9 Data Security Measures That Fortify Your Business 

Vishal V

Vishal V

Jan 25, 2024

9 Data Security Measures That Fortify Your Business 

Data is a coveted currency. It forms the basis of every operation, often dictating how businesses grow and the kind of customers they serve. The more sophisticated the operation, the more granular and intricate the structures that govern them are. And so safeguarding and managing them at every turn can be a complex function. One that can be exploited, manipulated, and bypassed by malicious actors.

Over the years, the number of data security incidents has increased multifold. A recent study suggests that in 2020 alone, companies across the US experienced data breaches that cost them an estimated average of $3.8 million. Such incidents undoubtedly cause immense harm—the type of harm that can cause businesses irreparable reputational damage.

This figure could be because of a multitude of reasons—rapid cloud adoption, the emergence of a scattered workforce, dispersed endpoints, and human error among many others. But no matter the cause, organizations have recognized that having the right data security measures not only protects critical systems but can help them maintain a high level of security.

In this blog, we explore 9 definitive security policies and measures your organization must implement to secure your data over the cloud and improve your security posture.

What are data security measures?

Data security measures are policies and procedures put in place to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to assets, preserve the integrity of data, maintain uniform policies and minimize the impact of security incidents. Additionally, such measures are not just outward-facing, they even help organizations stay firm against insider threats and safeguard intellectual property.   

Data security rules differ from company to company—they are designed based on their unique security and compliance objectives. Building an effective folio of policies also hinges on the size of the organization, the industry it operates in, and the risk appetite.  

Why are data security measures important?

A strong security and compliance posture is seldom built in isolation. It’s laid on a bedrock of strong data security measures and policies. But what role do they fulfill exactly? Why do companies find them invaluable?

Why are data security measures important?

Enforcing data privacy

Organizations deal with a large volume of customer data, a lot of which is sensitive. Protecting such data is not just a requirement but a matter of mandate under multiple compliance and regulatory standards. Data security standards are guardrails that ensure information at multiple levels such as Electronic Personal Health Information (ePHI), card-holder data, and financial records are protected from unauthorized access and only made available to privileged users while also ensuring data subjects are afforded certain access rights.

Better lifecycle management

Picking up from the previous point, data exists within systems at various stages. ‘Generation’ refers to the state of data at the point of origin, ‘At rest’, indicates storage online or offline, ‘Transmission’ or in transit between systems or devices, ‘Process’ i.e, data which is being actively accessed, consumed, transformed, or used as a part of a business process, and ‘Purged’ or destroyed once the data subject revoked access or when data is no longer relevant. At every one of these stages, establishing data security measures ensures the highest level of protection.

Adhering to regulatory requirements

Regulatory standards like GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS have certain data security requirements as a part of their framework. Not having these in place are non-starter for companies operating under those geographies (for GDPR) and industries (for HIPAA and PCI DSS). Having the right set of data security measures enables the organization to obtain adherence to the security requirements and lets customers assume a stance of trust. And with that, drive business and open up new growth opportunities.    

The Sprinto advantage: A tool like Sprinto can prove invaluable in your effort to get compliant. Not only does it help you align your controls with regulatory requirements quickly, but helps you automate compliance checks and evidence collection. The platform also helps you identify and fix controls that are about to fail in real-time. 

Sprinto supports 15+ compliance frameworks and comes with comprehensive out-of-box policy templates that make quick work of developing and deploying customized policies. 

Let’s show you how it’s done.

Side-stepping security incidents

Data breaches aren’t just costly. They come with a host of repercussions—legal, financial, and reputational, among others. And so, one of the most important benefits of data security measures is that it helps prevent such incidents. A strong set of security rules helps you implement best practices and rollout policies that keep the business ahead of the evolving threat landscape. Organizations are also realizing the importance of aligning with the latest security and compliance frameworks, voluntary and otherwise to maintain a dependable standard of security across corporate networks and personal devices. Frameworks like HITRUST, ISO 27001, PCI DSS, SOC 2, and HIPAA are extensive in the demands they make of companies to gain compliance.

Lesser business disruption

In some cases, there’s very little security teams can do to avoid security breaches especially since human error is a leading cause. But irrespective of the root cause behind them, organizations strive to ensure their customers don’t feel the full brunt. Business disruption can be extremely costly—it can cause irreparable damage to brand reputation, not to mention costing potentially millions of dollars based on the extent of damage. Data security measures ensure that the business can function properly even when data is damaged or lost.

