The rapid advancement of technology comes with both advantages and disadvantages. We can do our chores easier because there is an automatic vacuum cleaner. We can better protect our house by installing smart home security technologies. We do not have to get up and turn off the light because Alexa can do this for us.
We do not burn CDs anymore because we can listen to music or store documents online. But the big disadvantage of technology development is that it is also prone to hacks. In the latest years, the number of hacks has grown dramatically. Hackers invent new ways to steal data from big companies such as Yahoo! or Facebook. Cybercrime and identity theft are flourishing, so companies need to find ways to better protect their data.
Most people would think that hackers target only big companies, but small ones are prone to cyberattacks as well. And while mobile phones are harder to hack, computers are much easier to access from distance. Data security is a topic that should be of interest to every individual and company, no matter its size.
What Is Data Security?
Everyone talks about it but fewer define it. Data security is represented by a set of techniques and methods implemented to protect data. Companies are much more prone to data theft than individuals, so they use multiple methods to secure their data.
A good data security method protects the data from disclosure, destruction or modification. You can choose to secure your data by including multiple-factor authentication and implementing organizational standards, as well as limiting data access. But why is it so important to protect your company data? Why do you need to do it?
Why Is Data Security Important?
All companies work with data and most of them have the personal details of every individual. For example, banks have a massive volume of financial data about their clients. Amazon has a huge volume of data about its users and clients. Mobile phone companies as well. Every company that has employees has their records. The same goes for every company that has clients.
What happens if someone steals your data? Well, usually hackers sell the stolen data to a third-party company. Like this, they minimize the risk of using the data themselves. But some hackers specialize in identity theft. They can open or close your bank accounts, withdraw money, and apply for state benefits in your name.
Companies that have discovered data breaches are subject to huge fines and litigation cases. There is also huge damage to a company’s reputation and people will stop using its products or services. All in all, it is massive damage on the financial level, as well as on notoriety and trust levels.
There are multiple methods of protecting the data and ensuring a high level of data security. Data security technologies come in different forms and most of them focus on protecting the data from outside dangers. But companies should consider protecting their data from the inside too.
“There are not few cases of employees that steal the company data, so companies need to be careful who they grant data access to.”, advises Michael Carry, responsible for data security at a paper writing service and assignment help.
- Data Encryption
Data encryption is currently the most used and the most effective method to secure your data. When you hear encrypted data, you should think about a ciphertext that you can read only if you have a security key or a password. Even though a few years ago the data encryption process was challenging, the algorithms nowadays make the process easier than before. There are two types of data encryption: symmetric and asymmetric data encryption.
The symmetric option of encrypting the data is using the same password or secret key to encrypt and decrypt the data. For example, this method is used when there is an exchange of data between the company and the client or its employees.
However, more and more companies have started to use asymmetric data encryption when they send documents of higher importance. It is also easier than to store huge volumes of data security keys. The asymmetric cryptography uses two different kinds of keys: private and public. The private one must be kept secret, while the public one can be shared. People that have the public key have access to data, but it’s encrypted so you can only decrypt it with the private key.
Encrypted data can be attacked by hackers and they usually use brute force or try different key combinations. The larger the size of the key, the stronger the encryption is.
The downside is that as the key size increases, so does the volume of resources to encrypt the data. The pitfall is that the secret key can be shared with the wrong people, so data access needs to be limited across employees.
- Data Masking
Lots of companies develop and improve their existing software. They might have mobile apps and websites that need constant adjustment and bug fixes. Software developers and testers need to build and test the software apps before they become available to the public and they need to use real data. Because real data offers valuable insights, it also needs to be protected and there should be a limited number of employees that have access to it.
Here is the moment when data masking is a useful data security technique. Data masking is a method of creating a similar version of data but with the real data replaced. This is a great method of protecting the data and still using its structure. The format and structure stay the same, whereas values are changed.
Data masking is used especially in user training or testing apps when there is not necessary to share the real data. There are multiple methods of data masking: character shuffling, word substitution, encryption or character substitution. No matter what method is chosen, the company needs to ensure that reverse engineering or decryption is impossible. For example, banks might develop a mobile app that lets you send and request money only by using the phone number.
