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Data Security and the Formidable Challenges of the Era

Rajesh K. Parthasarathy Founder, President, CEO, Mage

Data is the greatest asset that businesses have today, as it provides organizations the business intelligence and insights on both macro and micro levels. However, when an asset becomes too valuable and in-demand, keeping it secure becomes a top priority for the organization.

In recent years, targeted attacks against this digital fuel have sharply increased. Most cyber breaches or malware attacks are designed to either purloin enterprise data or corrupt the same, disrupting business continuity for the organizations.

The ramifications can be adverse, leading to paying ransoms, loss of intellectual property, regulatory penalties, ill repute to business, loss of customer data and the uncertainty that there will be no more attacks again. The bad news is that security threats are anticipated to get more sophisticated and thus more damaging over time. Let us understand some of the biggest data threats confronting the world in 2022 and comprehend what organizations can do to keep themselves secure:

  1. Social Engineering

As the term suggests, this form of attack strategy is to study social behavior of a victim and engineer the attack as per the victim’s behavior in a particular setup. In the case of cyberattacks, the victim’s behavior with their devices and digital interactions is minutely tracked to gather necessary background information, such as potential points of entry and weak security protocols. Social engineering preys on behavioral tendencies such as absent-mindedness and panic-driven actions, where they stimulate the victim to click and download malicious links or attachments.

Every process that involves humans is inherently vulnerable to error. Research establishes that 90% of all cyberattacks are caused by human-initiated error. Again, 88% of data breaches stem from human error rather than technical vulnerabilities.

Being aware and mindful of all emails, messages, hyperlinks (especially the tempting and urgent ones), and attachments that one receives, especially that look out of place (coming from unknown hyperlinks or domain addresses), can help save the day. It should be a standard practice to block spam emails, connection requests from strangers and delete all requests for passwords, OTPs, and personal information that can give a person unauthorized access.

  1. Exposing Data to Third-Party Vendors

Post-pandemic, many companies are increasingly turning towards a gig economy instead of hiring full-time workers. This also raises the concern of third-party data breaches. Many times, companies tend to share key details, which may include login access to control panels, hosting accounts, domain registrars, website, and everything else, with multiple freelancers without giving it a second thought. This unconscious sharing of vital details has massive security implications.

Any network outside the organization’s perimeter should be considered risky by default. According to a survey, 64% of organizations do not have confirmation that their third parties have specific security practices in place like firewalls, employee security training, pen testing, etc.

Again, enterprises invest in multi-prong security measures that can repel attack attempts, something a third-party vendor may not necessarily have in place, therefore deemed unsafe for the company’s security. Even minor defects in the third-party vendor’s security access could expose the organization to cybersecurity risks. Hackers can circumvent security systems by breaking into less-secure networks outside the organization’s periphery. To avoid such mishaps, organizations must enforce strong access reporting, auditing, and third-party vendor monitoring, not to mention putting in place very strong access controls (zero trust).

  1. Flaws in Cyber Hygiene

Cyber hygiene is a set of habitual practices that ensures the safe handling of critical data and network security. It is like a routine of small, distinct activities to prevent or mitigate any loopholes that may arise in regular digital interactions. However, much like personal hygiene practices, people tend to get complacent with certain habits after a period that may leave loopholes for attacks. Ill-practices such as, using the same password for multiple platforms for a very long time, clicking on emails or downloading attachments without verifying the source, accessing public Wi-Fi networks from work devices, browsing unverified pirated sites, installing unverified software that is accessing personal media files, content, and other data, can be all categorized as poor cyber hygiene practices.

Not every enterprise device is integrated with security firewalls that can detect violations of cyber hygiene. Regular habits and practices around technology use, such as avoiding unsecured Wi-Fi networks and establishing precautions such as a VPN or multi-factor authentication, must be inculcated amongst the employees. Even minute missteps at times can result in colossal damages for businesses.

Not all Data is Critical to Business Continuity

Determining what is critical data for a particular organization is not just up to the IT departments. It may differ in each organization. Critical data encompasses anything that organizations deem essential for their business continuity, business intelligence, or the one that must be retained for regulatory purposes. Below are some of the critical data categories:

Customer data, especially personal information that is covered by data-protection laws

Data concerning vendors and business partner

Operational data

Financial data required for auditing purposes

Any data that can be used for analytics purposes

Data security and data storage can be costly affairs. Organizations need not protect all data that are generated across the network. Some data are hypercritical for the functioning and survival of the organization, and others can always be re-generated or are personal data of employees that has no bearing to the organization but stored in devices that come under enterprise perimeter.

Employing a Full-Proof Data Security Solution

Think of a fortress, where attackers are trying to invade. However, not everyone inside the fortress can be busy protecting its walls all the time. They have other jobs to take care of. Similarly, everyone in an organization has his or her own jobs to do. Businesses may not have dedicated resources to take care of data security round the clock. To automate security, organizations can employ a full-proof single enterprise-grade solution, that covers sensitive data across the entire lifecycle, 24X7, securing at-rest, in-transit, or in-use.

A data security platform must ensure the following solutions for a more holistic approach to enterprise data security:

Securing sensitive data within the enterprise, by identifying and locating the data across the enterprise.

Anonymizing sensitive data through robust data protection measures that offer masking, encryption, and tokenization

Monitoring and logging all access to sensitive data with near-real time reporting

Minimizing risk of sensitive data exposure by deleting or tokenizing inactive sensitive data

The more the world is getting dependent on data, data breaches are becoming more frequent and are getting costlier for businesses to prevent it from being compromised. A single security breach may cost an organization hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue and damages, not to mention its reputation and customer connections. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, global cybercrime costs will grow by 15 percent per year over the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion USD annually by 2025. This is an alarming juncture. Hence, businesses must prioritize zeroing down solutions that ensure full-proofed data security measures for seamless protection of data wherever it resides, be it On-prem, Cloud, or SaaS application.

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