Do you wonder if your business is doing enough to protect your data? Are you worried about hackers, insider threats, ransomware, and other threats to your data as your employees work remotely? Is your business compliant with data security regulations such as CCPA, HIPAA, etc.?
If you are thinking about these questions, you are in the right place. In this blog post, we share data security best practices you can adopt to protect your data and your business from common security threats.
9 Best Practices And Tips For Data Security
1. Create Data Classification
Data classification consists of analyzing and organizing data into classes or categories based on file type, contents, and other metadata. The idea behind this classification is to understand exactly what data you have that someone else would want. For example, data classification can tell you what data is sensitive, who creates that data and how frequently, where it is stored, and who can access it. This knowledge helps you in coming up with strategies for mitigating risk and managing data governance policies.
Data discovery and classification solutions help you to easily identify if sensitive data is stored in unsecure locations as well as allows you to manage access. This reduces the risk of data loss or exposure to unauthorized parties. You can apply digital labels to data based on their classification and store them accordingly. This allows you to allocate your resources to protect data in accordance with its sensitivity and value to the organization.
2. Create A Data Usage Policy
Data classification needs to be supported by a data usage policy where you specify the classification methodology, access types, and privileges, and more importantly what constitutes correct data usage. Your data usage policy will define the guidelines for the responsible, safe, and legal use of the company’s data resources. However, your policy shouldn’t remain a document alone. You need to clearly define the violations and associated consequences that all employees must read and understand.
3. Implement Technical Access Controls
Controlling who has access to your data is one of the most important steps in data security. Here are a few technical access control measures:
Use an Access Control List (ACL) that lists who has access, at what permission level, and to which resources.
Do not allow users to copy or store data locally.
When a user logs off or a session times out, ensure that the cache of both the client and server are cleared.
Use encrypted RAM drives.
Do not allow the use of portable storage devices.
Implement conditions for account lockout in case of violations of usage policy or of questionable usage.
The process of identifying, authenticating, and authorizing access to your enterprise data can be facilitated by using Identity And Access Management (IAM or IdAM) systems. IAM solutions are a foundational security process built on business processes, policies, and technologies that effectively handle the tasks of identifying, authenticating, and authorizing users who access your company’s data resources, mitigating the risks of unauthorized access and policy violations.
Apart from functioning as a barrier that protects your private internal network from threats coming from the public Internet, firewalls also function as an important line of defense in data security. By preventing malicious traffic from entering your organization’s network, firewalls help prevent data leakage to third-party servers caused by malware or hackers. In the worst-case scenario, in case of a hack, firewalls can also isolate one network from another, thus limiting intrusions.
Use Network Access Control (NAC)
Network Access Control (NAC) solutions keep unauthorized devices and users out of private networks. NAC restricts access to only those devices that are authorized as well as meet specific security requirements. With NAC, you can ensure that the devices that access your network and data are compliant with your organization’s security policies have recommended antivirus, security configurations, updates, and patches. The use of NAC is especially important when working with third-party vendors and contractors who have access to your network.
4. Implement Physical Security Controls
Physical security is often overlooked although it plays an important role in data security. Physical security controls are simple and effective at mitigating many data security risks such as theft, vandalism, or physical attacks. Having tens of systems in place to prevent threat actors from accessing your network will amount to nothing if one can simply plug in a USB thumb drive into your server hard drive.
Restrict Access To Critical Devices
It is critical to implement physical security measures that prevent unauthorized access to servers and critical network devices such as routers, switches, etc. Even simple measures such as door locks, biometric access, and video surveillance can go a long way in preventing unauthorized physical access to devices and consequently to your data.
Ensure Mobile Device Security
The need for greater mobility and flexibility has pushed an increasing number of businesses to adopt the use of mobile devices. However, along with the increased mobility, mobile devices also bring greater cybersecurity risks. The loss or theft of a mobile device such as a laptop or smartphone can expose your entire network and data to an attacker. In addition, the complexity of managing a large fleet of devices can often leave lapses and configuration errors that can ultimately lead to the exposure of data to unauthorized individuals.
Thankfully, Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions provide a cost-effective and practical solution for managing and securing mobile devices at scale. MDM solutions enable you to control the configurations and security settings of mobile devices, making it easier to protect company data. In addition, MDM protects your company data by securing emails and documents on devices and enforcing corporate policies. So, MDM solutions are not only invaluable for managing your mobile devices but also for data security and for achieving compliance with regulatory requirements.
Use Network Segmentation
Network segmentation means breaking up your network into logical or functional units. This helps prepare your network for the worst-case scenario, i.e. if a hacker breaks into your network. So in case of a network intrusion, the damage will be limited to just one segment of your network.
