Your Guide to Data Protection Best Practices

FEMA reveals that approximately 40 to 60% of small businesses will not reopen after data loss. Further, Netwrix Research says that human error is the number one reason organizations lose data.

Growing your business (and staying in business) means having a brilliant data protection strategy. While human error usually causes data loss, humans also create data security.

The best practices for data protection start with you, and we will outline how in this comprehensive guide. Now, let's talk specifics.

What Is Data Protection?

This is the process you create for safeguarding critical business data from compromise, corruption, or loss. Likewise, it provides capabilities to restore data (should something happen that makes it unusable) back to its functional state.

Risk Assessments

Sensitive data should be heavily guarded. The riskier the data you possess, the more protection you must assign to it. For low-risk data, you can give it less protection.

The reason for conducting an assessment such as this is due to cost. It is important to understand where your money will benefit the most. The fact is that better data security will mean a greater expense.

It is good to run a test and find out which data you have that needs close guarding. Ultimately, it will make the entire data processing system more efficient. These two factors should surround your risk assessment:

  1. In case of a data breach, the potential severity
  2. The probability of a data breach

When you determine these factors, which data is at the highest risk, this means that this is also your most sensitive data.

When you conduct such an assessment, it is best to have an expert help you. If you are not an expert in this area, and you misidentify data, and the data gets lost, this can lead to a disaster for your business.

Backups

Technical malfunctions and errors can happen. To prevent data loss, you need regular backups for your data storage. It is not enough to do it occasionally if you want to ensure that you are up to date.

You may worry that it is an additional cost for the business, but if you encounter a business interruption and cannot operate as normal, it will cost you even more money. Remember that the time you lose is money lost.

Choosing a cadence for backups goes back to your risk assessment. The more sensitive the data, the more often you should back it up. Data of low importance does not need backups as often.

Particularly with sensitive data, backups need storage that is somewhere safe and preferably encrypted. You may not want to store your sensitive data in the cloud.

For maintenance, you will want to check data storage media periodically to see if there is deterioration. Also, store them per the manufacturer's recommendations on humidity, temperature, etc.

Tape storage methods are less expensive than hard disks, but hard disks are more versatile. Hard disks are better suited for operations that run on a small scale. Plus, disk-storage methods offer access to data much more quickly.

Encryption

Your primary candidate when encrypting data is your high-risk data. This includes during:

  • Acquisition (online cryptographic protocols)
  • Processing (full memory encryption)
  • Subsequent storage (RSA or AES)

Even if you encounter a data breach, well-encrypted data is safe. For the attacker, the business data is irrecoverable and useless.

That is why they explicitly mention encryption as a part of the GDPR. This means that when you use encryption, regulators of the GDPR will favor your organization. If your company experiences a data security breach, you do not need to report it to authorities as the data is already adequately protected.

Pseudonymization

This will increase data security and privacy. It works well when you have larger sets of business data. Pseudonymization strips identifying information from data snippets.

In other words, you replace a person's name with randomly generated strings. It is impossible to link the person's identity and the data they gave you.

The data that is left is useful. Although it no longer contains sensitive, identifiable information.

A cybercriminal cannot directly identify people from pseudonymized data with a data breach or data loss. Afterward, there is less risk, and the procedures are much simpler. For organizations conducting statistical or scientific research, pseudonymizing their data is a best practice.

Access Controls

A most efficient way to reduce risk is by introducing access controls as a part of the company's workflow. When fewer people can access data, there is a smaller risk of data loss or breach.

Only trustworthy employees with a valid reason for accessing sensitive data should indeed have access to it. You want to conduct regular training sessions and refresher training courses on handling data. Particularly, you want to train new hires on handling sensitive data.

Your organization should have a data protection policy plan that is written in a clear and concise manner. It should outline methods, along with roles and responsibilities for each employee.

Destruction

You may find that you have data that will need to be destroyed. You may not think that this is a data protection method, but it is. Your team must protect data that is destroyed from unauthorized users recovering and accessing it.

When you do not need data, your business has an obligation to delete it. When it is sensitive data, there is a more comprehensive way to destroy it.

Usually, you will want to destroy a hard disk with degaussing. You will want to shred paper documents, tape drives, and CDs into tiny pieces. When you are destroying on-site sensitive business data, it is best to destroy it on-site, too.

With data that is encrypted, you can delete this easily. You would need to destroy the decryption keys. This guarantees that the data is unreadable.

Well, at least it will be unreadable for the next few decades. By that time, it would likely be obsolete information, anyway.

Incident Response Plan

This is a set of procedures and tools for your security team in cases of cybersecurity threats, like a data breach or loss of data. They will use the incident response plan to identify, eliminate, and recover. This helps your business respond quickly and consistently, minimizing potential downtime.

An incident response plan has six steps.

1. Preparation

This goes back to risk assessment. Once you have performed a solid assessment, you can prioritize your security issues. Then you want to create a communication plan.

You will need a document that clearly states the roles, responsibilities, and processes of each security team member. Refer to your access controls, too, for help.

2. Identification

Someone from your security team must detect deviations from normal operations as soon as possible. Then you must determine if it represents a security incident. Collect evidence and determine the severity of the situation if there is a potential incident, such as a data breach or loss of data.

3. Containment

Now that you know you have a problem, you want to prevent any further damage. You will need short-term containment and long-term containment.

4. Eradication

To stop it, you must understand the root cause of it. If it is a human error, you may need additional training, a change to access controls, two-factor authentication, etc.

5. Recovery

Any system that is affected should go back online carefully. Some important decisions to make include:

  • At what date and time should you restore operations from your backup?
  • Test and verify if the systems that were affected are back to normal.
  • How long do you monitor systems and ensure activity is back to normal?

The goal of these decisions is to help your company avoid another incident taking place.

6. Lessons Learned

Do not wait too long for this phase, as you want the information to be fresh in everyone's minds to get to the bottom of it. Do not wait over two weeks after the incident happens.

This is a time to complete documentation that you could not do during the incident. It is an opportunity to investigate it further. You want to identify:

  • The full scope of what happened.
  • How was it contained?
  • How was it eradicated?
  • How did you recover the attacked systems?

You are looking for how your response team was effective, besides areas that need improvement.

Worried About Data Protection?

At NETdepot, we understand the trenches of data security. Cybersecurity is critical to continuing operations and keeping your customers happy. It is also a vast landscape that requires expert professionals to identify everything that can go wrong before it goes wrong.

That is where we come in. We enhance your cybersecurity forecast with a customized platform. When you have complete transparency of threat remediation, you can simplify data protection.

Contact us today for better protection against data breaches and loss of data.

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