number of high-profile data breaches in recent times, businesses must give top priority to data security best practices.
By adopting a thorough approach to data security best practices and utilizing advanced tools, organizations can effectively defend their sensitive information against unauthorized access, data breaches, and cyberattacks.
In this article, we cover the following data security best practices:
Central to any data security strategy is the complete understanding of all data that the enterprise holds. Cataloging enterprise data involves creating an inventory of data sources, types, locations, and custodians. This process is not a one-time activity, but a continuous one, because data is a dynamic entity that constantly changes and grows over time.
A well-organized data catalog serves as a foundation for implementing security measures. It helps identify what data needs to be protected, where vulnerabilities might exist, and where security resources should be allocated. A good data catalog also includes metadata management, providing context about data such as the source of origin, relationships with other data, and changes over time.
Understanding how, where, when, and by whom data is being used in the organization is another critical aspect of data security. This includes knowing which employees have access to what data, how data is used in business processes, and where data is transmitted. Knowing how data is used helps identify unusual or suspicious behavior that could indicate a security threat.
This also helps in designing user-specific access controls and monitoring protocols.
For instance, a user accessing data they normally wouldn’t, or a significant increase in data transfer, could signal a potential data breach. Tools can provide insights into data usage, helping organizations identify risks and enforce compliance.
Data masking is a method of creating a structurally similar but inauthentic version of an organization’s data. This technique is useful in situations where real data is too sensitive to use, such as in development, testing, or training environments.
Data masking helps protect sensitive information such as personally identifiable information (PII), financial information, or intellectual property, from exposure to unauthorized individuals. It’s important to note that while the masked data is not real, it maintains the integrity of the original data, meaning it behaves in the same way as the original data in terms of data type, length, format, and internal value. This ensures the usefulness of the masked data while significantly reducing the risk of data breach or non-compliance with data protection regulations.
Data encryption is one of the most effective data security methods. It involves transforming data into an unreadable format using an algorithm and a key. The data, once encrypted, can only be decrypted and made readable again by those who have the correct key.
Encryption is critical for protecting sensitive data, especially during transmission over unsecure networks, as it makes the data useless to anyone who intercepts it but doesn’t have the decryption key. Encryption can be applied to data at rest (data stored in databases, files, etc.) or data in transit (data moving through a network).
Advanced encryption standards, such as AES-256, provide a high level of security. It’s important, however, to manage encryption keys securely, as losing them can result in permanent data loss, and letting them fall into the wrong hands can lead to data exposure.
Implementing robust access controls is crucial to safeguarding data. This involves establishing procedures that restrict access to valuable or sensitive data based on user roles, thereby ensuring that only authorized individuals can access the data they need to perform their job duties. Authentication mechanisms, such as passwords, biometric scans, or two-factor authentication (2FA), confirm the identity of the user attempting to access the system.
Authorization protocols then grant permissions to authenticated users to access certain data or resources. The principle of least privilege (PoLP) is a key strategy in access control, which mandates that users should have the minimum levels of access necessary to perform their tasks. Regular audits should be performed to ensure that access controls are functioning as intended, and to identify and rectify any unauthorized access rights.
Data collection and retention policies are critical in maintaining data security and compliance with privacy regulations. These policies define what data is collected, how it’s used, where it’s stored, and how long it’s retained. Limiting data collection to only what is necessary reduces the amount of data that could potentially be compromised.
A solid data retention policy will dictate how long data is stored and when it should be disposed of. Storing data indefinitely increases the risk of a data breach and can make an organization non-compliant with regulations like GDPR, which mandates that personal data should not be retained longer than necessary. These policies should be clearly communicated to all employees, and regular audits should be performed to ensure compliance.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is a technology that ensures sensitive or critical information is not lost, misused, or accessed by unauthorized users. DLP software can detect potential data breaches or data exfiltration transmissions and prevent them by monitoring, detecting, and blocking sensitive data while in use, in motion, and at rest.
For example, DLP can prevent an employee from sending an email containing sensitive information to someone outside the organization, or from uploading a file with sensitive data to a cloud storage service.
DLP is particularly important for complying with privacy regulations, as it can help an organization know where its sensitive data is and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. A robust DLP strategy should be part of a larger data security program that includes technologies, policies, and procedures to protect sensitive information.
Humans are often considered the weakest link in data security, making security awareness training a critical component of any data security plan. Regular training can educate employees about the latest cyber threats, the importance of data security, and the role they play in protecting the organization’s data.
This includes instruction on safe internet practices, spotting phishing attempts, the importance of strong passwords, and the dangers of sharing sensitive information. Training programs should be updated frequently to address emerging threats and should be designed to engage employees in a way that fosters a culture of security within the organization.
Learn more in our detailed guide to data security solutions (coming soon)
Cloudian provides data security through a combination of features and practices designed to protect your data at various levels. Here’s an overview of how Cloudian helps ensure data security:
Encryption: Cloudian supports encryption both in transit and at rest. Data is encrypted while being transferred to and from the Cloudian environment, using protocols like SSL/TLS. Data stored within Cloudian is also encrypted to prevent unauthorized access to the data.
Data Immutability: Cloudian employs object lock to protect your data from deletion or encryption, ensuring your data cannot be altered or deleted until a policy-defined retention period is met. Cloudian HyperStore is also hardened down to the root to make the solution impregnable.
Authentication and Access Control: Cloudian offers robust authentication mechanisms, including username/password authentication and support for multi-factor authentication (MFA). This ensures that only authorized users can access the system. Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) allows you to define fine-grained access permissions for users and groups. This minimizes the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive data.
Audit Logging: Cloudian provides detailed audit logs that capture user activities, access attempts, and other relevant events. These logs help you monitor and track user actions, aiding in detecting any unauthorized or suspicious activities.
Security Compliance: Cloudian can help you meet regulatory compliance requirements by offering features like WORM (Write Once, Read Many) mode, which prevents data from being modified or deleted within a specified retention period and Secure Delete which handles data spills by overwriting all blocks on all nodes that contain the object and then deleting it from the disk.
Network Security: You can deploy Cloudian in a network-isolated environment, such as a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), to restrict access to authorized users and applications. Integration with existing network security tools, like firewalls and intrusion detection systems, further enhances the overall security posture.
Cyber-Security Certifications: Cloudian offers the most complete array of cybersecurity certifications found in object storage, including FIPS 140-2, Common Criteria with EAL2 designation, and is certified to meet the requirements of SEC Rule 17a-4(f), IDW PS 880, NIST 800-88 and more.
Data Classification and Policies: Cloudian allows you to classify data based on its sensitivity and apply data management policies accordingly. This helps automate the enforcement of security controls on different data types.
Backup and Disaster Recovery: Cloudian supports backup and disaster recovery strategies, allowing you to maintain copies of your data offsite. This safeguards your data in case of hardware failures, data corruption, or other catastrophic events.
Data Replication and Redundancy: Cloudian’s data replication and distribution features help ensure data availability and resilience against hardware failures. Replicated data can be stored in different geographic locations for added redundancy.
Secure Management Interfaces: Cloudian provides secure web-based management interfaces that are accessed over HTTPS to ensure the confidentiality of management activities.
Integration with Security Ecosystem: Cloudian can integrate with third-party security tools, such as intrusion detection systems, SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) solutions, and encryption key management systems.