What is a Data Protection Strategy and Why is it Important?
Data protection is no longer optional. It's now a business requirement, and it falls squarely on the shoulders of the security officers to develop and implement an effective data protection strategy.
And if you don't comply? You could be subject to hefty fines, reputational damage, and even criminal charges.
Instead of waiting for data breaches to happen, businesses need to implement a data protection strategy that will help them prevent, detect, and respond to data incidents.
Our Definition of a Data Protection Strategy
A data protection strategy is a high-level plan that identifies how an organization will protect its data. The strategy should consider the risks associated with the organization's data processing activities and how these risks can be mitigated.
The goal of a data protection strategy is often to help an organization meet its legal obligations under data protection laws.
The Purpose of a Data Protection Strategy
Although planning and executing a data protection strategy requires an investment of time and resources, the benefits of doing so can be significant.
A data protection strategy can help an organization:
Comply with the Law
No matter which country your organization is based in, there's a good chance you'll need to comply with data protection laws. A data protection strategy can help you meet these legal obligations.
A data protection strategy can help an organization mitigate the risks associated with its data processing activities. By identifying and addressing these risks, the organization can minimize the likelihood of a data breach or other adverse event.
Another common risk is the loss or theft of work laptops, smartphones, and other devices that contain sensitive information. A data protection strategy can help an organization mitigate this risk by encrypting data on these potentially lost or stolen devices.
Gain Competitive Advantage
Data is a valuable commodity in today's digital age. Organizations that can protect their data effectively can gain a competitive advantage over those that are not.
For example, an organization that can quickly and efficiently respond to data incidents is likely to experience less reputational damage than one that is not.
During a data breach, every second counts. An organization that is prepared with a data protection strategy and detection and response plan can minimize the damage caused by a data breach.
A data protection strategy can also help an organization build trust with its customers, partners, and other stakeholders. In today's climate of heightened data privacy concerns, those who can instill confidence in their ability to protect data are likely to be more successful.
Build Customer Trust
Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about how their personal data is being used and shared. Organizations that can build trust with their customers by implementing a strong data protection strategy will be better positioned to succeed in the long run.
One great way to build trust with customers is to be transparent about your data protection efforts. Customers appreciate knowing that their data is being protected and that you're taking steps to keep it safe.
Another way to build trust is to give customers control over their data. Customers should be able to easily access, update, or delete their data if they so choose.
Protect Your Reputation
Data breaches can be catastrophic for an organization's reputation, which can have a lasting impact on its bottom line. Ideally, an organization will never have to deal with a data incident, but the reality is that these events are becoming more and more common.
When reputational damage does occur, the organization must have a plan in place to limit the impact of the attack. A proper data protection strategy will prevent damage to an organization’s reputation in the first place.
The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. is $9.44M. This number is only going to increase as data breaches become more common and more costly.
A data protection strategy can save an organization money in the long run. By identifying and addressing risks early on, an organization can avoid the costly consequences of a breach.
Additionally, a data protection strategy can help an organization save money on storage and other operational costs. By streamlining its data processing activities, the company can save money on storage, bandwidth, and other resources.
Gain Peace of Mind
Lastly, a data protection strategy can give organizations peace of mind knowing that their data is appropriately protected. This is especially important for organizations that handle sensitive information, such as personal data.
Data protection can be a daunting task, but it's crucial for the success of any organization. By putting a data protection strategy in place, you can give yourself peace of mind knowing that your data is safe.
Why It's So Difficult to Protect Data From Cybercriminals
It's no secret that data breaches are on the rise. In just the first half of 2022, there were over 800 reported incidents of data compromise in the U.S.
With cybercriminals becoming more sophisticated and innovative in their methods, it's getting more difficult for organizations to protect their data. One of the biggest challenges is that cybercriminals are always one step ahead. They are constantly evolving their methods to take advantage of new technologies and vulnerabilities.
Here are some of the main reasons why it's so difficult to protect data from cybercriminals:
Volume and Variety of Data
The sheer amount of data that organizations must manage today is staggering. With so much data to manage, it can be challenging to identify which data is most at risk and take steps to protect it.
Fragmentation of Data
Data is often stored in a fragmented way, which makes it more difficult to protect. For example, an organization may store customer data in one database, employee data in another, and financial data in yet another. This fragmentation can make it harder to identify risks and take steps to mitigate them.
Complexity of Data
Data has become increasingly complex, making it more difficult to understand and manage. This complexity can make it harder for organizations to identify risks and put proper protections in place.