You can configure your router or switch to create separate networks or virtual LANs running on the same network hardware. Network segmentation is especially useful for data classification and data protection because it lets you assign different security policies, encryption, authentication, etc. to each of the network segments. This allows you to apply varying degrees of security depending on the requirement of each network segment.
5. Perform Regular Data Backups
Backup and recovery strategy is an integral part of data security. It goes without saying that critical business assets, i.e. data must be backed up to provide redundancy and to serve as a backup against system failures, corruption, accidental deletion, and against ransomware attacks. A backup is simply a periodic copy of your data that can be retrieved if there is any problem with the original data.
Before you create a data backup strategy, you need to be able to answer the following:
What do I need to protect
What am I protecting against
What kind of backup to use- On-premises, Cloud backup, or Hybrid
How to handle data recovery
The industry best practice for data backup is the 3-2-1 strategy, which states that you need 3 copies of the data, stored on 2 different storage media, 1 of which must be located off-site. This comprehensive backup strategy safeguards your data from a wide array of risks including the loss of location due to a natural disaster. Whatever backup strategy you come up with, you must ensure that it is tested periodically to verify that the backup, as well as recovery process, works as designed.
6. Use Raid On Your Servers
RAID is a very useful tool that helps protect against system downtime and data destruction. RAID, which stands for redundant array of independent disks, allows servers to have multiple hard drives so that even if the main hard drive fails, the server will keep functioning. In RAID, the data is distributed across the drives in levels ranging from RAID 0 to RAID 6. Each RAID level provides different levels of redundancy and performance.
7. Use Endpoint Security
Endpoint security is a defense at the place where it’s needed the most, i.e. those employees who do the stupid things that the IT security team tells them to avoid. To be honest, when employees are busy or preoccupied, it can be difficult to avoid clicking on dubious URLs, or opening attachments, especially since cyberattacks are becoming increasingly complex and difficult to stop. And that is why it is absolutely essential to have endpoint security on each device.
Endpoint security solutions secure the entry points of devices such as desktops, laptops, etc. from cybersecurity threats. Endpoint security tools started off as antivirus and have evolved into a tool that provides more comprehensive protection from sophisticated attacks such as malware, zero-day exploits, etc. By securing the endpoints, i.e. the entry points to your network, you limit the possibility of unauthorized access to your network and data.
8. Be Vigilant Of Insider Threats
Insider threats are some of the most rapidly growing threats to data security. These threats are often overlooked because most of the time they may not be carried out maliciously. Negligent behaviors and errors, which are also insider threats, can result in a data breach or data destruction resulting in regulatory fines, loss of reputation, and loss of revenue.
Here are some examples of insider threats:
Copying sensitive customer data to a removable storage media
Theft of storage drives containing confidential data
Clicking on links in phishing emails
Errors in the configuration of network devices such as firewall, switch, etc.
Forwarding confidential emails to unauthorized individuals
Privilege misuse to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data
You need to put in place security systems that mitigate such unintentional as well as intentional insider threats.
9. Secure Your Network
Your network is the gateway to all of your enterprise data. Anyone with access to your network can practically gain access to all of your resources. At any given time, your network has many devices such as network equipment, computers, mobiles devices, and IoT devices. And all of these are connected to the internet, making them a hot target for hackers who know that once they gain access to a single device, they can infiltrate your network.
Therefore, you need to be very vigilant about network security. Your network security controls have to protect not just the integrity, confidentiality, and usability of your network but also of the data transmitted among its various components. You need to ensure that all available common network defenses are employed and that network security best practices are followed. By hardening your network you can limit the possibility of network intrusions and data breaches.
Data security has always had prime importance. However, lately, as more organizations are leveraging remote work, the need to ensure data security has grown even greater. Effective data protection doesn’t reside only in the databases or servers but is present everywhere- from the server to the network to the end-users. It must be able to prevent data breaches altogether or at a minimum detect data leakages.
The data security best practices listed above in this blog post will help you mitigate the common data security risks faced by most businesses. However, you shouldn’t stop there. Changes in the technology landscape, regulatory requirements, internal processes, and business models will require you to update or overhaul your data protection systems from time to time. So make it a practice to regularly revisit your data security policies and update them as and when required.
Do you need help with creating or implementing data security policies? Is your data secure as your workforce moves to a remote work environment? Reach out to us by clicking the button below to learn how we can help secure all your company data.Let's Talk Data Security
If you liked the blog, please share it with your friends
By: Hari Subedi
Title: Data Security Best Practices For Small Businesses
Sourced From: www.itjones.com/blogs/2021/7/22/data-security-best-practices-for-small-businesses
Published Date: Thu, 22 Jul 2021 08:00:00 +0000