Data Protection and Privacy: How to Protect User Data

Data Protection

Data Protection and Privacy: How to Protect User Data

The terms data protection and data privacy are often used interchangeably, but there is an important difference between the two. Data privacy defines who has access to data, while data protection provides tools and policies to actually restrict access to the data. Compliance regulations help ensure that user’s privacy requests are carried out by companies, and companies are responsible to take measures to protect private user data.

Data protection and privacy is typically applied to personal health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII). It plays a vital role in business operations, development, and finances. By protecting data, companies can prevent data breaches, damage to reputation, and can better meet regulatory requirements.

Data protection solutions rely on technologies such as data loss prevention (DLP), storage with built-in data protection, firewalls, encryption, and endpoint protection.

 

In this article:

 

What Is Data Protection and Why Is It Important?

Data protection is a set of strategies and processes you can use to secure the privacy, availability, and integrity of your data. It is sometimes also called data security.

A data protection strategy is vital for any organization that collects, handles, or stores sensitive data. A successful strategy can help prevent data loss, theft, or corruption and can help minimize damage caused in the event of a breach or disaster.

What Are Data Protection Principles?

Data protection principles help protect data and make it available under any circumstances. It covers operational data backup and business continuity/disaster recovery (BCDR) and involves implementing aspects of data management and data availability.

Here are key data management aspects relevant to data protection:

  • Data availability—ensuring users can access and use the data required to perform business even when this data is lost or damaged.
  • Data lifecycle management—involves automating the transmission of critical data to offline and online storage.
  • Information lifecycle management—involves the valuation, cataloging, and protection of information assets from various sources, including facility outages and disruptions, application and user errors, machine failure, and malware and virus attacks.

Related content: Read our guide to data protection principles

What Is Data Privacy and Why Is it Important?

Data privacy is a guideline for how data should be collected or handled, based on its sensitivity and importance. Data privacy is typically applied to personal health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII). This includes financial information, medical records, social security or ID numbers, names, birthdates, and contact information.

Data privacy concerns apply to all sensitive information that organizations handle, including that of customers, shareholders, and employees. Often, this information plays a vital role in business operations, development, and finances.

Data privacy helps ensure that sensitive data is only accessible to approved parties. It prevents criminals from being able to maliciously use data and helps ensure that organizations meet regulatory requirements.

What Are Data Protection Regulations?

Data protection regulations govern how certain data types are collected, transmitted, and used. Personal data includes various types of information, including names, photos, email addresses, bank account details, IP addresses of personal computers, and biometric data.

Data protection and privacy regulations vary between countries, states, and industries. For example, China has created a data privacy law that went into effect on June 1, 2017, and the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect during 2018. Non-compliance may result in reputation damages and monetary fines, depending on the violation as instructed by each law and governing entity.

Compliance with one set of regulations does not guarantee compliance with all laws. Additionally, each law contains numerous clauses that may apply to one case but not another, and all regulations are subject to changes. This level of complexity makes it difficult to implement compliance consistently and appropriately.

Learn more in our detailed guides to:

Data Protection vs Data Privacy

Although both data protection and privacy are important and the two often come together, these terms do not represent the same thing.

One addresses policies, the other mechanisms

Data privacy is focused on defining who has access to data while data protection focuses on applying those restrictions. Data privacy defines the policies that data protection tools and processes employ.

Creating data privacy guidelines does not ensure that unauthorized users don’t have access. Likewise, you can restrict access with data protections while still leaving sensitive data vulnerable. Both are needed to ensure that data remains secure.

Users control privacy, companies ensure protection

Another important distinction between privacy and protection is who is typically in control. For privacy, users can often control how much of their data is shared and with whom. For protection, it is up to the companies handling data to ensure that it remains private. Compliance regulations reflect this difference and are created to help ensure that users’ privacy requests are enacted by companies.