Rapid Changes in Technologies and Cyber Threats
The digital world's rate of change is accelerating, making it hard for organizations to keep up. New technologies and methods for storing and processing data are being introduced all the time, making it difficult for organizations to keep up with the latest changes and ensure their data is properly protected.
Lack of Awareness
Many organizations are simply unaware of the risks associated with their data or the steps they need to take to protect it. Without being aware of the risks, it's impossible for an organization to take steps to mitigate them.
Lack of awareness can cause security teams to make fatal mistakes, such as assuming that their data is safe when it's not.
Cost of Protection
Data protection can be costly, and many organizations are not willing or able to invest the necessary resources. For example, implementing proper security measures can be expensive, and some organizations may not be able to afford the latest technologies.
However, the potential costs of a cyberattack can be far greater than the cost of data protection. A data breach can cause significant financial damage, damage to an organization's reputation, and legal liabilities.
When an organization refuses to invest in a data protection strategy, it leaves itself exposed to a wide range of risks. These risks can have a major impact on the organization, its employees, and its customers.
In some cases, the humans within an organization pose the most significant risk to its data security. Whether it's through carelessness, ignorance, or malicious intent, humans can often be the weakest link when it comes to data security.
For example, an employee may accidentally delete an important file or click on a malicious link in an email. Or a disgruntled employee may intentionally leak sensitive data in an act of revenge.
In either case, the damage can be significant. And, in some cases, it may be impossible to recover from the damage.
The best way to protect against human factors is to educate employees about data security and have proper policies and procedures in place. However, even with these measures in place, there will always be some risk that an employee will make a mistake.
The biggest threats to data security often come from external factors, such as hackers and cybercriminals. These individuals or groups can exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive data.
There are all types of cybercriminals, from those who carry out sophisticated attacks to those who buy and sell stolen data on the black market. And, as the digital world continues to evolve, the threats posed by these individuals and groups are likely to increase.
Once attackers have access to sensitive data, they can use it for a variety of purposes, such as identity theft, fraud, and extortion. Hackers may also release the data publicly in an attempt to embarrass the organization or its employees.
Despite the challenges, organizations need to take steps to protect their data. Data breaches are becoming more common and costly, and the stakes are only getting higher. Organizations that fail to implement a robust data protection strategy do so at their own peril.
Types of Cyberattacks That Threaten Data Security
There are a variety of cyberattacks that can threaten data security. Here are some of the most common:
Malware is a type of malicious software that can infect computers and other devices. Once installed, malware can allow attackers to gain access to sensitive data or perform other malicious actions.
Phishing is a type of social engineering attack in which attackers attempt to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware. Phishing attacks often take the form of fake emails or websites that appear to be from a legitimate source but are actually designed to steal information or infect computers.
SQL Injection Attacks
SQL injection is a type of attack in which attackers insert malicious code into a database to execute malicious SQL commands. This can allow attackers to gain access to sensitive data or perform other actions.
Denial of Service Attacks
A denial of service attack (DoS attack) is an attempt to make a computer or network unavailable to users. DoS attacks can be performed by flooding the target with requests, overwhelming it and preventing legitimate requests from being processed.
Password attacks are attempts to gain access to accounts or systems by guessing or brute-forcing passwords. These attacks can be successful if users have weak or easily guessed passwords.
Data Protection Tactics
Data protection can be complex depending on the scope, size, and sensitivity of the data involved. However, there are a variety of data protection tactics that organizations can implement to protect their data from cyberattacks. Here are some of the most common:
Data encryption is a process of transforming readable data into an unreadable format. This makes it difficult for attackers to access or use data if they can gain access to it.
Encryption algorithms are used to encrypt data, and a key is required to decrypt the data. The key can be stored on the same computer as the encrypted data (symmetric key encryption) or on a separate computer (asymmetric key encryption).
Data encryption is a powerful data protection technique, but it is not foolproof. If an attacker can gain access to the key, they will be able to decrypt the data. Additionally, data encryption can be computationally intensive, which can impact performance.
Data Backup and Recovery
Data backup and recovery refers to the process of creating and storing copies of data in case the original data is lost or corrupted. This can help organizations recover from attacks or other data loss incidents.
In many cases, data backups are stored offline on physical media such as hard drives or tapes. This can help protect the data from being accessed or modified by attackers. Data backups can be stored in the cloud or on other remote servers.
Data backup and recovery is a critical data protection strategy, but it is important to ensure that data backups are properly configured and secured. Otherwise, attackers could gain access to the backups and use them to restore data or launch attacks.
Access control is a security measure that limits access to data and systems only authorized users. This can prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data and reduces the risk of data breaches.
Examples of access control measures that security teams can implement:
User authentication requires users to prove their identity before accessing data or systems.
