3 Foundations of a Data Security Strategy

Data is one of the most important assets your organization has, and protecting it is no longer optional. Cyberattacks can come in multiple forms, including outsider attacks such as phishing or malware, as well as insider threats via social engineering attacks, unauthorized file sharing or physical theft of company devices. A robust data security strategy is an essential requirement to protect your company’s sensitive data and keep intruders away.

Data breaches can harm your company in multiple ways, including hefty fines, loss of consumer trust, and reputational damage. Thus, it is necessary to take steps to mitigate the risks of a data breach, regardless of industry or the size of your business.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent shift to remote work has brought new risks and threats to data. With your employees working from home, unsecured personal devices, routers and WiFi networks have become factors and attack vectors that could lead to data breaches. As work-from-home (WFH) is here to stay in the long term, you need to make sure that your security practices cover this scenario, too.

Here are three essential ways for your company to ensure that sensitive data, such as customers’ personal information or intellectual property, stays safe.

Use a VPN

Using a virtual private network (VPN) for remote work and distributed teams is among the easiest and most-recommended ways to ensure your data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Touted as a privacy and security must-have, a VPN protects data from attackers who try to intercept network communications and get access to that data. It is an easy and cost-efficient method for creating a secure connection and adds a protective encryption layer for all data that is moving between your company’s core systems and employees’ devices. In this way, your remote users can safely access the company’s network and services, as the transmitted data is encrypted, the IP address is hidden and the location of the sender is masked. Some VPNs also offer military-grade 256-bit data encryption.

However, if you’re using VPNs, it is essential to check that they are patched and have the required capacity and bandwidth to handle all employees working remotely at the same time.

Deploy a DLP solution

Data loss prevention (DLP) solutions are another essential part of any successful security strategy. Such a solution will help you mitigate risks that originate within your organization and reduce the risk of a data breach, especially those caused by human error. A DLP software solution protects confidential data directly, regardless if it is at rest (stored) or in motion (being transferred). It allows you to discover and monitor confidential data such as protected health information (PHI) or personally identifiable information (PII) and prevents unauthorized disclosure of that data by creating and enforcing security policies.

With a full DLP solution, the risks of data loss, data theft and misuse is reduced considerably, even when your employees work from home. These threats can be prevented at their earliest stage with a DLP solution applied to endpoints: when users deliberately or accidentally initiate transfers of sensitive data from their devices. DLP can also limit or block the use of USB and peripheral ports, thus reducing not only the risk of data leakage but that of malware infections through USBs, too.

Compliance with data protection regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, PCI DSS and HIPAA can also be more easily achieved or maintained with a well-chosen DLP software suite that offers predefined compliance profiles, as well as the option to define customized compliance templates.

Encrypt Sensitive Files

Encryption is another powerful and useful tool in a data security arsenal that can help your company secure data both from malicious outsiders and careless insiders. It is also considered an important step toward compliance with various data privacy laws, and it can be used to safeguard data at rest and in motion.

By encrypting sensitive files, you can ensure that only authorized persons can access them and see their contents. It is also helpful if a device is lost, stolen or forgotten, as it renders the data stored on them valueless to anyone who tries to access it without a decryption key.

Hard drive encryption is also available, and it is included in the most popular operating systems: BitLocker in Windows and FileVault in macOS, for example. By encrypting corporate computers’ hard drives, you can ensure that no matter how a device is booted up, outsiders cannot access to data stored on it without a decryption key.

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