Protection against insider threats

Threats are not always external. Employees can just as much be a cause of data breaches or security incidents, when negligent, such as incidents of phishing attacks as well as for malicious reasons, such as in cases of disgruntled employees targeting data theft. Data security measures help organizations prevent such incidents from happening through standard onboarding and offboarding procedures and policies. 

Fortify your internal controls with Sprinto

9 Data security measures your business needs 

There are a few data security measures that stand a step above the rest. Not because they’re more important but because of the position they hold within security and compliance. These security practices don’t just form the vitals of a security management process but also help continually assess and evolve with the threat landscape. 

9 Data security measures your business needs 

With that in mind, here are 9 security measures you need to implement for a bullet-proof security posture

1. Password protocol

The most predominant risk associated with stolen/compromised passwords is identity theft. And so, the first measure to highlight here is keeping password hygiene. Relatively, it is a straightforward measure to put into practice. 

While users may find it difficult to keep track of them, passwords are not going to be replaced any time soon. So while they’re still around, the rules are simple. The more complex and strong passwords are, the harder they are to crack. They should contain as many characters, numbers, and special symbols as possible, and yet be easy to remember. Ideally, it is also recommended to use different passwords for every website or account you use. 

Unfortunately, password hygiene does not end there. According to a recent survey, over 41% of employees admitted to sharing passwords. Not only is this detrimental to security but can have other devastating impacts (see above). So it’s vital to ensure passwords are not shared.   

2. Access control 

Access control is a cornerstone of security. Whenever setting up an account, system, or database, it’s important to ensure that they’re accessed exclusively by those afforded the privilege. This is also a prime instance where the principle of least privilege applies—users are only granted the minimum permission needed to complete the task or job.   

Implementing Access Control Lists (ACLs) helps moderate who gains access to what resource. It defines roles within the system that are assigned to users which are used as rules to deny or grant access. Utilizing an ACL not only helps you secure crucial data but also helps limit the volume of network traffic to vital files, data, and systems. 

Another best practice is to ensure privileged user accounts are monitored closely. As a part of off-boarding, it’s important to revoke access to the cloud environment to prevent potential insider threats and data from getting into the wrong hands.

3. Multi-Factor Authentication

For the uninitiated, Multi-Factor Authentication, MFA for short, is an authentication mechanism that only grants access to users who can confirm identity on two or more instances. Some see it as a failsafe for the password mechanism—in a way that ensures layered defence against unauthorized parties.  

Multi-Factor authentication is a central component of the Identity and Access Management (IAM) strategy. It also stands as a mandate with security regulations like HIPAA and comes with many advantages that make this a must-have. Not only is it easy to set up but is highly adaptable at a granular level, and reduces data breaches multi-fold when deployed over passwords. 

But despite all these advantages, a recent study determined that only 58% of organizations use MFA with 32% making it optional for their employees, stats that are predicted to be on the rise. 

4. End-point protection

End-point protection is the process of safeguarding workstations, laptops, desktops, mobiles, and all other devices that have access to the work network from unauthorized access and malicious cyberattacks. In the present realm of things, end-points are particularly vulnerable with regard to data access and cybersecurity. This is especially true given that the last three years have seen the emergence of remote work and scattered workforces. 

Unauthorized network access stems from unattended, unsecured end-points. This is why modern companies consider securing end-points a top priority and brass tacks. Apart from ensuring a higher standard of data protection, it also significantly reduces the threat surface for the organization. Employing an effective end-point security system helps security teams identify threats and malware early and affords them greater transparency into recovery and remediation.

Secure every point of vulnerability with Sprinto

5. Application security

Web applications, much like endpoints, come with a specific set of security vulnerabilities and issues. These can range from broken access, misconfigurations, authentication errors, cryptographic failures, etc., and may require anything from a simple patch to a full deep-dive solution. These vulnerabilities can leave applications particularly susceptible to threats such as SQL injection attacks, which allow malicious actors to access a variety of information that the application fetches that they are not usually privy to.

Application security is a data security measure that consistently tests, reports, and develops security features within an application to identify threats and vulnerabilities against threats. Application security tools secure apps at a code level and many of the testing and simulation exercises involve understanding how they respond to non-typical input that malicious actors may use. This way, security teams are equipped to respond to them adequately. 

6. Security patch management

System patches and updates are vital tools for enterprise security. Patch management is the process of identifying, testing, and installing patches on software and firmware in order to correct errors, resolve bugs, or patch vulnerabilities. In the case of data security, patches can significantly reduce the attack surface of the organization. 

