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What is a Data Protection Strategy? Components, Best Practices and Benefits

Due to the increased shift to a hybrid business model in recent times, the world is witnessing an unprecedented surge in the volume of data stored and created. This makes it challenging for organizations to monitor all the data scattered in multiple locations, in turn making it easy for threat actors to break through their security defenses and wreak havoc.

Data breaches are increasing in both frequency and intensity, significantly impacting the finances of the affected companies. According to the IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022, 83% of the organizations studied suffered more than one data breach. The average cost to remediate a breach also reached an all-time high of $4.35 million. A single breach could expose innumerable valuable records, jeopardizing an organization’s reputation and disrupting daily operations.

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That’s why it is crucial for organizations to have a proper roadmap for proactively protecting their data and regularly updating their protective measures — and this is where a data protection strategy can be instrumental.

Let’s take a deep dive into the fundamentals of a data protection strategy — its significance, benefits and best practices, and find out how Spanning Backup can help you strengthen your data protection strategy.

What is a data protection strategy?

A data protection strategy is a well-thought-out plan that involves the measures to be taken to secure mission-critical and regulated (PII, payment information and more) data while keeping it usable for business purposes. The aim is to standardize sensitive data and corporate information security via a multistep process without trading off customer or end-user privacy. Businesses leverage data protection strategies to prevent threat actors or unprivileged users from gaining unauthorized access to data.

With a successful data protection strategy, organizations like yours can ensure the security of intellectual property, proprietary information, trade secrets and more while protecting data from damage, loss, corruption or unauthorized exposure.

Importance of a data protection strategy

Digital growth is getting more complex, with many computing devices extending beyond the common borders of IT infrastructure. The pandemic caused millions of people to work from home, resulting in the need for remote data protection. New and dispersed workloads add intricacies to the data protection process. Organizations now cannot afford any downtime that renders important information inaccessible. Failing to properly protect and secure data can lead to financial losses and adversely impact customer trust.

Even the legal liability of an organization is put at risk as most organizations are subject to some data privacy standard or regulation, such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) among others.

With cybercrimes becoming increasingly sophisticated, companies are complying with these stringent data protection regulations, which require significant changes to the corporate culture and the mode of operations. Such a shift can only be achieved with a solid data protection strategy in place.

What goes into protecting data?

Most data protection strategies consist of three key focus areas:

  • Data security – Protects data from malicious or accidental damage.
  • Data availability – Quickly restores data in the event of damage or loss.
  • Access control – Ensures that data is accessible to those who need it and not to those who don’t.

These pillars of focus ensure that when there’s a request to access data, the users first get validated (Security – the genuineness of the users) and then get permission to access the data (Access control – users get the right permission to access after being able to prove they are who they say they are). Once that’s done, the data is available to access and ready to support business operations.

Data protection strategy component icons.

What are the common data protection strategy components?

The basic principle driving the data protection process is to ensure data is safe and always available to users. Cybercriminals are constantly devising new and crafty ways of breaching companies’ cyber defenses. That’s why, organizations continuously need to develop advanced ways to protect their data.

A successful data protection strategy often includes the following practices/solutions:

Data access management controls

Access controls must be appropriately implemented and maintained. Strong access controls prevent unauthorized access, use or transfer of data. External auditors often check this. A zero trust approach is ideal in this case since it employs the practice of “never trust, always verify.”

Data encryption

With data being more accessible and desirable to attackers than ever, there’s a dire need for the encryption of data. Encryption provides enhanced security, privacy protection and prevention from unauthorized access and helps ensure data integrity. Apart from data, an organization’s encryption plan should include employee communications via text, voice and video. End-to-end encryption must be employed for all communications and data transfers. As a result, information stays encrypted throughout the entire process.

Data storage management

To move data from one location to another, strong security is needed. This includes securely moving production data into data stores — either on-premises or in external cloud environments. Every aspect of data storage, especially cloud storage, must be managed to combat potential data breaches.

Data loss and breach prevention

The goal of data breach prevention is to prevent external malicious actors or internal threats from gaining access to data and systems. Organizations need to block attacks on their network and infrastructure by implementing antivirus software, ransomware protection, firewalls and perimeter security hardware, and software and access management software.

Data lifecycle management

This framework automatically distributes important data to online and offline storage, depending on its context and sensitivity. It is the core component of a solid data protection strategy and standardizes data processes in an organization, covering its entire journey — data creation, storage, archiving and final deletion.

Data risk management

It’s important to know what to protect. That’s why organizations must first identify and assess all risks and threats that may affect the data. A full audit of all the data an organization stores (what it is, its significance, where it’s stored and who has access to it) needs to be conducted. Companies must also evaluate their current cybersecurity position and determine the most likely and significant potential threats to that data. This helps in strengthening the data security in the long run.

Data backup and recovery

Any data protection plan must be able to recover from any data breach or attack. Once data is created, it must be adequately backed up to be recovered in case of failure. A proper understanding of what data needs to be backed up is necessary. Equally important is to know how often and where the data must be backed up. That’s why a comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) solution is necessary.

What are the best practices to support a data protection strategy?

Simply complying with regulations like GDPR and CCPA isn’t enough. An organization’s data protection strategy must go beyond this and include certain practices that guide its business operations and ensure foolproof security of data and infrastructure.

