Data Security Management: Where to Start 

Data security management is one of the most important aspects of IT for any business. Cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly common in today’s digital world. According to the 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report from IBM Security, the average cost of a data breach increased by 5.4% to $3.86 million over the past year, with the average time it took organizations to identify and contain breaches lasting 280 days (about nine months). Protecting sensitive data is of utmost importance to any organization. Still, with so many threats and technological advancements, it can be challenging to know where to start when it comes to data security management.  

In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the key steps you should take to ensure your data is protected from malicious actors, including understanding the basics of data security, establishing a risk assessment process, developing policies and procedures for data protection, implementing technical controls to secure your infrastructure, monitoring, and auditing access on an ongoing basis, training employees in best practices for data security management, creating backup strategies and disaster recovery plans, as well as reviewing your measures regularly. Read on to learn more. 

Basics of Data Security Management  

Data security management starts with understanding how data is stored and managed within an organization. It involves identifying the data types present, assessing the potential risks of each kind, and developing policies and procedures to ensure that the data remains secure.  

At a fundamental level, there are three main types of data:  

  • data at rest,  
  • data in transit, and  
  • data in use.  

Data at rest refers to information stored on physical or virtual storage devices such as hard drives or cloud storage services. Data in transit, also known as ‘data in motion,’ refers to information sent over networks or through removable media such as USB drives or DVDs. Lastly, data in use relates to information being actively used by a computer program or application.  

A key part of any security plan is identifying which types of sensitive data are present within an organization, understanding where it resides, and what access control mechanisms exist for each type. This includes external (or public) access controls like firewalls or antivirus software and internal access controls like individual user permissions for critical systems or databases. Once these have been identified, organizations can develop comprehensive policies and procedures for protecting their confidential information from external threats.  

Establish a Risk Assessment Process  

Establishing a risk assessment process for data security is important. This process helps identify potential threats and vulnerabilities within an organization’s systems, allowing IT professionals to take the necessary steps to protect the data.  

Risk assessment will involve analyzing the various aspects of an organization’s IT environment, such as: 

  • network architecture,  
  • server configuration,  
  • applications and databases,  
  • external access controls,  
  • internal access control policies and procedures,  
  • malware protection,  
  • user authentication measures,  
  • backup strategies, and  
  • disaster recovery plans.  

Furthermore, it will also involve assessing the impact of any potential security breaches on the overall business operations. 

When establishing a risk assessment process for data security, IT professionals should determine the following: 

  1. What types of information are held by their organization, 
  2. Where does that information reside, and 
  3. Each data type has potential risks, considering factors such as how exposed it is to external threats or how critical it is to business operations.  

After this initial assessment, businesses should develop a plan to mitigate these risks by implementing technical measures such as encryption or multi-factor authentication (MFA) and non-technical measures such as user training or administrative processes. Businesses should also periodically review risk assessments to ensure their organizations remain secure and protected from malicious actors. 

Develop Policies and Procedures for Data Protection  

Data security management should include comprehensive policies and procedures to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access, accidental disclosure, manipulation, or damage. Organizations should establish policies governing who has access to confidential information and how it is used to ensure an adequate data protection plan.  

An effective data protection policy should include measures such as:  

  • encryption,  
  • access control, and  
  • multi-factor authentication (MFA).  

Encryption transforms plain text data into an unreadable ciphertext that can only be decrypted with a secret key. Access control describes the methods used to determine who has access to different types of confidential information, such as restricting access to certain users or systems based on their need-to-know status. Lastly, MFA requires multiple authentication factors for a user to access a system, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. 

In addition to technical measures, organizations should implement administrative policies and procedures to comply with all relevant data protection regulations and protect their sensitive information from external threats.  

These measures could include: 

  • user training on the proper handling of confidential data,  
  • background checks for employees accessing sensitive information,  
  • clearly defined access control policies and procedures,  
  • regular network security audits, and  
  • disaster recovery plans. 

Implement Technical Controls to Secure Your Infrastructure  

To implement the policies established, organizations must build technical controls to protect against cyber-attacks and secure their infrastructure. This could be in the form of:  

  • Encryption of sensitive files and strong authentication measures like multi-factor authentication (MFA).  
  • Continuously monitoring users’ network activities uses tools such as intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), log monitoring software, malware scanning technology, and more.  
  • Regular audits of data access so they can detect malicious activity quickly if it occurs.  
  • Access control measures such as user authentication through passwords or multi-factor authentication (MFA) ensure that only authorized personnel can access data.  