Learn more in our detailed guides to:

Data Protection Technologies and Practices to Protect Your Data

When it comes to protecting your data, there are many storage and management options you can choose from. Solutions can help you restrict access, monitor activity, and respond to threats. Here are some of the most commonly used practices and technologies:

Data Discovery

Before you can protect your data, you need to know what you have and where it is located. This process, known as data discovery, is crucial for identifying sensitive information and determining the best ways to secure it.

Inventory and Classification

To begin the data discovery process, you must first take inventory of all the data you have within your organization. This involves identifying the different types of data that you store, such as customer information, employee records, intellectual property, and more. Once you have a comprehensive list, you can then classify each data type based on its sensitivity and importance.

Data Mapping

Data mapping is the next step in data discovery, which involves identifying the locations of your data and how it flows through your organization. This helps you understand the relationships between various data sets and systems, allowing you to make informed decisions regarding data protection.

Automated Discovery Tools

To further streamline the data discovery process, many organizations now utilize automated tools that can quickly scan and identify sensitive data. These tools can help you keep track of your data inventory and ensure that you’re always aware of any changes or additions.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Data loss prevention (DLP) is a critical component of data protection, designed to prevent unauthorized access, leakage, or theft of sensitive information. DLP technologies consist of various tools and processes that help organizations maintain control over their data.

DLP Policies

Creating and implementing DLP policies is a crucial first step in protecting your data. These policies outline the rules and procedures for handling sensitive information and should be tailored to your organization’s specific needs.

Monitoring and Alerts

DLP technologies often include monitoring and alert systems that can detect potential data breaches or other security incidents. These systems can track user activity, flagging any suspicious behavior or attempts to access sensitive data.

Remediation

In the event of a potential data breach or security incident, DLP technologies also provide remediation options. These can include blocking the transfer of sensitive data, quarantining affected files, or automatically revoking access to compromised accounts.

Storage with Built-in Data Protection

Choosing the right storage solution is essential for ensuring the safety of your data. Modern storage technologies now come equipped with built-in data protection features, offering additional layers of security.

Redundancy

One of the primary ways storage technologies protect data is through redundancy. By creating multiple copies of your data and storing them on separate drives or locations, you can minimize the risk of data loss due to hardware failure or other issues.

Error Correction

Built-in error correction is another feature of many modern storage systems. This technology can automatically detect and repair data corruption, ensuring the integrity of your information.

Access Controls

Finally, storage systems with built-in data protection often include granular access controls, allowing you to restrict who can access your data and under what circumstances. This can help prevent unauthorized access and maintain the confidentiality of your information.

Backup

Backing up your data is a fundamental aspect of data protection. Regular backups ensure that you can quickly recover your information in the event of data loss or corruption.

Local and Offsite Backups

It’s essential to maintain both local and offsite backups of your data. Local backups provide quick access to your information, while offsite backups offer additional protection against disasters such as fires or floods.

Incremental and Full Backups

In addition to choosing the right backup location, you should also consider the type of backup you perform. Incremental backups save only the changes made since the last backup, while full backups create a complete copy of your data. Combining both types can help strike the right balance between storage space and recovery time.

Backup Scheduling

To ensure that your backups are always up to date, it’s important to establish a regular backup schedule. This can involve daily, weekly, or even monthly backups, depending on your organization’s needs and the sensitivity of your data.

Snapshots

Snapshots offer an additional layer of protection for your data by creating point-in-time copies of your systems and files. These snapshots can be used to quickly restore your data in the event of a security incident.

Instant Recovery

One of the primary benefits of snapshots is their ability to facilitate instant recovery. If your system becomes compromised, you can quickly revert to a previous snapshot, minimizing downtime and data loss.

Versioning

Snapshots also provide a form of versioning, allowing you to maintain multiple versions of your data and systems. This can be particularly useful for tracking changes and identifying the cause of a security incident.

