Data Security: How to Protect Sensitive Data

Data security is an essential part of any organization's operations, as it helps protect sensitive information from unauthorized access. Encryption is one of the most common methods used to secure data, as it takes sensitive information and applies an algorithm that makes it unreadable without access to a secret key. Regulations such as the GDPR and HIPAA require encryption of protected health information stored at rest, while government and military agencies have long used data encryption for classified communications. Whenever sensitive data is transmitted online, such as payment information or social security numbers (SSNs), encryption helps protect that data.

However, it's important to note that encryption has limitations due to the evolution of technology, such as cryptographic attacks or the use of cloud storage. The most reliable way to protect sensitive or confidential data is to prevent the manipulation of sensitive data. Sensitive data should be kept or manipulated only when necessary. Storing and transmitting sensitive data between computer systems can be difficult to protect, increasing the need for surveillance. A Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) can be used to assess risk during data processing, define data processing functions within the company, and determine the flow of data between systems and people.

It can also be used to define a security policy in the event of a cyber attack. Organizing data by risk level (low, medium or high) allows organizations to implement different security measures for each level of confidentiality, as well as to determine what information is public or private. Added to this complexity is the dynamism in how systems and their parts interact and their need for frequent updates to correct errors or protect against the latest hacking attacks. In general terms, sensitive data is information that a person or organization wants to prevent from being made available to the public, since the disclosure of the information can cause harm, such as identity theft or fraud. With more information stored in the cloud, malicious actors can more easily use best-known vulnerabilities (CVEs) to access sensitive data. Sensitive data must be encrypted to facilitate the secure transport of individual files over an unencrypted transmission network or to offline storage devices. Governments seek to hold corporate leaders accountable and demand a thorough risk review to help protect customer information.

Protecting sensitive data in today's digital world has become increasingly complex and challenging, especially if parties use poor data management, network security, encryption methods, or endpoint protection. Confidential content transmitted in email messages must be encrypted before transmission, presented using a secure web application, or encrypted in a secure message format. Organizations can also use data masking to test various security protocols, patch systems, and create new functions without using real user data. Data protection impact assessments (DPIA) are active tools designed to help organizations protect their data if they involve a significant risk of exposure to personal information.

Jacquelyn Hamling
Jacquelyn Hamling

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