Implementing strong technical control measures in data security has provided organizations significant financial benefits. A study by the Ponemon Institute found that organizations with strong access controls experienced $3.6 million USD less in business losses compared to those without access controls when responding to a data breach. The study also found that organizations with strong access controls experienced fewer data security incidents and faster recoveries. 

Organizations should also consider implementing additional security measures such as encryption, which scrambles the data, making it unreadable to anyone without the proper decryption key or token. To further reduce the risk of data leakage, organizations should also consider implementing user awareness training programs that teach employees the importance of protecting sensitive information and how to use it responsibly. 

Train Employees in Best Practices for Data Security Management  

Organizations need to train their employees in best practices for data security management. Hence, they understand how to protect their sensitive information appropriately and take proper precautions when handling company assets.  

Organizations should invest in training their employees on best practices for data security management. This could include: 

  • courses on understanding the different types of cyber-attacks and how to prevent them, 
  • recognizing malicious emails and other scams,  
  • knowing when to report suspicious activity and  
  • learning the policies and procedures associated with handling sensitive data.  

Additionally, organizations should have regular refresher courses to ensure employees are up-to-date on the latest security measures and best practices. The frequency of employee training depends on the organization’s size, the amount of data it handles, and its risk tolerance. It is recommended that organizations have refresher courses at least once a year.  

Monitor and Audit Data Access on an Ongoing Basis  

A robust data security management system requires continuous monitoring and auditing of data access. This process involves using technology, such as intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), log monitoring software, and malware scanning technology, to monitor users’ network activities continuously. It also entails regularly auditing data access to detect malicious activity quickly if it occurs. However, different approaches can be built into the process depending on the data’s nature.  

  1. Data at rest: Organizations can monitor and audit data-at-rest to assess data security risks by implementing various measures. This could include:  
    • Running vulnerability scans on the network infrastructure will help identify areas where data is at risk of being exposed due to misconfigured devices or open ports.  
    • Implementing security policies that restrict access to data based on user roles and job functions.  
    • Configuring access control measures such as user authentication through passwords or multi-factor authentication (MFA) ensures that only authorized personnel can view and modify sensitive data.  
  2. Data in TransitOrganizations can monitor and audit data in transit to assess data security risks by implementing measures like:  
    • Using technologies such as Network Access Control (NAC), Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and firewalls, to enforce access control policies on the network.  
    • Deploying intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) to detect malicious activity on the network and respond quickly if required.  
  3. Data in use: Organizations can also monitor and audit data to assess security risks. This involves using technologies such as: 
    • Application whitelisting and control can detect activities deviating from normal user behavior. For example, when employees attempt to access files, they do not usually have permission to view or modify them; this could be a sign of malicious activity. 
    • Data loss prevention (DLP) systems detect sensitive information being shared or transferred within or outside the organization without authorization. DLP systems also help ensure compliance with governmental regulations and industry standards for data security management.  
    • User behavior analytics (UBA) uses machine learning algorithms to identify trends in user behavior that could indicate malicious intent. UBA can spot abnormal activities that may otherwise go unnoticed by traditional security measures, such as unauthorized access attempts or excessive data exfiltration. Organizations should regularly review UBA logs to detect suspicious activities quickly and respond appropriately.  

Finally, organizations must encrypt all sensitive data they store on their network and devices, whether at rest, in transit, or in use. Encryption helps protect against cyber-attacks by making it difficult for attackers to access the confidential information stored within the system if they breach its defenses. Furthermore, organizations should require users to utilize strong passwords when accessing the system and change them regularly for added protection. 

Create Backup Strategies and Disaster Recovery Plans  

Creating a backup or disaster recovery plan is an essential part of data security management and is a key factor in ensuring the continuity of business operations. In the event of any unexpected interruption to business operations, a backup or disaster recovery plan allows organizations to quickly restore their systems and get back up and running without downtime.  