But they need to make sure that the app does not have any bugs, so it is tested before release. Developers and testers need a real data structure to build the best functionalities and they use data that is masked.
- Data Backup
Data backup is a natural and recommended choice to secure your data. Hackers or people inside the company might modify or delete it, so you need to be sure that the real version of data is well secured. By backing up your data you protect it not only of humans but of viruses too. There is a lot of malware that can infect one computer of your company and delete data.
There are three types of data backup and you need to choose the one most suited for you. You also need to think about where you want to store your backed-up data.
You can choose to do a full data backup, which is the most basic form of data backup. It means that all your documents and files are copied and stored in another place than the original one. If you have large amounts of data, it will take you more time and space for backup.
You can make incremental back-ups after certain periods to store the newest files or the latest version of already stored files. This kind of data backup requires less time and space as it only backs up data that has changed or added since the last backup.
The third version of back-up is the differential backup and it is similar to incremental one. It copies new and changed files too, but it also copies new files that were created since the original backup was made.
You can back up your data on cloud storage, on a computer or device within your company or you can choose a hybrid version. Data backup is important for every company because it prevents data loss or changes and it can rapidly be restored in cases of accidental deletion.
For example, if you have a call center company, you can back up the data about calls and updates on users’ accounts. Because so many call operators have access to this data and people are prone to making mistakes, one of them can delete the data by mistake.
- Limit Access
Not all data is sensitive and there are organizations where most of the employees have access to all the data. The example above about a call center company is the perfect example. Let’s take a mobile phone company that has a call center.
A client can call and ask to change his subscription and your employee has the right to change his account data. This is the easiest solution to solve clients’ problems rapidly and make sure they are content with your services. So not giving access to this data to your call centers employee would make the process harder and longer.
But what happens when there are employees that have not so good intentions? You can back up your data but you also need to work on preventing the loss of data at the same time. You can have multiple data access options. Google Docs is a good example, where you can view, comment and edit the document. Avoid giving full rights to all the employees and limit the access and the ways they can contribute to data changes.
- Securing Computers and Phones
One of the most basic and important security rules is to lock your computer and phone every time you are not near them. This is especially valid for employees that are working with sensitive data or that have admin rights. Someone can access their computer or phones when they are at the bathroom for example, and delete sensitive data.
It is a common and basic data security technique that proves to be useful because it helps prevent data theft or deletion. You must insist on building complex passwords that are not easy to be hacked. For example, train your employees not to have basic and simple passwords such as “123456” or “my name”. Use complex passwords that have upper and lower cases, as well as special characters and numbers. They are harder to be hacked.
- Two-Factor Authentication Key
The two-factor authentication key is one of the hottest topics when talking about data security techniques. It helps protect your private data by adding one extra layer of security and not replacing the existing ones, for example, the password. Hackers are more and more inventive and find new ways of hacking passwords, no matter how complex they are.
Two-factor authentication is usually time-bounded and it includes introducing a code that you have received on your email or as a message on your mobile phone. According to one study, 80% of data breaches can be eliminated if you use two-factor authentication.
Because they are time-limited, they make a hacker’s job more difficult. Large companies that work with sensitive data, such as banks, recommend users to enable two-factor authentication to protect their financial data.
We live in the era of technological advancements, but also of cybersecurity and cyber-attacks. Not all technologies are well protected, so they are easily hacked. Companies and people want to protect their data, especially because data breaches and identity theft are flourishing.
There are multiple techniques to secure your data and it is recommended to implement more than one. You can back up your data and then do some incremental backups afterward. You can encrypt the sensitive data in two ways. Or, you can mask the data and still use its structure for apps development.
It is also helpful to limit access to important data and have multiple editing options. Securing and locking computers and phones is always important, especially for people that work with sensitive data. And complex passwords and two-factor authentication are required as extra layers of protection.
Michael Gorman is a highly skilled freelance writer and proofreader from the UK who currently works at top resume writing services. Being interested in data security, he writes various blog posts and essays for a dissertation writing service. Feel free to contact him via Facebook or check his Twitter.