Role-based access control assigns users different levels of access based on their role in the organization.
Data-centric security controls access to data based on its sensitivity.
Device and network controls limit access to devices and networks.
By implementing a combination of these controls to create a robust access control system, organizations can better protect their data from unauthorized access.
Identity and Access Management
Identity and access management (IAM) is a process of managing users' identities and permissions. This can help organizations control who has access to data and systems, and limit access to only those with the necessary permissions.
IAM systems can be used to manage user accounts, permissions, and access controls. They can also be used to monitor user activity and detect suspicious activity.
Although IAM is a helpful data protection strategy, it is important to note that it can be complex to manage. Organizations should consider using an IAM system that is easy to use and manage.
Security Awareness Training
Security awareness training is a process of educating users about security risks and best practices. This can help reduce the risk of human error and make users more aware of the importance of data security.
Security awareness training should cover a variety of topics, such as phishing attacks, social engineering, and data handling best practices. It is important to make sure that the training is relevant and up-to-date.
When training users on data security, it is important to emphasize the importance of data privacy and the need to protect sensitive information. Additionally, users should be made aware of the consequences of data breaches, such as identity theft and reputational damage.
Organizations should implement data protection tactics that meets their specific needs and requirements. The type of data being protected, the amount of data, and the level of sensitivity all play a role in determining the best data protection tactic. No single approach is ideal for all organizations, but combining these tactics can provide a high level of data protection.
Does Every Organization Need a Data Protection Strategy?
Every organization that processes personal data must have a data protection strategy. This includes organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to large multinational corporations.
Organizations that process special categories of data or data relating to criminal convictions and offenses will need to take additional measures to protect this data. They may also need to appoint a Data Protection Officer.
What Does a Data Protection Officer (DPO) Do?
A Data Protection Officer (DPO) is responsible for managing the data protection strategy for an organization. The DPO is typically someone with experience in data security and privacy.
The DPO's responsibilities include developing and implementing data protection policies, monitoring compliance with data protection regulations, and investigating data breaches. Additionally, the DPO may be responsible for training staff on data protection best practices.
Organizations are required to appoint a DPO if they process special categories of data or data relating to criminal convictions and offenses.
How Data Protection Strategies Vary By Size
The specific requirements of a data protection strategy will vary depending on the size and complexity of the organization.
Here's a general overview of how data protection strategies differ by organization size:
Data Protection Strategies for SMBs
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are not exempt from data protection regulations.
SMBs must take data protection seriously to protect their customers’ personal data from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. Implementing even a basic data protection strategy can go a long way in protecting your business from potential risks.
Some common data protection measures adopted by small businesses include:
1. Implementing a data security policy
2. Encrypting personal data
3. Ensuring employees receive training on data protection
4. Conducting regular risk assessments
Large organizations are required to take a more comprehensive approach to data protection. This is because large organizations typically have more resources and more data processing activities than small businesses.
Some common data protection measures adopted by large organizations include:
1. Appointing a DPO
2. Implementing an organizational security structure
3. Documenting data processing activities
4. Conducting regular risk assessments
5. Implementing a data security policy
6. Encrypting personal data
7. Ensuring employees receive training on data protection
9. Reporting data incidents to the supervisory authority
The Consequences of an Inadequate Data Protection Strategy
Organizations that fail to implement an adequate data protection strategy may be subject to enforcement action by the supervisory authority. For example, Amazon received a €746 million GDPR fine in 2021.
Organizations that suffer data breaches may also be subject to civil liability. In some cases, individuals may sue organizations for damages resulting from a data breach.
Additionally, organizations that experience a data breach may suffer reputational damage. The damage can lead to a loss of customers and revenue, which can be difficult to recover from.
Organizations that process special categories of data or data relating to criminal convictions and offenses may also face criminal charges.
Creating an Effective Data Protection Strategy
An effective data protection strategy must be tailored to your organization's needs. It should consider the type of data you process, the risks associated with that data, and your organizational resources.
When creating a data protection strategy, you should consider the following:
The Type of Data You Process
For example, do you process special categories of data or data relating to criminal convictions and offenses? If so, you must take extra precautions to protect this data.
The Risks Associated With the Data You Process
What are the risks associated with the data you process?
Are these risks acceptable?
If not, what measures can you take to mitigate these risks?
When you are processing data, there are always risks associated with it. These risks can come from many sources, including human error, natural disasters, and malicious attacks. While some of these risks may be acceptable, others may not be. Therefore, it is important to assess the risks associated with the data you are processing and take measures to mitigate them.