Storage Efficiency

Due to their incremental nature, snapshots can be more storage-efficient than traditional backups. This can help you save space while still maintaining a comprehensive data protection strategy.

Replication

Replication involves creating an exact copy of your data and storing it in a separate location. This can provide additional protection against data loss and ensure the availability of your information.

Failover and Failback

In the event of a system failure or other disruption, replication allows you to quickly switch over to the replicated data (failover), ensuring minimal downtime. Once the issue has been resolved, you can then switch back to the original data (failback).

Load Balancing

Replication can also help with load balancing, allowing you to distribute the workload across multiple systems or locations. This can improve performance and prevent system overloads.

Geographical Redundancy

By replicating your data in geographically diverse locations, you can protect your information against regional disasters and maintain access to your data in the event of a localized outage.

Firewalls

Firewalls play a crucial role in data protection by acting as a barrier between your internal systems and the outside world. They can help prevent unauthorized access and protect your data from various threats.

Intrusion Detection and Prevention

Many modern firewalls include intrusion detection and prevention features, which can identify and block potential threats before they can reach your systems.

Application Control

Firewalls can also provide application control, allowing you to restrict or allow specific applications from accessing your data. This can help prevent unauthorized access and maintain the integrity of your information.

Traffic Monitoring

Finally, firewalls offer traffic monitoring capabilities, enabling you to track and analyze the flow of data in and out of your organization. This can help you detect potential security incidents and respond accordingly.

Authentication and Authorization

Authentication and authorization are essential components of data protection, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access your data. These processes involve verifying the identity of users and granting them the appropriate level of access.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide two or more forms of identification to access your data. This can include something they know (e.g., a password), something they have (e.g., a security token), or something they are (e.g., a fingerprint).

Role-Based Access Control

Role-based access control (RBAC) is a method of authorization that assigns users specific roles within your organization, each with its own set of permissions. This granular approach helps ensure that users have access only to the data they need to perform their job functions, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches.

Identity and Access Management

Identity and access management (IAM) systems are designed to manage user identities and access rights across your organization. By centralizing authentication and authorization processes, IAM can help streamline data protection efforts and improve security.

Encryption

Encryption is the process of converting data into a code that can only be read by authorized parties. This technology is a critical component of data protection, as it can help prevent data theft or unauthorized access.

Symmetric Encryption

Symmetric encryption involves using a single key to encrypt and decrypt data. This method is often faster than other encryption methods but requires that both parties have access to the same key, which is less secure.

Asymmetric Encryption

Asymmetric encryption, also known as public-key encryption, uses two keys: one to encrypt data and another to decrypt it. This method is slower than symmetric encryption but offers greater security as the private key remains secret.

End-to-End Encryption

End-to-end encryption is a method of encryption that ensures data remains protected from the moment it is sent until it is received by the intended recipient. This technology is commonly used in messaging apps and other communication platforms.

Endpoint Protection

Endpoints, such as laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices, are often vulnerable targets for cyberattacks. Endpoint protection technologies are designed to protect these devices and the data they contain.

Antivirus and Anti-Malware

Antivirus and anti-malware software are crucial components of endpoint protection, designed to detect and remove malicious software from your devices.

Device Management

Endpoint protection can also involve device management, which allows you to track and control your endpoints from a central location. This can include monitoring device activity, restricting access to certain applications, and remotely wiping devices in the event of theft or loss.

Patch Management

Patch management is the process of keeping your devices up to date with the latest security patches and software updates. This can help address vulnerabilities and prevent cyberattacks from exploiting known weaknesses.

Data Erasure

Data erasure involves securely and permanently deleting data from your systems. This process is crucial for ensuring that sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands.

Secure Erasure Methods

Secure data erasure methods involve overwriting the existing data with new data, making it impossible to recover the original information. These methods can include overwriting the data multiple times, degaussing, or physically destroying the storage media.