Conduct regular risk assessments and analysis

According to some regulations, companies must proactively identify risks and take mitigating measures. Risk assessments do precisely that by allowing an organization to identify potential threats. At first, the risk is defined and described, then quantified to get an idea of the intensity. It then gets listed and examined to check for the likelihood of occurrence and how severe its impact would be on the business. Regular risk assessments and analysis help identify individual risks across a complex web of business infrastructure and flag them to data protection policies. This way, organizations can avert potential data breaches.

Utilize security awareness training

Employees are always an organization’s first line of defense. To keep them vigilant about the latest cyberthreat trends, continuous security awareness training is vital. System users aren’t the only ones deemed vulnerable though. Warehouse workers, receptionists and delivery partners are also potential vulnerabilities. That’s why robust security awareness training should apply to the entire workforce. Employees must be trained to identify different forms of security breaches (physical, technical and administrative) and prevent them from severely impacting the organization’s security.

Maintain thorough documentation

In the current hybrid IT environment, organizations must have their IT information readily available and managed via a centralized platform to be accessed at once when needed. The process of IT documentation allows all sensitive data — policies and procedures, credentials, project timelines and instructions — to be collected, organized and stored securely. Maintaining thorough IT documentation helps organizational efficiency and prepares the company to tackle cybersecurity incidents with efficacy.

Keep policies and procedures updated

Threats that can disrupt a business are practically infinite. Updating policies and procedures regularly allows an organization to be well-prepared to take on threats. Policies and procedures are essential to data management programs and are usually examined during audits. That’s why they should be well-documented. It’s also vital to document disaster recovery (DR) procedures, where details of every response strategy from specific DR team members are recorded for future use.

Communicate with stakeholders

Key stakeholders, like the PR and marketing team, vendors, third-party suppliers and customers, should always be kept in the loop. Organizations need to ensure these stakeholders understand the data protection strategy and approve of it. It helps employees to comply with the strategy and apply data protection across the organization, not just restricting it to the IT department.

Monitor and review continuously

A data inventory needs to be created by the organization to include all its stored and processed information. Understanding the data intricately helps in protecting it. The best way to do that is to take note of the type of data collected, its storage location, usage and sharing policies. As a result, it becomes easier to monitor the data and facilitate management.

How does a data protection strategy benefit an organization?

When implemented correctly, the above-mentioned practices provide the following benefits to organizations:

Mitigates unknown threats

One of the primary goals of a data protection strategy is to have a compact cyber resilience framework, which helps organizations manage, mitigate and rapidly recover from cybersecurity incidents with minimal or no damage. It not only helps to defend against known threats but also successfully mitigates unforeseen threats.

Helps comply with standard regulations

Industry standards are there to provide adequate data protection. The regulatory compliance agencies take care of the measures designed to protect data that organizations must comply with, as per the law. Each regulation is relevant to specific businesses, and a data protection strategy must account for all the relevant regulations and explain how to maintain compliance.

Upholds confidentiality, integrity and availability

One key data protection model is the CIA Triad, which consists of three vital information security principles: confidentiality, integrity and availability. The model is used to implement appropriate security controls and policies that help organizations defend against cyberthreats. Here’s a look at the three elements:

  • Confidentiality – Addresses the need to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access. Ensures data is retrieved only by authorized operators with proper credentials.
  • Integrity – Ensures the data is correct, authentic, reliable and not subject to unjustifiable changes.
  • Availability – Takes care of the availability of the systems, applications and data. Sees to the safety and proper availability of stored data whenever required.

The CIA Triad forms the core foundation of security systems and policies. It strives to keep data safe and secure while ensuring business continuity and helps organizations comply with complex regulations.

Protect brand reputation

With a proper data protection strategy, you can efficiently manage cyber resilience. This improves an organization’s corporate culture and business processes. A cyber resilience plan ensures that there’s no downtime by reducing risks and enhancing security posture. This in turn protects and enhances the company’s reputation.

Avoid unnecessary costs

We know how high data breach remediation costs are, and not having a data protection strategy in place exasperates the situation. With a robust data protection strategy, organizations can curtail unnecessary costs and focus more on growth.

Strengthen your data protection strategy with Spanning Backup

A large chunk of business-critical data goes into SaaS applications like Microsoft 365, Google Workspace and Salesforce. Organizations must protect their SaaS data since it keeps their business afloat. However, SaaS data isn’t immune to threats. Safeguarding it requires an enterprise-grade SaaS backup and recovery solution that’s fast, affordable and easy to use.

Enter Spanning Backup. Trusted by more than 1.4 million users, Spanning Backup for Microsoft 365, Google Workspace and Salesforce is a market leader in SaaS data protection. To protect an organization’s SaaS data from sophisticated cyberattacks, our advanced, integrated phishing defense and dark web monitoring platform — Spanning 360 — offers a unique solution. Its patented AI technology monitors communication patterns between people, devices and networks to create an anti-phishing defense. The Dark Web Monitoring feature looks for any compromised or stolen Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace credentials to prevent data loss before it occurs.

There are many misconceptions among organizations when it comes to SaaS data protection. It’s time to bust them all and find out how to keep your SaaS data safe and readily available with the help of our detailed eBook.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Spanning authored by Spanning Cloud Apps. Read the original post at: https://spanning.com/blog/data-protection-strategy/