What Is Data Security? Data security is a term for all the security solutions that help organizations protect their sensitive data from security risks such as data breaches, phishing, ransomware attacks, and insider threats. As a general rule, data security also draws on compliance requirements such as HIPAA and GDPR to simultaneously ensure data privacy.

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Why Is Data Security Important?

Today, sensitive information is more sought after than ever, making information security a top priority. Cybersecurity has seen tremendous advances to accommodate such demand, but as it’s happened, bad actors and threat groups have made advancements of their own, and they’ve kept organizations on their toes.

To combat next-gen cyberattacks, organizations are implementing tighter security measures to protect critical data. This trend is a result not just of new security threats, but also the exponential increase in the different types of data these organizations are generating. All digital businesses deal with big data, including large amounts of personal data, such as personally identifiable information (PII), in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, and the public sector.

Compliance regulations, too, are constantly being updated to keep up with this influx of new data. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and others receive ongoing review and amendment to reduce organizational data risk as much as possible. More on risk in the next section.

 

The Biggest Risks to Data Security

Today, sensitive information is more sought after than ever, making information security a top priority. Cybersecurity has seen tremendous advances to accommodate such demand, but as it’s happened, bad actors and threat groups have made advancements of their own, and they’ve kept organizations on their toes.

To combat next-gen cyberattacks, organizations are implementing tighter security measures to protect critical data. This trend is a result not just of new security threats, but also the exponential increase in the different types of data these organizations are generating. All digital businesses deal with big data, including large amounts of personal data, such as personally identifiable information (PII), in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, and the public sector.

Compliance regulations, too, are constantly being updated to keep up with this influx of new data. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and others receive ongoing review and amendment to reduce organizational data risk as much as possible. More on risk in the next section.

 

Different Data Security Technologies

An effective data security strategy consists of multiple security controls working together as one to provide a comprehensive layer of protection over data both at rest and in transit. Here are some of the most commonly used means of keeping data secure:

  • Data encryption: This is a process in which plaintext data is encoded into unreadable ciphertext to help keep it secure in transit. Encryption algorithms can transform data of any type into an encoded format that requires an encryption key to decipher.
  • Tokenization: This technique sees that data values are disguised to appear as a non-sensitive value to threat actors. Also called data masking, tokenization links these placeholders, or tokens, back through to their sensitive counterparts.
  • Firewalls: In the traditional sense, firewalls secure data by managing network traffic between hosts and end systems to ensure complete data transfers. They allow or block traffic based on port and protocol and make decisions based on defined security policies designed for maximum data security.

 

Data Security Best Practices

There’s a multitude of technologies you can adopt to keep your data secure, but it’s crucial that you fill in the non-technological gaps, as well. Here are some ways to ensure you’re maximizing data security outside of your security install:

  • Perform regular risk assessments: The value of risk assessments can’t be overstated. Understanding where your organization may be vulnerable gives you an idea of how you can work with your team and leadership to close any open doors for hackers.
  • Maintain regulatory compliance: This pertains mostly to industries such as healthcare, finance, and the public sector, but operating within given compliance frameworks not only reduces risk but helps your bottom line, as noncompliance penalties can be steep.
  • Set strict security policies: This may seem obvious, but many breaches stem from a lapse in policy that ends up letting a bad actor in through an unlocked door.

 

A Word on Data Backup

With data breaches and ransomware constant concerns in today’s climate, you need to implement proper backup software to prepare for a possible attack. Particularly with ransomware, your data is at risk of being held hostage, stolen, and sold to the highest bidder on a black market.

Backing your data up lets you keep a copy of it in case of an attack. It’s often difficult for leadership to confront the reality that an attack can happen to them, and as a result, they neglect seeking out and purchasing backup software as a failsafe for their sensitive information. Make sure you and your team are having this conversation.

