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Data Security: How To Protect Your Most Sensitive Asset It is indisputable that data is one of the most valuable assets in the business world. In light of this, it should be no surprise that it is being exploited and capitalized upon. So, let's explore the most effective methods for protecting and safeguarding business data within an organization.

By Apu Pavithran

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In this Zettabyte era, data is one of the most valuable assets in the realm of business. With digital transformation making strides and using digital technologies to improve services, products and processes, the amount of data generated through these day-to-day transactions is massive.

Designated as big data, these mountains of information encompass everything from customer data to business transactions and procedures. In addition to powering digital transformation, data plays a vital role in forecasting headwinds, market dynamics, performance and so on, helping businesses make strategic decisions. With data forming a crucial business component, it is unsurprising that it is being exploited and capitalized on.

Last year, the global average data breach cost reached a whopping $4.35 million. Going by the frequent appearance of headlines regarding cyber-attacks, these numbers are only seeing an increase. However, the price of a data breach is far beyond the economic brunt. The long-term effects of a data privacy breach on a brand's reputation cannot be fixed with a reactive approach or a PR strategy. Remember that the harm to your reputation brought on by negligent data management and quick band-aid fixes could take years to remediate.

In such a data-driven business landscape, privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA exist as guidelines to govern data's secure transfer, storage and disclosure practices. However, businesses require strategies to enforce said laws. With this in mind, let's examine the most effective techniques for protecting and safeguarding business data within a company.

Related: 3 Enterprise Security Trends to Watch Out For in 2023

Knowing what to protect

The age-old adage, "knowing is half the battle," rings ever so true in data security. The first premise of any strategy devised to protect data must identify the level of protection each bit of data needs. Especially when the rise of the remote workforce and the popularity of the bring your own device (BYOD) culture forces corporate data to travel outside the confines of the business perimeter.

All data is critical, but cataloging and safeguarding sensitive information is especially essential. Although what each business considers sensitive is unique, some examples of such data include customer contracts, financial and transaction records and confidential employee documents.

Utilizing data discovery and classification solutions is the preferred process to identify such data. These tools search company databases to identify data and provide options to encrypt or delete it if found in unauthorized locations. Such transparency is essential for both ensuring compliance and developing strong data protection practices.

Related: 5 Ways Ecommerce Businesses Can Keep Their Customer Data Safe

Establishing enduring encryptions

The next phase of a sound data security strategy is encryption. Data is stored in many repositories, from on-premise data servers and databases to cloud-hosted storage centers. These pools of information need to be secure both while in storage and during any transfers. An encryption system uses algorithms to convert normal characters into an unreadable format to prevent unauthorized access.

Among the most common encryption programs are BitLocker for Windows and FileVault for MacOS. Furthermore, encryption helps tackle one of the most significant challenges of the modern workforce — the rise and reign of remote work. Encryption ensures that even if a device is outside the office premises, the confidential information it contains cannot be accessed by outsiders.

However, BitLocker and FileVault are built into Windows and MacOS devices. As such, they present a challenge to IT teams in terms of the size and spread of the workforce. It would be difficult to individually encrypt each device when an organization contains hundreds and thousands of devices deployed worldwide. In such a paradigm, utilizing cloud-based endpoint management solutions would go a long way in reducing the arduous burden on the IT department.

Related: Are We Ready To Transform Lives With AI?

Implementing access regulation

Once sensitive data is identified and encrypted, the next step is to manage who has access to what resources. Passwords, biometrics and smart cards are just a few examples of this. Traditionally, this process was done by deploying network access solutions that help admins manage access. However, the rise of zero-trust architecture provides an alternative solution known as zero-trust network access (ZTNA.) The concept of zero-trust mandates that no one is granted continuous access. Instead, trust is periodically monitored and authenticated only under the proper context, like when the user, endpoint, location and identity match. In this manner, attackers are prohibited from spreading laterally throughout the network, even if one device gets infected.

Keeping all systems patched and up-to-date

A taxing yet irrefutable aspect of data security is patch management. Most solution providers and OS manufacturers release patches to combat new vulnerabilities. With the increase in new vulnerabilities in operating systems and various applications appearing daily, ensuring that all applications and services are up-to-date with the latest security patches is crucial. Enterprises could use cloud-native patch management solutions to patch all of their endpoints and applications instantly. Alternatively, robust endpoint management services that provide application management capabilities could remotely deploy patches and OS updates and save IT the hassle of using multiple tools.

Related: 4 Strategies Small Businesses Can Use To Avoid a Data Breach

Addressing the awareness gap

In the chain of data protection, the human element frequently poses the greatest risk. Organizations ensure that staff are aware of compliance requirements and effective security procedures by offering training and specific instructions for individuals interacting with the most sensitive data categories. Beyond awareness, deploying password management solutions helps employees use strong passwords and provides a secure location to store them. Data loss prevention systems may also serve as an efficient enforcement tool if they are set up with precise protocols that secure and restrain access to classified information.

In the end, when it comes to data security, there are a hundred other practices and solutions to consider on top of the few I mentioned. The insights I shared can be a starting point on the long road to data security. Your chosen solutions and practices must be carefully strategized and tailored to suit your business. Data security is an essential business priority for organizations trying to avoid the expenses and reputational harm associated with hacking events. Businesses must continuously enhance their data security practices to prevent the effects of such threats. The level of data safety is higher with a robust data security procedure.

Apu Pavithran

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO

Apu Pavithran is the founder and CEO of Hexnode. Recognized in the IT management community as a consultant, speaker, and thought leader, Apu is passionate about entrepreneurship and spends significant time working with startups and empowering young entrepreneurs.

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