Patch management also helps ensure applications and systems are kept up-to-date and are running smoothly. Security patches also ensure organizations have access to greater security features and allow for greater adherence to compliance requirements. 

7. Data detection and classification

As companies mature, the type of data they handle becomes more diverse. And as this happens, companies lose track of where their assets are and what they need to do to protect them. This can be particularly detrimental with certain classes of sensitive information like Protected Health Information and Payment Card Information. And this is where data classification comes in. 

While data detection helps discover what data is present and where it is located, data classification is the process of categorizing said data based on sensitivity, value, and level of access. There are a number of models used for data classification, some of them being content-based classification (based on review of files or content), context-based classification (based on met-data entries such as creator or location), and user logic-based classification (based on user discretion). Data detection and classification help organizations maintain control over data access while allowing them to understand risk and better focus their data security efforts.

8. Cloud data loss prevention 

Data Loss Prevention, DLP for short, is a blanket term for all the measures that help organizations safeguard against and prevent the leakage of sensitive information across infrastructure. With companies adopting cloud software en-masse, DLP has become an important aspect of risk reduction and management strategy by allowing companies to regularly monitor the flow of data to ensure no sensitive data leaves the organization’s network, accidentally or otherwise.

In essence, cloud data loss prevention solutions analyze traffic to cloud applications and identify any potential leak of sensitive information with the help of custom data types. When leaks are detected, the solution automatically does one of two things:

1. blocks traffic entirely or 2. blocks the transfer of sensitive data. This ensures a higher level of data security while enabling better transparency and preventing the use of shadow IT. 

9. Disaster recovery

Disasters, irrespective of whether they are natural or otherwise, are unavoidable. When systems and data are made inaccessible due to events like natural disasters, cyberattacks, or a failure of equipment, businesses need to be able to minimize disruption. A disaster recovery plan typically involves assembling a team of security personnel who execute their roles when security events occur. The plan itself entails risk and impact assessment and elucidates the steps involved in restoring normalcy and ensuring business continuity by accessing data backups and implementing recovery mechanisms. 

Disaster recovery also involves continually testing data security systems and strategies to ensure the organization is ahead of the threat curve and is always prepared to manage any such incidents.

Stay ahead with Sprinto

Building a resilient, security-aware company culture is imperative in today’s age of cybersecurity. The fabric of data security extends to every piece of hardware and software deployed across the organization. A single lapse in security can have devastating impacts. And so, companies go to many lengths to ensure that their customer’s data is safe and accessible at all times. 

Data security is an essential element of compliance. With the manner of cyber threats constantly changing, organizations have turned to compliance to help them adopt a standardized, forward-thinking approach to data protection and management. A compliance automation platform like Sprinto greatly simplifies compliance by automating repetitive compliance checks and tasks, mapping organizational controls with framework requirements, and alerting security teams when controls fail. In short, it reduces the time you need to get audit-ready and helps you achieve compliance certification 100% of the time. 

See Sprinto in action.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some data security best practices I must follow?

There are several vital data security best practices that can help you safeguard organizational data. Here are some practices your organization can follow:

  • Maintain a strong password policy
  • Make multi-factor authentication mandatory
  • Ensure data is backed up regularly
  • Closely monitor privileged accounts
  • Ensure software and applications are up to date

How can I equip my team with the latest data security best practices?

Employees are the first line of defence with respect to data security. They are often entrusted as the guardians of data and need to be equipped to handle a variety of sensitive data as well as a diverse set of procedures. In order to do this, organizations need to organize mandatory data security training and ensure employees are kept up-to-date with the latest data handling and cybersecurity policies.

What are some practices I can follow to safely handle customer data?

Companies often collect, process, and store sensitive customer data as a part of business requirements. This makes it important to ensure it is handled safely. Here are some practices you can follow:

  • Minimize the amount of data you collect 
  • Restrict access to data through role-based access control
  • Follow the principle of least privilege
  • Encrypt sensitive data
  • Purge data that you no longer need
FAQ
Vishal V

Vishal V

Vishal, Sprinto’s Content Lead, masterfully weaves nuanced narratives and simplifies convoluted compliance topics with seasoned expertise. His perennial curiosity fuels his pursuit of fresh angles in every piece. Off-work, he’s an avid photographer, birder and a music buff, he blends expertise and exploration seamlessly in work and life.

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