Data protection challenges are multi-faceted, involving not just technological barriers but also legal complexities, human errors, and strategic decision-making. How can organizations strengthen defenses against relentless cybersecurity threats, maintain compliance amidst various regulations, and manage the human factor effectively? It is important to understand the challenges before implementing solutions like automated data loss prevention software or best practices.
In this article, we discuss these pressing issues, offering insight into tackling data protection challenges and how security leaders can better protect their company’s confidential data.
Top 3 data protection challenges
Navigating the complex world of data protection can be challenging, especially with data breaches costing around $5 million each (Figure 1), impacting not just financially but also eroding customer trust and reputation.
Businesses must adhere to various data protection regulations like GDPR, which demands understanding the storage and use of personal data and involves data mapping. Effective data security also necessitates collaboration between IT and security teams to evaluate the cost-benefit of security measures.
Security experts face numerous challenges, such as rising cyber threats, changing regulations, and insider risks. Yet, with a strategic approach, these obstacles can be managed effectively.
Figure 1. Average data breach costs1
1. Rising cybersecurity threats
As technology advances at a breakneck pace, so does the sophistication of cyber threats. Cybercriminals and organized crime groups are increasingly using low-cost computers to target larger entities in a form of asymmetrical warfare. The cost of these cybercrimes is predicted to escalate to over $13 trillion by 2028 (Figure 2). Organizations undergoing digital transformation, especially those in the financial services sector, are at significant risk as they store sensitive data that can be targeted by cybercriminals.
However, as cyber threats advance, defensive measures must simultaneously progress to keep up. Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) must maintain awareness of various cyber risk themes, including geopolitical changes and technology advancements, to safeguard against the dynamic threat landscape. This includes implementing preventive measures such as regular backups to protect against major threats like ransomware, which has the potential to inflict significant losses and data breaches.
Figure 2. Global estimated costs of cybercrime.2
2. Managing regulatory compliance
A crucial aspect of data protection involves maneuvering through the labyrinth of regulatory compliance. Businesses face the significant challenge of keeping track of the complexity of data privacy legislation, which can vary by location, sector, and data volume. This complexity is further compounded by the constant changes in the regulatory environment.
Emerging privacy laws worldwide and legislation such as GDPR3 and upcoming state laws in the US4 will soon cover the personal data of a large portion of the world’s population. This poses a considerable compliance hurdle for international organizations.
Organizations need to:
- Embrace compliance with data protection regulations
- Adhere to laws
- Protect against potentially massive financial losses that can result from data breaches.
To ensure appropriate compliance, it’s vital to comprehend the scope of operations, geographical regions involved, and shifts in the legal environment.
3. Protecting against insider threats
The landscape of threats isn’t limited to external sources alone. Insider threats, risks posed by individuals with authorized access to company systems, can be equally damaging. Insiders might misuse this access for malicious purposes, accidentally, or when compromised by external actors.
To mitigate these risks, access to personal data should be strictly regulated. This involves:
- Determining who has authorization internally
- Setting up authentication and authorization control measures to prevent breaches
- Monitoring user activity
- Conducting regular audits
Measures to overcome data protection challenges
Outdated infrastructures often struggle to cope with the exponential data growth, thereby posing significant data protection challenges for critical data. To address these challenges, implementing effective security measures is paramount.
Regular security assessments and monitoring of security logs are essential to detect vulnerabilities and prevent potential breaches or unauthorized access. Investing in Identity and Access Management solutions and managing insecure interfaces enhances security, ensuring regulatory compliance, and improving user experiences. Further, automating cybersecurity tasks can mitigate the risks associated with human oversight, while expert support and dedicated software provide a robust defense against security breaches.
The success of implementing potent security measures hinges on the capacity to adapt and progress amidst escalating threats. As technology continues to advance, it’s imperative for organizations to stay ahead of the curve by embracing new technologies and strengthening their security measures.
1. Embrace artificial intelligence and machine learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are no longer just buzzwords in the tech industry. They have become essential components in the field of cybersecurity. AI and ML algorithms can:
- Identify patterns and anomalies in data that could indicate a security threat
- Enable proactive cyber threat management
- Use historical security data to predict and prevent future incidents.