Organizations implementing a disaster recovery plan in their data security management process have seen significant financial benefits. According to a survey conducted by the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council, businesses with a well-designed and tested disaster recovery plan reported an average of $3.67 million in savings from preventing losses due to unplanned outages. This demonstrates that a robust data security management process can compensate for lost time and revenue associated with an unexpected interruption in business operations. 

In addition to preventing large-scale losses, having a reliable disaster recovery plan also helps organizations limit the damage caused by smaller incidents such as malware attacks or system malfunctions. If properly implemented, this can help organizations avoid costly downtime, protect sensitive customer information, and maintain compliance with applicable regulations. Furthermore, it can enable them to respond quickly to any adverse situation and provide customers with timely support services.  

A backup system helps organizations protect against data loss caused by natural disasters, hardware malfunctions, or malicious attacks. As such, it is crucial to regularly create backups of all critical data stored on the network. This can often be done using automated tools that regularly create backups at scheduled intervals. Furthermore, it is also essential to store multiple copies of data backups in different locations to ensure that if one copy is damaged, other copies can still be used for restoration purposes.  

Disaster recovery plans are equally important for protecting against data loss, as they outline procedures for how an organization should recover from unexpected disruptions. These plans should include detailed steps for restoring data from backups, establishing alternate communication channels between employees, and reconfiguring systems as needed. Furthermore, they should also include emergency contact information for key personnel responsible for managing these processes during distress.  

By having a robust backup and disaster recovery plan and effective data security management practices, organizations can ensure their systems remain secure and resilient against unforeseen events that could otherwise disrupt their operations. Reviewing these measures regularly will help organizations stay one step ahead of hackers trying to exploit system vulnerabilities. 

Review Your Security Measures Regularly and Make Adjustments as Needed 

Finally, organizations need to proactively review and adjust their data security measures regularly to stay ahead of cybercriminals who are constantly looking for system vulnerabilities. Regular reviews can help organizations identify potential risks, ensure that security protocols are being followed correctly, and address any issues that could potentially cause a breach in data security.  

One way to review data security measures is to conduct regular vulnerability scans. These scans help detect weak points in a system by identifying areas with unpatched software or insecure configuration settings. This can help organizations determine if their systems are vulnerable to attack and take steps to fix any gaps that they identify.  

Organizations should also implement appropriate authentication methods. These methods ensure that only the right users with the correct passwords can access sensitive information or change necessary settings. This can help protect against brute force attacks or other sophisticated cybercriminal activities, such as phishing scams targeting user credentials.  

Another way to review data security management practices is to monitor user activity on the network regularly. Organizations must keep track of which users have access to what data and when and detect any suspicious behavior, such as downloading large amounts of sensitive information or making unauthorized changes to settings. By closely monitoring user activity, organizations can quickly identify any potential threats and take steps to address them before they escalate into a significant incident.  

It is also essential for organizations to stay informed of changes to data protection regulations to ensure that their operations remain compliant with all applicable laws. Organizations should review local, state, and federal laws and industry standards to ensure compliance protection legislation. 

Organizations should also stay informed of emerging trends in data security management, such as the increasing use of cloud computing and mobile technologies, to ensure that their security policies can adapt to changing threats.  

Lastly, organizations must follow best practices regarding management and ensure all insurers are aware of them through training sessions and awareness campaigns. Regularly updating employees on new developments in cybersecurity technology and providing them teaching them to identify can go a long way in helping organizations protect themselves from malicious actors online.  

By conducting regular reviews of their data security measures, implementing robust authentication methods, tracking user activity on the network, and staying up-to-date with industry best practices, organizations can protect themselves against modern cyber threats while maintaining business continuity. 

Following these steps, organizations can ensure that their data security management strategy is current and reinforces best practices for protecting sensitive information. Implementing these measures will help ensure that only authorized personnel can access sensitive data and that malicious activity is detected quickly and remediated if necessary. 


Due to increasing cyber-attacks, data security management is critical in today’s digital landscape. The 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report highlights the increasing financial impacts and lengthy breach containment periods. Despite the challenges posed by evolving threats, organizations need to focus on proactive measures. By tackling data security with solid policies, risk assessments, technical controls, employee training, and continuous monitoring, businesses can strengthen their defenses against cyber threats effectively.


Team Eela

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