Data Security

Article byRutan Bhattacharyya
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Data Security Meaning

Data security refers to the practice of safeguarding digital data from corruption, theft, or unauthorized access over the course of its entire lifecycle. When companies properly implement robust data protection strategies, they can secure their information assets against any cybercriminal activity, human error, or insider threat.

Data Security

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At its core, this practice involves using technologies and tools to improve the visibility of an organization’s data and how end users are utilizing the information assets. Such tools can safeguard data via different processes, for example, data encryption, sensitive file redaction, and data masking. In addition, this practice helps organizations adhere to increasingly stringent regulations concerning data protection.

Key Takeaways

  • Data security refers to the practice carried out by organizations to safeguard digital data, for example, information in a database, from external and internal threats. This is an essential aspect of business operations. 
  • Data masking, erasure, resiliency, and encryption are the different types of data security organizations utilize to protect their digital data from unauthorized users and destructive forces. 
  • There are different advantages of this practice. For example, it safeguards an organization’s reputation and gives it a competitive edge.
  • Some data security threats are accidental data exposure, ransomware, and phishing attacks.

Data Security Explained

Data security refers to the process that involves safeguarding corporate data and preventing the loss of information assets via unauthorized access. The main objective of this practice is to protect the data companies store, accumulate, transmit, receive, or create. In addition, there are multiple ways in which it helps organizations. For example, it ensures that data remains available to any person within an organization who is authorized to access it. Moreover, the practice streamlines a business’s auditing procedures.

Although organizations are not subject to a compliance or regulation standard, modern businesses’ survival depends on how well they are able to secure their information assets and the data belonging to consumers. The practice does not simply keep the hackers at bay. Instead, it is one of the various techniques to assess threats and minimize the risk associated with data handling and storage.

Securing data is crucial for organizations in the private and public sectors for multiple reasons. Let us discuss two of them.

  • First, companies have a moral and legal obligation to safeguard their customers’ data from different cyber-criminal attacks.
  • Secondly, there’s reputational risk associated with data breaches or hacks. Simply put, if businesses do not take this practice securely, their reputation might get severely impacted if a high-profile data hack or breach is publicized.
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Types

The different types of data security are as follows: 

#1 – Data Erasure 

While the data-wiping process is common, it might not be thorough. Data erasure is an effective solution to combat this issue. It uses software to overwrite the data stored in any type of device altogether and verifies that data recovery is not possible. This concept is similar to destroying a letter after reading it. It eliminates liability and the possibility of a data breach taking place.

#2 – Data Masking 

This technique allows businesses to hide data by replacing or obscuring certain numbers or letters. This type of encryption renders the information assets useless if a hacker intercepts them. Only individuals with the code to replace or decrypt the masked characters can uncover the actual message.

#3 – Data Resiliency 

Companies can minimize the risk of losing data or accidental destruction of data by creating copies or backups of their data. Such backups are crucial to safeguard the data and ensure the information is always available. This is specifically essential in the case of a ransomware attack or a data breach. In addition, it ensures that the company can restore a prior backup.

#4 – Data Encryption

This involves using algorithms to scramble data and conceal the true meaning. Moreover, it ensures that only recipients who have the right decryption key can access the information. This is vital in the case of a data breach, as even if hackers can access the information, they cannot read it if they do not have the decryption key.

Threats And Solutions

Let us look at some data security threats and solutions.

Threats

  • Phishing Attacks: In the case of such an attack, a fraudulent individual or group sends messages generally through email, SMS (short message service), or any other messaging service that seems to come from a trustworthy sender. Such messages have malicious attachments or links, leading the recipients to download malware. Alternatively, they may lead one to visit a fraudulent website that allows the hacker to intercept the recipient’s financial information or login credentials.
  • Accidental Data Exposure: Many data breaches happen when employees negligently or accidentally expose sensitive details. Employees of a company often fail to handle loose information carefully or grant the wrong people access to crucial information if they are unaware of the organization’s security policies.
  • Ransomware: This refers to malware utilized by fraudulent people to control corporate devices and encrypt sensitive data. One can only access the encrypted data using a decryption key owned by the cybercriminal. Usually, the criminals release the key if the organization pays a ransom. However, in many cases, organizations lose their data even after paying the ransom.
  • Cloud Data Storage: Businesses are increasingly transferring their data to the cloud for easier information sharing and collaboration. That said, shifting to the cloud can make it difficult for organizations to control and safeguard their data. As a result, they may accidentally share their crucial data with unauthorized persons.
  • Insider Threats: In this case, compromised or malicious insiders like contractors, employees, or vendors inadvertently or intentionally put a business’s data at risk. The malicious insiders aim to harm the business or steal crucial data for personal gain. On the other hand, compromised insiders do their daily work, not knowing that their account is compromised.