Incorporating automated Data Loss Prevention (DLP) software into this framework enhances data protection by monitoring, detecting, and blocking sensitive data breaches in real-time, further strengthening cybersecurity measures.
However, as AI technology advances, so do the tactics of cybercriminals, who now use AI to launch sophisticated attacks that traditional defenses often fail to block. This underscores the importance of integrating AI into security systems for instantaneous, automated responses to neutralize threats or isolate compromised systems, with automated DLP playing a crucial role in safeguarding critical data against these evolving threats.
2. Prioritize employee education
Despite the critical role of technology in data protection, the potential of human factors should never be underestimated. Human error, including weak password use, susceptibility to phishing, and unsafe web browsing, is a major contributor to data breaches.
To mitigate these risks, it’s crucial to prioritize employee education. Training programs are essential for instilling the importance of security protocols, software updates, and not sharing sensitive information to employees. Regular updates in cybersecurity training sessions can address emerging threats and instill secure practices within the workforce.
3. Strengthen access controls
Access control stands as a pivotal element in data protection. Implementing Access Control Policies (ACPs) can define the framework for user identification, and authentication, and ensure unauthorized users are unable to access sensitive data.
Adhering to the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP), which ensures users possess only the level of access absolutely required for their job functions, can minimize insider threats.5 Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an additional verification layer that significantly reduces the likelihood of unauthorized access by compromised credentials.
4. Consider cloud storage
The affordability of cloud storage and increased reliance on data has led to businesses managing large pools of personal information, leading to privacy and security risks. A lack of data visibility and control is a major data security concern in cloud computing.
To mitigate these risks, it’s crucial to:
- Address data visibility and control challenges
- Prevent misconfiguration
- Implement strong password policies
- Establish access controls to mitigate the risk of unauthorized access to cloud data.
5. Protect breaches from IoT devices
The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices has increased the number of attack vectors, making cybersecurity more challenging for organizations. IoT devices often have weak, default, or easily guessable passwords and include open-source firmware that may contain vulnerabilities.
A holistic approach to improving IoT device security includes network visibility, monitoring, enforcement of security policies, and segmentation of IoT systems based on their risk profiles.
How to ensure business continuity with data breaches
Business continuity in the face of data breaches and other cybersecurity threats is a key concern for organizations. Therefore, it is important to:
- Dedicate a specific budget for data privacy and security
- Maintain business continuity
- Avoid combining the budget for data privacy and security with other essential needs of the business.
To address data protection financially, companies should take compliance seriously and can consider cybersecurity insurance and managed privacy compliance solutions like Termly’s Pro+ plan. Inadequate data protection can lead to significant financial loss for enterprises, characterized by costs associated with paying ransoms, unexpected legal fines, and loss due to downtime.
Unoptimized data protection strategies may result in:
- Financial loss
- Damage to reputation
- Decreased productivity
- Legal issues that can disrupt business continuity
1. Developing robust disaster recovery plans
In addition to proactive security measures, it’s also critical to have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place. Such a plan should catalog all IT hardware, software, data, and network connectivity, with input from IT domain experts.
Business Impact Analysis (BIA) can help determine the tolerable downtime for assets before it leads to significant losses. Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) are critical metrics that dictate acceptable downtime and data backup frequency.
2. Balancing Risk Management with Innovation
Balancing risk management with innovation is a delicate act. Integrating risk management with innovation initiatives is crucial to balance the identification of new opportunities with the mitigation of potential negative outcomes.
Defining an organization’s risk appetite is a critical step in ensuring that the balance between risk-taking and innovation aligns with the company’s strategic objectives. Utilizing Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) can help organizations identify specific risks associated with innovation and develop appropriate risk-mitigation techniques.
Managing consumer data privacy
Data privacy involves collecting and processing personal data from individuals while maintaining respect for their rights and ensuring the security of their data. It emphasizes the importance of handling data in a responsible and secure manner.
