Guide: Data Security

The 6 Pillars of Data Security Management

What Is Data Security Management?

Data is the raw information stored on computers and network servers, often in a database in tabular form. Organizations establish data security policies to protect the privacy of their data. 

Any organization that stores and processes confidential business files and sensitive data subject to governmental regulations and industry standards, including personally identifiable information (PII), must have a data security strategy.

Data security management allows you to maintain data integrity and ensure that unauthorized individuals cannot access or corrupt your data. Given the massive data volumes generated by modern organizations, it is important to consider data management in your data security policy and leverage automated data security and management tools.

In this article:

Why Is Data Security Management Important?

The vast majority of organizations fail to secure all their files and folders properly. Data security management can help you stay on top of data-related threats, reduce the risk of a data breach, and respond to successful attacks. 

 

Implementing data security management can help you:

 

  • Reduce costs—data breaches can be expensive, especially if in the form of a ransomware attack that locks your business-critical data. If you don’t have adequate backups, you may have to pay a ransom or risk losing your data. With most ransoms going into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, not all organizations can afford to pay them. Even if you can recover the lost data without paying a ransom, the downtime resulting from the attack can impact your business operations and cost time and money.
  • Maintain business continuity—data breaches can disrupt your business operations. Even an hour of downtime can lower customer satisfaction and cause significant financial losses. 
  • Maintain compliance—if your organization processes or stores sensitive data covered by local or international regulations, you need to ensure its protection to maintain compliance. Regulated data includes personal, financial, and health-related information, and loss or exposure of this data can result in legal and financial penalties.  

Protect your reputation—organizations must report successful attacks or data loss incidents. If you expose or lose customer data, it can affect customer trust and damage your business’s reputation.

Common Data Security Threats

Here are some of the main threats affecting your data security:

Unintended Data Exposure

Many data breaches result from accidental or negligent exposure of data rather than malicious attacks. Employees might mishandle sensitive data and share it without sufficient security measures, granting access to malicious actors. You should implement security measures like robust access controls and data loss prevention (DLP) tools to address this risk. It is also important to train employees and ensure they are familiar with your security policies.

Insider Threats

Most successful attacks come from inside an organization via a malicious or negligent employee or an infiltrator. Insider threats include:

 

  • Malicious insiders—users who intentionally damage the system or exfiltrate data. 
  • Non-malicious insiders—users who accidentally damage the system or leak data, usually due to negligence or lack of security understanding.
  • Compromised insiders—users whose credentials or accounts have been compromised without their knowledge, allowing an external attacker to impersonate them within the system. 

 

The best way to mitigate insider threats is to implement a zero trust network, continuously monitor network activity, and leverage tools like user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) to identify suspicious use of data.

Social Engineering

A major attack vector is social engineering, which encompasses a range of attack types that manipulate privileged users into granting access to sensitive data or accounts. The most common social engineering technique is phishing, where the attacker sends an email that appears to come from a legitimate sender. 

 

In a successful attack, the target (perhaps an employee) clicks on a link that installs malware on the target device or responds by providing sensitive information directly to the attacker. The attacker can then use the device to breach your corporate network. There are several ways you can address this threat: 

 

  • Maintain secure credentials based on the principle of least privilege
  • Provide training to help employees identify phishing attacks
  • Implement endpoint protection tools
  • Implement a zero trust policy

Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts sensitive data, so you cannot use it without a decryption key. Typically, the attacker demands that you pay a ransom in exchange for the decryption key, but it is no guarantee that you will recover your data even if you pay the ransom. 

 

Aside from the security measures to protect your network, it is important to maintain regular backups of your data to prevent permanent data loss. Ransomware can often spread across your network, so you need to ensure your backups are secure.

Loss of Cloud-Hosted Data

Moving your data to the cloud can make it easier to share and collaborate, but it can be harder to manage your data security and prevent loss. Your users may access sensitive data from their devices or via unsecured networks (i.e., the Internet). A user might share data with an unauthorized party intentionally or accidentally. 

 

To help protect your data in the cloud and prevent data loss, you should combine cloud security tools with a strong backup strategy. Where possible, store your sensitive data on-premises or in a separate, secure cloud.

 

Related content: Read our guide to cloud data security (coming soon)

Data Security Management Fundamentals

An effective data management strategy should be adaptable and scalable to address emerging risks and improve continuously. Here are six pillars that should underpin a successful data security management program.

1. Visibility

Tag your data to ensure visibility and manage data prioritization based on your organization’s needs. You can assign data policies to specific tags to control access and regulate data use. Knowing what data you have and when you keep it is important for enabling other management fundamentals such as automation. Visibility is also important for maintaining and demonstrative compliance with regulations and standards.

2. Monitoring

Monitoring is another aspect of observability, allowing you to detect and manage internal and external threats. You should always use a separate system to monitor your network—this allows you to identify attacks that target the monitors to obscure themselves. System admins can use immutable logs to understand how users interact with resources and identify trends that may represent indicators of compromise (IoCs).

3. Encryption

Ensure that data is accessible only on a need-to-know basis. Encryption provides a crucial, added layer of protection that prevents attackers from using stolen data.

4. Security as Code

You can enhance your DevSecOps strategy with security as code to add a layer of protection to all program development processes. The code may include gates, tests, and checks. You can combine this approach with infrastructure as code to make security manageable and scalable in decentralized environments—you can build business and compliance requirements into your security framework, maintaining up-to-date programs.

5. Automation

Automation allows you to enforce your security policies and execute your security as code programs. Automated tests can help you check your existing infrastructure for security gaps, informing the code changes you make to harden it. The automation pipeline enforces the code, including the most recent changes.

 

Data security management requires automated policy enforcement with configurations that only an administrator can change. This approach allows you to report exceptions, focusing on anomalies while ignoring ordinary events.

6. Review

Third-party assessments can help you understand your data security requirements and create better governance practices. Internal employees can often miss security gaps, so it is useful to have the fresh perspective of a third party. A third-party security reviewer can be industry-focused and experienced, keeping up-to-date with the changing security landscape.

Data Security Management with Satori

Satori, The DataSecOps platform, gives companies the ability to enforce security policies from a single location, across all databases, data warehouses and data lakes. Such security policies can be data masking, data localization, row-level security and more.

Learn more: