Data is the backbone of businesses and companies everywhere. Data can range from intellectual property to critical business plans to personal health information or even money itself. At the end of the day, businesses are looking to grow revenue, innovate, and operationalize but to do that, they must ensure that they leverage their data first because of how important and valuable it is to their organization.

No matter the industry, the need to protect sensitive and personal data should be a priority. However, companies have struggled to manage said data and the safety of who has access to it. But what exactly do these enterprises need to do to protect their data?

In the past, many businesses believed that simply encrypting their data and implementing access controls was sufficient. However, in today’s increasingly complex data landscape, security leaders need to take a broader approach and consider how to improve their data strategy, or even establish one if it doesn’t exist.

In this blog, we will discuss a few key best practices that companies should prioritize and seek when picking out a solution to help meet their data security and compliance needs.

Data governance as the foundation

The first step toward protecting data is having the ability to govern it. This means businesses need a policy set in place to assist in knowing how data is being managed across the cloud. Within the policy, there are a few objectives to keep in mind: classification scheme, levels of sensitivity, and criteria for mapping said levels.

The other half of the governance process is ensuring a data catalog of the company’s sensitive data and information exists. Having sensitive and personal data comes with the risk of it potentially being stolen by threat actors, which is why a backup and recovery strategy also needs to be set in place.

Are you aware of where your critical data is stored? Some companies already know where their data lives and can easily identify it. In other scenarios, enterprises may have to use tools to discover where the data is residing. The scans can search for structured data, unstructured data, files, emails, and more. The scans may take place on people’s systems, on servers, or even across the network. When conducting this process, we want to be as thorough as possible since the amount of data that exists and the number of places it can hide is innumerable. We want to dot our I’s and cross out T’s before we move on to the next step of the journey.

The keys to protecting your data

Many actions need to be taken when creating the strategy for protecting company data. Initially, we recommend implementing encryption for both data at rest and data in motion. The encryption keys must be protected, as losing them will result in the loss of the data as well.

A way to save the keys is to change them over time by generating and storing them securely. To accomplish this, it is recommended to use a management system with security measures such as multi-factor authentication. This will minimize the risk of a threat actor accessing the data, despite the strength of the encryption.

Backup capabilities like immutable backup storage are also a plus to guard against ransomware attacks. Knowing where and testing the backup keys is vital to ensure that they are indeed valid. But keeping backup data means organizations may now have to abide by certain compliance regulations.

Companies must report and prove to regulators that they are in compliance with how they are using the data. Data compliance is essential for organizations as it helps to ensure that they are adhering to legal, regulatory, and industry standards related to data protection and privacy. By ensuring that compliance is a best practice of data security, organizations can avoid legal consequences and potential fines, as well as maintain their reputation with customers and stakeholders. Additionally, compliance with data regulations establishes a system for securely managing confidential information, reducing the risk of data breaches, and safeguarding the privacy rights of individuals.

Detection and response considerations

Detection is also a capability that enterprises may want to make sure their data security tools feature. If an event ever occurs that causes an organization to become noncompliant or suffer from a data breach, they want to have a monitoring and detection tool in place.

For example, user behavior analytics is a detection capability that has the potential to show anomalous activity from insider users. It may help detect the unusual activity of someone downloading 50 files a day on average to then suddenly downloading 500 files. At the end of the day, we want to be the first to know and be alerted quickly so the team can get to the bottom of it.

If the team does find out that there is a problem, a response capability is then needed to react. We want to generate cases that can then be tracked and assigned to analysts. Dynamic playbooks are also used to help guide analysts through the problem and decide on what the next steps are. Having this feature allows companies to orchestrate responses and even find places to automate them, which then creates a feedback loop that connects back to the beginning of the journey starting with the governance process.

Embark on the journey to data security

Prioritizing the journey defined in this blog is needed for any reliable security solution because it helps organizations protect the critical data that is vital to their organization in an efficient manner. Furthermore, it also gives organizations the opportunity to save millions of dollars by avoiding costly data breaches. In 2022, the average total cost of a data breach was 4.35 million USD. This is precisely why IBM Guardium prioritizes those features when building a security solution to help clients address their data security and compliance needs.

If you’d like to learn more about the journey to protecting data, please check out our Data Security: Protect your critical data (or else) on @IBMTechnology on YouTube. Check out the IBM Security Guardium product page for more information.

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