Privacy-first strategies will become more prevalent, with a focus on placing customers’ privacy ahead of the organization’s needs to build trust and improve customer satisfaction. Common data privacy issues include collecting and processing personal information from users.
However, as technology continues to advance, privacy will become an increasingly elusive goal. This underscores the need for companies to actively protect and ethically govern the personal data they collect.
1. Crafting transparent privacy policies
- The type of data collected
- The purpose of collection
- Usage details
- Customer data rights
Transparent privacy policies not only adhere to ethical standards but also manifest a company’s dedication to protecting customer data, thus building trust and a strong brand reputation. Clear and accessible privacy policies are foundational in establishing informed consent and providing users with the ability to make educated choices regarding their data processing.
2. Consent management processes
As technology advances, such as the development of AI and Global Privacy Controls (GPCs), privacy policies and consent management processes are expected to become increasingly important.
Establishing collaborative relationships between businesses and privacy professionals is vital for the effective management of data privacy and consent to ensure that appropriate privacy controls are implemented and compliance with privacy laws is achieved. Consent and preference management systems are emerging as crucial compliance tools, with the goal of providing a unified privacy user experience soon becoming a strategic priority for proactive organizations.
3. Data minimization practices
Data minimization demands that only necessary data for specific purposes be collected. Limiting the collection and retention of personal data through data minimization practices helps mitigate the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access.
The management of large volumes of personal data is challenging for businesses as they strive to only collect what is necessary, complying with privacy laws and reducing exposure to security risks.
Data protection needs in major industries
The requirements for data protection can differ substantially across various industries (Table 1). In industries such as healthcare and payment card processing, adhering to specific data protection regulations like HIPAA and PCI/DSS is a critical aspect of regulatory compliance.
The utility sector must navigate the management of large amounts of digital customer data, subject to privacy laws that govern the collection, disclosure, and security of personally identifiable information. Highly regulated sectors and companies operating in multiple markets may face growing numbers of data privacy regulations, leading to initiatives to harmonize privacy regulations.
Table 1. Data breaches by industry worldwide6
1. Healthcare sector challenges
The healthcare industry processes millions of patient records with sensitive information, requiring stringent data protection measures such as those outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Data security standards such as HIPAA in the U.S., HITRUST globally, and ISO 27001/27799 internationally mandate strict protection of confidential medical information.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services updated HIPAA with a privacy rule that includes the following provisions:
- Limiting access to electronic health records (EHRs)
- Guaranteeing patient rights
- Defining electronic use
- Proposing safeguarding measures for patient data.
2. Financial services challenges
Maintaining data compliance is particularly challenging in the financial sector due to the need for continuous adherence to regulations protecting the privacy and security of personal and sensitive data. Financial service companies face significant costs in achieving and maintaining data compliance, with the expenses dependent on the jurisdictions and specific laws they operate under.
Looking forward, it is evident that data protection will continue to be a primary concern for organizations, especially in the context of a data breach. This highlights the significant risks for both individuals and organizations.
At present, organizations are missing clear guidance on enhancing their knowledge and modifying their protection strategies to counter new threats. Therefore, preparing for the coming year involves anticipating both known and unknown data protection challenges. Proactive measures and awareness are key to navigating the data protection landscape and mitigating the risks of security breaches.
1. Anticipating emerging threats
The rapid pace of change and growing interdependence in the global landscape amplify the increasingly complex intricacy of data protection, necessitating swift adaptation to emerging threats and regulatory landscapes.
As AI technology advances, there is a possibility of an arms race between cybersecurity professionals and cybercriminals using AI-based attack and defense methods. Other emerging threats include data poisoning, where attackers tamper with the data used to train machine learning models, aiming to undermine the accuracy of AI decision-making.
2. Adapting to legislative changes
Due to varying international regulations and the demand for transinstitutional solutions, the global landscape of data protection is becoming more complex, thereby complicating regulatory compliance for organizations.
Keeping up to date with data protection laws is imperative to ensure compliance. Misunderstanding which privacy laws apply to a business can lead to non-compliance and financial penalties.
Business processes must be adapted in response to legislative changes to maintain compliance with data protection laws.
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