In today’s digital world, data has become one of the most valuable assets that an organization possesses. Sensitive information such as personal, financial, and intellectual property are critical to n organization’s operations, processes, and success, this is why enforcing data security has become increasingly important to protect your data from unauthorized access, theft, or loss. There are different types of data that organizations store, process, and transmit. The two primary types of data are:
- Personal Data: This is any information that can be used to identify an individual, such as their name, address, date of birth, social security number, and other identifying information. Personal data can exist both offline and online, and online data includes information such as usernames, email addresses, and social media profiles.
- Organizational Data: This is information used by an organization to manage its operations and processes, such as employee data, financial data, customer data, and intellectual property.
What is Data Security?
Data security refers to the practice of protecting digital data from unauthorized access, theft, or loss. It includes various measures that organizations put in place to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive data throughout its lifecycle, from creation to processing, storage, transmission, and disposal.
Why is Data Security Important?
Data security is critical to organizations for the following reasons:
- Data Breach: The threat posed by cyber-attacks globally has been unprecedented. Data breaches can cause irreparable damage to an organization. Cybercrime is estimated to cost the global economy US$500 billion annually, which is more than the GDP of South Africa ($350.6 billion) and slightly less than the GDP of Nigeria ($521.8 billion), the biggest economy on the African continent. Each year, it imposes a cost of US$500 million on Nigeria’s economy as shown by a study from Shiloh and Fassassi in 2016. Umoru in 2017 also claims that the Nigerian Senate revealed that the country has lost $450 million to 3,500 cyberattacks on its IT infrastructure. This accounts for more than 70% of all attempted hacks in the nation.
- Loss of Customer Trust: Most data breaches lead to loss of customer trust and damage to the organization’s reputation. Customers may stop doing business with an organization that has suffered a data breach.
- Regulatory Compliance: Many organizations are subject to regulatory requirements and laws that mandates them to protect sensitive data. Failure to comply with these requirements can lead to fines and legal actions.
Data Security Threats
Organizations face many data security threats, some of which are:
- Malware: This is a type of software that is designed to harm a computer. Malware can delete files, steal information, and modify information.
- Ransomware: This is a type of malware that encrypts a victim’s file and demands a ransom to decrypt the file. The file could contain sensitive information of the organization.
- Social Engineering: This is a type of attack that relies on tricking people into divulging sensitive information. It is often used to gain access to confidential data.
- Insider Threats: These are employees who inadvertently or intentionally threaten the security of data.
Data Security Measures
Organizations can implement various data security measures to prevent, detect, and respond to data security threats. Some common security measures are:
- Data Encryption: This is the process of converting data from a readable format (plaintext) to an unreadable encoded format (ciphertext) to prevent unauthorized access.
- Access Control: This involves the use of passwords, biometrics, and other authentication methods to limit access to data and only allow authorized users.
- Data Masking: This is the process of hiding sensitive data using inauthentic values to obfuscate the real data.
- Data Loss Prevention: This is a security measure designed to monitor, detect and block sensitive data to prevent leakage or exfiltration within a system.
- Backup and Recovery: This involves periodically generating copies of data to ensure its availability in case of data loss.
- Security Awareness: Human mistakes such as unwittingly opening a malicious link or downloading a malicious file over the internet is a major contributor to security breaches, but these risks can be mitigated by the implementation of effective security awareness programs. Security awareness may help build a more secure and resilient digital environment by providing people with the skills they need to defend themselves and their digital environment.
In conclusion, data security is vital for any organization that wants to protect its most valuable asset – its data. By understanding the different types of data and the threats that organizations face, businesses can take steps to implement data security measures to protect their sensitive information. It’s important to take data security seriously to avoid financial losses, loss of customer trust, and regulatory compliance issues. By using data encryption, access control, data masking, data loss prevention, and backup and recovery, businesses can proactively protect their data and reduce the risk of a data breach.