What Is Data Security?

Photo Courtesy: Thapana Onphalai/iStock

Data security remains a hot topic for companies and individuals alike. Many people provide personal information to a variety of organizations. Additionally, businesses have internal data that relates to their operations, products, services, and customer bases, all of which are valuable. As a result, the majority of the population is at least somewhat aware of the importance of data security, both on a personal level and regarding entities they engage with over time.

But what is data security, and why is it important? If you’re asking questions like that, here’s what you need to know.

Data Security Definition

In the simplest sense, data security involves protecting collected information during its entire life cycle. It includes shielding it from theft, unauthorized access, unapproved alteration, and corruption while it’s physically stored, when it’s used, and when it’s in transit.

Typically, data security is a multi-faceted concept. It can involve the implementation of tools designed to prevent intrusions, physical protections to limit access to company systems, and procedures to reduce the odds of malware infection. Encryption, data masking, and redacting sensitive information can play a role, as can audits that ensure compliance with related regulations.

Types of Data Security

Data security can involve a wide variety of tools, systems, procedures, and solutions. Some focus on maintaining the safety and integrity of hardware, while others focus on the digital aspects of data security.

Here is a list of some of the types of data security:

  • Access Controls
  • Authentication
  • Authorization
  • Antivirus/Antimalware Solutions
  • Backups
  • Data Masking
  • Encryption
  • Erasure
  • Firewalls
  • Intrusion Detection
  • Physical Controls
  • Tokenization

Why Is Data Security Important?

Data security is critical for many reasons. First, data breaches come with consequences. Companies have a legal obligation to protect customer, employee, and supplier data, ensuring it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Failing to meet requirements in this arena is a serious issue.

In 2022 alone, there were an estimated 1,802 incidents in the U.S. involving compromised data, impacting approximately 422.1 million victims. Along with harm to an organization’s reputation, data security failures can put individuals at risk, depending on the type of information that’s compromised. 

Additionally, the cost of a data security incident is high in many cases. The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. is approximately $9.44 million. That total can include expenses related to mitigating the breach, addressing the harm caused to others, lost business, regulatory fines, and more.

Data Security Tips

Data security is often complex, but certain best practices can simplify the landscape. First, focusing on methods that limit access or prevent unauthorized viewing makes a difference. Often, encryption is one of the strongest examples, but it’s not the only tool that works well in this arena.

Prevention is another critical component. Securing assets using antimalware tools, testing systems to find vulnerabilities to target for correction, having incident-response plans, and properly educating people about threats can all make a difference.

It’s also crucial not to overlook the benefits of sound data-destruction policies. Ensuring that information that’s no longer needed is removed, erased, or otherwise disposed of correctly prevents it from being used for nefarious purposes later, and that’s a critical part of the equation.