Data Privacy and Security: Protecting Your Information in the Digital Age

Hyder Jaffari
September 06, 2023
Data Privacy and Security: Protecting Your Information in the Digital Age

Privacy and security of everything connected with our person are two of the most pivotal topics in technological advancement. In modern society, everyone has a digital footprint.

Almost everything we do today is a digital transaction: our identity, our work, the movies we watch, the searches we make, the websites we visit, and our financial transactions.

Governments, businesses, and our employers store all our data on servers, the security of which lies in their hands. Sometimes, other people with not-so-good intentions want to get their hands on that data and use it for identity theft, fraud, and other crimes.

Over the years, companies and services have invested in and implemented various technologies to protect their users against these threats.

In this post, we will discuss the challenges posed by cyber threats, the history of data security and regulatory framework, and some of the best practices for digital security in today's world.

Convention 108 and Data Privacy Day

An essential milestone regarding privacy is the "Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data," or Convention 108, as it is mainly known.

The convention opened for signature on January 28, 1981, and was the first legally binding international instrument in the data protection field.

Under this convention, the parties are required to take the necessary steps in their domestic legislation to apply the principles it lays down in order to ensure respect in their territory for the fundamental human rights of all individuals with regard to processing of personal data.

This day has since become known as Data Privacy Day to raise awareness and promote responsible data privacy and security practices.

Data Privacy Day's educational initiative initially focused on raising awareness among businesses and users about the importance of protecting the privacy of their personal information online, particularly in social networking.

The convention regularly updates itself, with the latest addition being in 2019, when they added new guidelines for Artificial Intelligence and Data Protection.

A few key takeaways from this convention include:

  • Purpose: Collect data only for a specific and legitimate purpose.
  • Accuracy: Personal data must be accurate and kept up to date
  • Security: Protect data against unauthorized access, alteration, destruction, or disclosure.
  • Rights: Individuals have the right to their data, to access or rectify it, and to prevent it from being processed.

As of March 2023, 55 countries have ratified Convention 108. These countries include all 47 member states of the Council of Europe, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Israel, Mexico, and the United States.

A Brief History of Data Security

What is Data Security?

Data security is a combination of processes and safeguards for digital data against unwanted access, corruption, and theft. Hardware devices, software applications, policies, and procedures must all follow security protocols for creating, storing, managing, and transferring data.

The past few decades have seen data security transform as the means to store data evolved. We can separate these periods as below.

Security and Privacy Generations

  • Pre-digital: Before computers, servers, and the cloud, data was in printed or written form. This format's security consisted of guards and surveillance systems to monitor their safekeeping.
  • Early Digital: In the mid-20th century, when computers could store ever-growing amounts of data, companies and organizations converted and recorded it digitally. The connectivity of the internet was not present yet, so security was similar to the pre-digital era. As networking and the internet grew, security measures evolved with it.
  • Modern Digital Age: The internet, digitally connected devices, and cloud storage have warranted more robust security measures for the exponential increase in data. A few critical features of modern-day security involve:
    • Encryption
    • Firewalls
    • 2 Factor Authentication
    • Malware Protection
    • Data Backups and Recovery

Principles of Data Security

Building a comprehensive data security framework to adhere to the basic principles to prevent unauthorized access, maintain data integrity and respond to security risks. The CIA triad is a security paradigm and framework for data protection.

Confidentiality - Data is only accessible to authorized users.

Integrity - Data must remain accurate, consistent, and unaltered throughout its lifecycle.

Availability - Data and systems should be accessible and operational when needed.

The above three goals are essential elements for data security by any organization; they can implement mechanisms known as Data Security Controls to meet these goals. They assist in preventing, detecting, and responding to security risks; some of these measures are as follows:

  • Administrative and Authentication Controls - Limiting access to authorized employees who must pass through identification protocols like passwords, PINs, or biometrics.
  • Backup, Recovery, and Erasure Controls - Adhering to principles will ensure that you have a backup of your data, can recover, and, in the case of needing to dispose of data, can irrecoverably erase it.
  • Technical Controls - Masking data to be obscure without authorization and protecting it against other security risks via encryption are technical controls that protect your data.

Best Security Practices in the Digital Age

Data is being generated today at levels that have never been seen in history. Roughly 60% of the world's population, i.e., almost 5 billion people, have access to the internet, generating nearly 320+ million terabytes of data daily.

Define Secure Data

All data is essential, but some data is more sensitive than others. Defining your data by low, medium, and high levels can help you prioritize which data is critical and what levels of security regulations it needs to conform to.

Access to Sensitive Data

It is vital to implement access controls so that only authorized users can view data based on their roles. Authentication mechanisms such as passwords, biometrics, and 2FA for verification are crucial to maintaining access privileges.

Use Data Encryption

Implement robust encryption algorithms for sensitive data; this helps protect your data as only users with decryption keys or authorization can view it. Encryption is especially beneficial when data is in transit.

Data Backup and Storage

Using cloud services to store and access your data is common today. The main reason is that it eliminates sharing risk through plug-and-play storage devices like USBs, external hard drives, and email. Recovery becomes easy when your stored data is in different locations built on a data resilience system, making it less prone to cybersecurity threats.

Employee Security Training

Social engineering is as significant a threat as a phishing email. At times, it's more effective than trying to brute force a password. Educating employees on handling and securing company data is a big part of most corporate data security training.

Third-Party Access and Insider Threats

When working with vendors who may need access to certain areas of your data, you must define who has control and the process they are following for their service. Make them accountable with SLAs and maintain standards.

Similarly, to mitigate insider threats, control access to privileged users by monitoring, recording, and auditing their sessions.

Regular Security Assessments

Conducting assessments to identify weaknesses and potential vulnerabilities in systems, networks, and applications organizations can strengthen their security standing and potential risks.

Threat Response Plan

Handling cybersecurity incidents like data leaks, hacks, or breaches can be mitigated with an incident response plan in place. As the security incident is defined, protocols to select a response team, conduct a security audit, and communicate with authorities must be part of your overall incident response plan.

Apart from the above, any business or organization must regularly assess its security measures, stay informed about threats, and adjust its practices to protect its data and knowledge assets.

Livedocs can help quickly identify problems by monitoring the data you need to know. Join today.

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