Data Destruction Policies

Establishing data destruction policies is essential for ensuring that sensitive information is properly erased when it is no longer needed. These policies should outline the procedures for erasing data and the types of data that require secure erasure.

Certification and Auditing

Finally, certification and auditing can help ensure that your data erasure processes are effective and compliant with relevant regulations. By obtaining certification and undergoing regular audits, you can demonstrate your commitment to data protection and ensure that your procedures remain up to date.

Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery involves preparing for and responding to unexpected events that could threaten the availability or integrity of your data. This process is essential for ensuring business continuity and can help minimize the impact of disasters.

Business Impact Analysis

Before you can develop a disaster recovery plan, you must first conduct a business impact analysis. This process involves identifying the critical functions and systems within your organization and determining the potential impact of disruptions.

Disaster Recovery Planning

Once you’ve conducted a business impact analysis, you can then develop a disaster recovery plan. This plan should outline the procedures for responding to disasters and restoring systems and data.

Testing and Maintenance

To ensure the effectiveness of your disaster recovery plan, it’s important to regularly test and maintain your procedures. This can involve conducting tabletop exercises or full-scale simulations, as well as updating your plan as new technologies or threats emerge.
Related content: Read our guide to data protection impact assessment

Critical Best Practices for Ensuring Data Privacy

Creating policies for data privacy can be challenging but it’s not impossible. The following best practices can help you ensure that the policies you create are as effective as possible.

Inventory Your Data

Part of ensuring data privacy is understanding what data you have, how it is handled, and where it is stored. Your policies should define how this information is collected and acted upon. For example, you need to define how frequently data is scanned for and how it is classified once located.

Your privacy policies should clearly outline what protections are needed for your various data privacy levels. Policies should also include processes for auditing protections to ensure that solutions are applied correctly.

Related content: Read our guide to data protection impact assessment

Minimize Data Collection

Ensure that your policies dictate that only necessary data is collected. If you collect more than what you need, you increase your liability and can create an undue burden on your security teams. Minimizing your data collection can also help you save on bandwidth and storage.

One way of achieving this is to use “verify not store” frameworks. These systems use third-party data to verify users and eliminate the need to store or transfer user data to your systems.

Be Open with Your Users

Many users are aware of privacy concerns and are likely to appreciate transparency when it comes to how you’re using and storing data. Reflecting this, GDPR has made user consent a key aspect of data use and collection.

You can be sure to include users and their consent in your processes by designing privacy concerns into your interfaces. For example, having clear user notifications outlining when data is collected and why. You should also include options for users to modify or opt-out of data collection.

Here are some important trends driving the evolution of data protection.

Data Portability and Data Sovereignty

Data portability is an important requirement for many modern IT organizations. It means the ability to move data between different environments and software applications. Very often, data portability means the ability to move data between on-premises data centers and the public cloud, and between different cloud providers.

Data portability also has legal implications—when data is stored in different countries, it is subject to different laws and regulations. This is known as data sovereignty.

Related content: Read our guide to Data sovereignty

Traditionally, data was not portable and it required huge efforts to migrate large datasets to another environment. Cloud data migration was also extremely difficult, in the early days of cloud computing. New technical methods are developing to make migration easier, and thus make data more portable.

A related issue is portability of data within clouds. Cloud service providers tend to have proprietary data formats, templates, and storage engines. This makes it difficult to move data from one cloud to another, and creates vendor lock in. Increasingly, organizations are looking for standardized ways of storing and managing data, to make it portable across clouds.

Learn more in our detailed guides about:

Mobile Data Protection

Mobile device protection refers to measures designed to protect sensitive information stored on laptops, smartphones, tablets, wearables and other portable devices. A fundamental aspect of mobile device security is preventing unauthorized users from accessing your corporate network. In the modern IT environment, this is a critical aspect of network security.

There are many mobile data security tools, designed to protect mobile devices and data by identifying threats, creating backups, and preventing threats on the endpoint from reaching the corporate network. IT staff use mobile data security software to enable secure mobile access to networks and systems.

