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Data Protection: Why should you care about it?

Every day, cyber-attacks aim to steal valuable and sensitive information from businesses, institutions, and government organizations. The increased sophistication of these threats has highlighted the importance of data protection to prevent costly breaches and data leaks. In turn, data protection has become a primary goal of cyber security, and it’s a major component of compliance and privacy. With the appropriate set of systems and strategies, organizations can prevent attackers from stealing data, thereby safeguarding against data loss and continuity disruptions.

What is Data Protection?

Data protection is the process of safeguarding important data from corruption, compromise, or loss and providing the capability to restore the data to a functional state should something happen to render the data inaccessible or unusable. Data protection assures that data is not corrupted, is accessible for authorized purposes only, and is in compliance with applicable legal or regulatory requirements. Protected data should be available when needed and usable for its intended purpose.

The scope of data protection, however, goes beyond the notion of data availability and usability to cover areas such as data immutability, preservation, and deletion/destruction.

Roughly speaking, data protection spans three broad categories, namely, traditional data protection (such as backup and restore copies), data security, and data privacy. The processes and technologies used to protect and secure data can be considered as data protection mechanisms and business practices to achieve the overall goal of continual availability, and immutability, of critical business data.

data protection

Principles of Data Protection

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.

What is the purpose?

Storage technologies for protecting data include a disk or tape backup that copies designated information to a disk-based storage array or a tape cartridge. Tape-based backup is a strong option for data protection against cyber attacks. Although access to tapes can be slow, they are portable and inherently offline when not loaded in a drive, and thus safe from threats over a network.

Organizations can use mirroring to create an exact replica of a website or files so they’re available from more than one place.

Storage snapshots can automatically generate a set of pointers to information stored on tape or disk, enabling faster data recovery, while continuous data protection (CDP) backs up all the data in an enterprise whenever a change is made.

Data Protection Trends

Cyber security changes daily as new threats are found, and attackers find new ways to bypass security, so trends continue to change to keep up with threats. Administrators don’t need to implement every trend in data protection, but adopting the latest technology often helps stop the latest threats.

A few trends to consider include:

  • Hyper-convergence: Organizations now have a combination of virtual and physical machines, and all environments must be backed up. When designing a plan, ensure that virtualized servers and network devices are included.
  • Ransomware: The only way to recover from a sophisticated ransomware attack is to recover from backups. Ransomware targets these backups, so data protection plans must include security on backup files and storage locations.
  • Copy data management: Redundancy is necessary for good data protection, but having mismanaged backups can be a nightmare resulting in data loss and corruption. Planning should include the steps required to ensure backups are stored in one location and that other active backup systems do not overwrite them.

data protection

Types of data protection technologies

Since data protection pertains to security, availability, and management, many technologies aim to help companies accomplish these goals:

  • Tape or disc-based backups: This technology consists of physical devices that security teams use to store or “back up” data assets.
  • Storage snapshots: In the form of an image or other reference point, storage snapshots reflect data at a specific point in time.
  • Continuous data protection (CDP): Also called continuous backup, CDP is a system that backs up data on a computer system every time someone makes a change.
  • Firewalls: These devices monitor traffic to or from a network. They allow or block traffic based on a defined set of security rules.
  • Encryption: Encryption is the process of securely converting data to and from scrambled text so you can store or transfer it between devices without compromising the raw information.
  • Endpoint protection: This data protection technology focuses on monitoring and preventing threats on endpoint devices — items on the edge of a network — like laptops and mobile phones.
  • Data loss prevention (DLP): DLP solutions detect potential data leaks and exfiltration. They require extensive classification of data for network administrators to monitor and control what data users transfer. If a company doesn’t classify data, it goes unmonitored by a DLP.
  • Insider Risk Management (IRM): IRM solutions are a risk-based approach to data protection. Unlike conventional DLP methods, IRM solutions monitor all data, not just data a company has already labeled, making it an ideal approach to managing a quickly changing workforce. IRM helps security teams prioritize what data matters most to their unique needs and respond promptly to data risks without impeding employee productivity.

Why should businesses care about it?

Business continuity depends on information protection. To sustain continuity, businesses need ways to recover from a cyber security event. For example, a misconfiguration or unexpected system failure can result in data corruption. Data protection plans would then come into play after these events. The time it takes for a business to recover from downtime impacts revenue. The longer the system suffers from downtime, the longer the business cannot sustain productivity. Without productivity, the business cannot maintain revenue. In addition, downtime can affect future revenue growth and damage the brand.

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