One of the biggest risks associated with data processing is the possibility of a data breach. A data breach can occur when personal or sensitive information is released without the consent of the people involved. This can happen through various means, including hacking, phishing, and social engineering.
A data breach can have serious consequences for both the people whose data was breached and the organization that experienced the breach. These consequences can include identity theft, financial loss, and damage to reputation.
Another risk associated with data processing is the possibility of data loss. Data loss can occur when data is accidentally deleted or corrupted. This can occur due to human error, hardware failure, or software glitches. Data loss is devastating for businesses because it can mean the loss of critical information and the inability to recover it.
Your Organizational Resources
What resources does your organization have available to implement data protection measures?
Do you have the budget to implement more comprehensive data protection measures?
Do you have the staff available to implement and manage these measures?
Other Relevant Laws and Regulations
You should consider national laws, sector-specific laws, and international agreements. Your data protection strategy should take into account all relevant laws and regulations. This will help you to ensure compliance with legal requirements.
Industry Best Practices
What industry best practices can you adopt to improve your data protection strategy?
Are there any specific industry standards that you should adhere to?
Your Organization's Unique Needs and Circumstances
Your organization is completely unique, so your data protection strategy should be too. You should assess your company's structure, needs, risks, and resources before you craft your data protection strategy.
Creating a Successful Data Protection Strategy
So, what makes a data protection strategy successful?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the success of a data protection strategy depends on the specific organization and its data processing activities.
You should keep in mind that a data protection strategy is not just about compliance; it is also about protecting the organization's data and reputation. A well-designed data protection strategy can help an organization avoid costly data breaches and mitigate the damage caused by them.
Key Questions to Ask When Designing Your Data Protection Strategy
1. What are the organization's legal obligations under data protection laws?
2. What risks does the organization face concerning its data processing activities?
3. What processes does the organization use to collect, store, and use data?
4. How can the organization mitigate the risks associated with data processing
5. What security controls should be implemented to protect the data?
6. How will the data protection strategy be monitored and updated?
Elements of a Successful Data Protection Strategy
Although each data protection strategy will depend on the unique needs of the
organization, certain elements should be included in every strategy.
At a minimum, a data protection strategy should address the following:
1. Risk identification and assessment
The first step in any data protection strategy should be to identify and assess the
risks associated with the organization's data processing activities. This will help
the organization identify which risks are most critical and need to be addressed
2. Process mapping
Once the risks have been identified, the next step is to map out the processes
used to collect, store, and use data. This will help the organization understand
where its data is located and how it flows through the organization.
For example, if the organization collects data from customers through its website,
the data protection strategy should include a process map that shows how the
data is collected, stored, and used.
3. Data classification
The next step is to classify the data according to its sensitivity so the organization
can determine which data needs to be protected and the method for protection to
An organization might classify its data as follows:
Public: Data that can be freely shared without any risk to the organization or individuals
Confidential: Data that should be kept secret and only shared with authorized individuals
Sensitive: Data that is subject to privacy laws and regulations (e.g., personal data, health data)
4. Implementation of security controls
The security controls you implement may include encryption, access control, and
other security measures.
5. Continuous monitoring
The data protection strategy should not be static but continuously monitored and
updated as needed. This will help the organization keep up with changes in the
data landscape and ensure that its data is always protected.
By following these steps, you can create a data protection strategy that meets
your organization's unique needs and helps protect your data from cyberattacks.
How Cigent Technology Revolutionizes Data Protection
Cigent offers a new approach to data security for organizations of all sizes to stop ransomware, data theft, and achieve compliance.
Cigent protects your most valuable asset—your data—against the most sophisticated adversaries. We protect data throughout its lifecycle via prevention-based defenses embedded into storage and individual files.
From decades of data recovery, cybersecurity, and device sanitization experience, the experts at Cigent have developed prevention methods beyond anything that exists today.
Cigent Data Security is the perfect solution for anyone seeking effective data security… that actually works.
Prevention, not detection: Cigent effectively stops attacks, ensuring only trusted users can see and access data using multi-factor authentication (MFA) for file and storage access.
As close to the data as possible: Protection in the storage itself and of individual files keeps data safe on PCs and wherever it goes, an approach that is more secure than software-only or policy-based data loss prevention.
Data security throughout its lifecycle: From file creation on your PC to complete data and key destruction, all files are protected wherever they go across any device, cloud, network, or application.
Today's digital world is based on people working anywhere on any device and sharing information across a vast and increasingly complex network. With Cigent, anyone can safely work with data on PCs, keep it protected wherever it goes, and make it inaccessible when necessary.
To learn more about how Cigent can protect your organization from emerging cyber threats, contact us today.