Data Security Solutions

  • Data loss prevention (DLP) is a set of technologies and processes that monitor and inspect data on a corporate network to prevent exfiltration of critical data as a result of cyberattacks, such as phishing or malicious insider threats. DLP works to protect sensitive data through rule-based matching or "regular expressions", exact data matching (database fingerprinting), exact file matching, and more.
  • Identity and access management (IAM) keeps your data secure by allowing access to applications and resources, on-premises or in the cloud, based on access controls that establish policy throughout an organization. With IAM, users typically gain access to resources through technologies such as two-factor or multifactor authentication (2FA or MFA), single sign-on (SSO), or, in some cases, biometric authentication.
  • Zero trust network access (ZTNA), also known as the software-defined perimeter (SDP), is a set of technologies and functionalities that enable secure access to internal applications for remote users. It operates on an adaptive trust model, where trust is never implicit, and access is granted on a need-to-know, least-privileged basis defined by granular policies. ZTNA gives remote users secure connectivity to private apps without placing them on the network or exposing the apps to the internet.

 

How Zscaler Can Help with Data Security

Zscaler Data Protection follows users and the apps they access—protecting anywhere and anytime against data loss. Our Zero Trust Exchange™ inspects traffic inline, encrypted or not, and ensures your SaaS and public cloud apps are secure while delivering a dramatically streamlined approach to protection and operations—benefits not possible with legacy, on-premises solutions.

Zscaler Data Protection secures the four major sources of data loss by:

  • Preventing data loss to the internet: Enterprise data is threatened when users access the internet and its risky destinations. Legacy appliances can’t follow users off-network or secure their web traffic. The cloud native Zscaler platform that scales to inspect all traffic, everywhere. A single DLP policy protects data across web, email, endpoint, SaaS, and private apps, along with advanced classification techniques.
  • Securing SaaS data with CASB: Securing data at rest in SaaS apps is critical for security—it only takes two clicks to share data with an unauthorized user through apps like Microsoft OneDrive. Our integrated, multimode CASB secures SaaS apps without the cost and complexity of a point product. Inline functionality delivers full shadow IT discovery and control. Out-of-band DLP and ATP remediate risky file sharing and malware at rest in the cloud.
  • Protecting public cloud data: Most cloud breaches are caused by dangerous misconfigurations or excessive permissions. As SaaS and IaaS are highly dynamic, such gaps are often overlooked and exploited. Zscaler CSPM and CIEM find and remediate potentially fatal misconfigurations, compliance violations, permissions, and entitlements; continuous scanning prioritizes risk. Integrated SaaS security posture management extends this functionality to apps like Microsoft 365, Salesforce, and Google Workspace.
  • Securing unmanaged devices: BYOD and other unmanaged devices are significant threats to data. IT has no control on such endpoints, but blocking them entirely hampers enterprise productivity. Zscaler Cloud Browser Isolation safely enables unmanaged device access without the performance challenges of VDI or reverse proxy. The solution streams data as pixels from an isolated session in the Zero Trust Exchange, enabling BYOD, but preventing data loss via downloading, copying, pasting, and printing.

See for yourself how Zscaler delivers your data, secured. Request a custom product demo today.

Suggested Resources

FAQs

Data Security vs. Data Privacy

Data security refers to keeping data safe from cyberthreats and data loss, whereas data privacy speaks more to the regulations and policies that revolve around the proper use of data to lower risk for a business and its customers. 

For example, data protection will secure a transfer of data between a public cloud and endpoint whereas a data privacy law such as GDPR ensures that companies are using their customers’ data in a responsible and ethical manner.

How do you implement data security?

Data security is not an all-at-once implementation. Rather, it’s programmatic, with different products and functions for data protection, privacy, and compliance making up a holistic data security strategy.Data security is not an all-at-once implementation. Rather, it’s programmatic, with different products and functions for data protection, privacy, and compliance making up a holistic data security strategy.

How do you respond to a data security incident?

A Security Operations (SecOps) team is responsible for mitigating data breaches and/or data loss. If the team discovers a data breach or that a threat is inside the environment and searching for data, they must hunt the threat or discover the source of the breach to remediate it.

How can healthcare organizations ensure they have strong data security protocols in place?

It’s much harder for businesses handling healthcare data to ensure the tools they’re using work within HIPAA guidelines. To this end, it’s important that IT security professionals representing these businesses remain in close contact with their IT partners or consultants to ensure the products they offer remain compliant.

For more information on how Zscaler helps organizations stay secure while maintaining compliance, visit our Security and Compliance page.