Common capabilities of mobile data security solutions include:

  • Enforcing communication via secure channels
  • Performing strong identity verification to ensure devices are not compromised
  • Limiting the use of third-party software and browsing to unsafe websites
  • Encrypting data on the device to protect against device compromise and theft
  • Perform regular audits of endpoints to discover threats and security issues
  • Monitoring for threats on the device
  • Setting up secure gateways that can allow remote devices to connect securely to the network

Ransomware

Ransomware is a rising cybersecurity threat, which is a top security priority for almost all organizations. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts user data and demands a ransom in order to release it. New types of ransomware send the data to attackers before encrypting it, allowing the attackers to extort the organization, threatening to make its sensitive information public.

Backups are an effective defense against ransomware—if an organization has a recent copy of its data, it can restore it and regain access to the data. However, ransomware can spread across a network over a long period of time, without encrypting files yet. At this stage ransomware can infect any connected system, including backups. When ransomware spreads to backups, it is “game over” for data protection strategies, because it becomes impossible to restore the encrypted data.

There are multiple strategies for preventing ransomware and in particular, preventing it from spreading to backups:

  • The simplest strategy is to use the old 3-2-1 backup rule, keeping three copies of the data on two storage media, one of which is off premises.
  • Security vendors have advanced technologies that can detect ransomware at its early stages, or in the worst case, block encryption processes as they begin.
  • Storage vendors are offering immutable storage, which ensures that data cannot be modified after it is stored. Learn how Cloudian secure storage can help protect your backups from ransomware.

Related content: Read our guide to ransomware data recovery

Copy Data Management (CDM)

Large organizations have multiple datasets stored in different locations, and many of them may duplicate data between them.

Duplicate data creates multiple problems—it increases storage costs, creates inconsistencies and operational issues, and can also result in security and compliance challenges. Typically, not all copies of the data will be secured in the same way. It is no use securing a dataset and ensuring it is compliant, when the data is duplicated in another unknown location.

CDM is a type of solution that detects duplicate data and helps manage it, comparing similar data and allowing administrators to delete unused copies.

Disaster Recovery as a Service

Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is a managed service that gives an organization a cloud-based remote disaster recovery site.

Traditionally, setting up a secondary data center was extremely complex and involved massive costs, and was only relevant for large enterprises. With DRaaS, any size organization can replicate its local systems to the cloud, and easily restore operations in case of a disaster.

DRaaS services leverage public cloud infrastructure, making it possible to store multiple copies of infrastructure and data across multiple geographical locations, to increase resiliency.

Data Protection and Privacy with Cloudian HyperStore

Data protection requires powerful storage technology. Cloudian’s storage appliances are easy to deploy and use, let you store Petabyte-scale data and access it instantly. Cloudian supports high-speed backup and restore with parallel data transfer (18TB per hour writes with 16 nodes).

Cloudian provides durability and availability for your data. HyperStore can backup and archive your data, providing you with highly available versions to restore in times of need.

In HyperStore, storage occurs behind the firewall, you can configure geo boundaries for data access, and define policies for data sync between user devices. HyperStore gives you the power of cloud-based file sharing in an on-premise device, and the control to protect your data in any cloud environment.

Learn more about data protection with Cloudian.

Learn More About Data Protection and Privacy

Keeping Up with Data Protection Regulations

Data Availability: Ensuring the Continued Functioning of Business Operations

How You Can Maintain Secure Data Storage

Data Encryption: An Introduction

Continuous Data Protection

GDPR Data Protection

S3 Object Lock — Protecting Data for Ransomware Threats and Compliance

Office 365 Data Protection. It is Essential

See Our Additional Guides on Key Data Protection Topics:

Learn more about the world of data breaches in these in-depth guides.

Data Backup Guide

 

Endpoint Security

Authored by Cynet

 

Data Classification

Authored by Satori

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