Solutions

  • Email Security: An email security tool allows businesses to identify and prevent security threats that are email-borne. Thus, it is crucial to prevent employees from opening malicious links and attachments and visiting fraudulent websites.
  • Access Control: Access controls allow companies to apply rules regarding who can access systems and data in their digital environment. This is possible via ACLs or access control lists, which filter files, networks, and directories and define which users can access what systems and information.
  • Tokenization: This process substitutes sensitive data for an unreadable or non-sensitive version of the exact information called a token. The tokenization of information or data is entirely undecipherable. Moreover, one cannot reverse the process as there is no connection between a token and the information represented by it.
  • Data Loss Prevention: Also called DLP, data loss prevention allows companies to spot and avert potential data breaches. Moreover, it helps identify unauthorized data sharing outside the business and exfiltration. Besides these, it can help gain enhanced data visibility, avert sensitive data destruction, and adhere to the relevant data regulations.

In addition, these are some other solutions are as follows:

  • Endpoint protection
  • Security audits
  • Employee education, etc.

Examples

Let us look at a few data security examples to understand the concept better.

Example #1

In May 2023, one of the leading organizations in data security, Immuta, announced that it had raised funds from Databricks Ventures, the investment arm of Databricks, an AI (artificial intelligence) and data company. Immuta plans to utilize the funds raised to improve the integration with Databricks Unity Catalog. This will unlock additional value for the former’s customers and enhance data security.

Example #2

Microsoft Corporation is working on a new version of ChatGPT that will address data security and privacy concerns. Per reports, Microsoft has negotiated a deal worth $10 billion with OpenAI to offer a more secure and safer version of the popular chatbot to allow individuals and organizations to reap the benefits of the AI without having concerns regarding their privacy.

Importance

One can go through the following points to understand the importance of this concept.

  • It keeps an organization’s data safe and secure.
  • This practice keeps a business’s reputation clean.
  • It provides an organization with a competitive edge.
  • If businesses take the necessary measures to protect their data early during development, they can save on development and support costs.
  • It helps organizations prevent fines and lawsuits resulting from a data breach.

Data Security vs Data Privacy vs Data Protection

The concepts of data security, privacy, and protection can be confusing for individuals unfamiliar with their meaning and purpose. One must be aware of their key distinct characteristics to understand them fully. So, let us find out how they differ.

Data SecurityData PrivacyData Protection
This involves safeguarding data from unauthorized use, disclosure, and access. Data privacy is the right to control which individuals can see personal details, for example, bank account balance and credit card number.  It deals with data compliance regulations, focusing on how data is shared, deleted, managed, and accumulated. 
Companies must carry out this practice to safeguard data against different cybercriminal activities. It describes the practices that ensure that businesses utilize the data or information shared by the customers for the intended purpose. This concept aims to deploy technologies and methodologies to safeguard data and make it available to the necessary people under all circumstances.  

Data Security vs Information Security vs Cyber security

Data, information, and cybersecurity are essential concepts that individuals must understand to protect their important data or information from threats like ransomware, phishing attacks, and any other type of fraudulent activity.

One may fail to understand their importance and be subject to data theft if they do not know their meaning and purpose. To understand what they are and their importance, individuals must refer to this table that highlights their key differences.

Data SecurityInformation SecurityCyber Security
This is specific to the data in storage. It refers to a broader practice encompassing the end-to-end flow of information. This includes knowledge, processes, transactions, automation, infrastructure, etc.  This predominantly concerns safeguarding networks, computer systems, and other digital assets. 
It primarily deals with protecting digital data.  It helps secure the avenues to access data. The purpose of this practice is to safeguard data in cyberspace. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How data security can be implemented?

Businesses can apply it utilizing an extensive range of methods and technologies, which include physical security, administrative controls, logical controls, physical security, safeguarding techniques, and organizational techniques restricting access to malicious or unauthorized processes or users.

2. How to respond to a data security incident?

In the case of a data breach, one must take the following measures:
– Say calm and investigate thoroughly. 
– Before commencing business again, prepare a response plan. 
– Notify all customers to follow the state’s reporting laws to avoid legal troubles or penalties. 
– Call in forensic and security experts to spot and fix the issue.

3. How to improve data security?

Organizations can take these measures to improve their practice of protecting data:
– Safeguard the data itself instead of just the perimeter. 
– Back up data regularly. 
– Encrypt every device.
– Update programs regularly.
– Spend more time and money on cybersecurity 
– Be attentive to insider threats
– Remove redundant data
– Create strong passwords.

4. Who is responsible for data security?

An organization’s chief information security officer or CISO is responsible for data security. This person formulates strategies and policies to safeguard company data from vulnerabilities and threats.

This article has been a guide to Data Security and its meaning. We compare it with data privacy and protection, its importance, threats, examples, and types. You may also find some useful articles here –

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