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Top 11 tips to prevent data loss | King IT

23rd July 2021

Malicious or criminal attacks are a leading cause of data breaches notified to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). Data security cannot be overlooked today, especially with the rising cyber threat landscape and evolving attacks that are more difficult to track and address.

Strong password protection strategies, including raising awareness about the importance of protecting credentials, can greatly reduce the risk of this type of data breach. Regardless of size, all businesses need to adopt better security measures to protect their data and prevent data loss. Not having adequate security plans in place for information security can result in severe consequences for businesses.

While providing data security isn’t a cakewalk, it is absolutely worth the time and effort. Encryption alone can provide significant protection to your data. It’s best to integrate security within your organisation as much as possible for quick detection and mitigation of security vulnerabilities.

Australia’s leading agency on national cybersecurity, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), says credentials (usernames and passwords) are typically stolen when:

  • a user is tricked into entering their credentials into a page that mimics the legitimate site
  • a brute-force (automated trial-and-error) attack on username and password combinations is performed against a service if it doesn’t prevent such activity
  • a service is compromised, and credentials are stolen and used to access the system or tested against other sites such as social media and email
  • a user’s system is compromised by malware designed to steal credentials

 

Tips to prevent and mitigate data spills or breaches

1. Build a Security-First Culture

Cybercriminals use common tricks to get employees to reveal their organisational credentials, enabling the exploitation of sensitive information including data protected under the Privacy Act 1988. These include:

  • phishing, where confidential information is stolen by sending fraudulent messages to victims
  • spear phishing, a dangerous class of phishing where criminals use social engineering to target companies and individuals using very realistic bait or messages, based on company information sourced from publicly available information such as annual reports, shareholder updates and media releases

The ACSC recommends prevention techniques such as clearly documenting and training employees in cybersecurity systems and plans, and designing and implementing cybersecurity awareness programs for all employees. If you're interested in any security awareness training, come in-store and talk to us. 

 

2. Secure Database Access

Database Hardening

One of the best ways to prevent data loss is to secure a database by hardening it as much as possible. Immediately look to disable or uninstall features or services that you are not using. Ensure that you only keep services that are absolutely needed for your operations.

Incorporating a fine-grained access control can also contribute to database hardening by limiting the access and privileges of users to a minimum (only up to the functions or applications they need access to perform their job responsibilities). 

Manage Database Access Tightly 

Focus on users created within the database and limit their access controls to tables, stored procedures, views, etc that could modify the database or have an impact on the overall database security.

Along with this, you need to carefully examine who has access to what. For example, can users create data, modify data, delete data, or just view data? This will give you better visibility into your database access and allow you to enforce stringent access policies to ensure security and prevent data loss.

Finally, you need to ensure that a single database flaw doesn’t impact your entire system, so you’ll have to reduce dependencies to limit the impact of a problem and thus, avoid blast radius.

You need to take into account that if a single user account is compromised, the scale of data loss, and if you have the needed data recovery plan, we can help you with this too.

Secure Authentication

Database accounts should have strong password policies with minimum permissions required to complete their job. Administrative access should require multi-factor authentication and all user privileges should be limited as finely grained as possible.

Secure Communication

Most databases support a wide variety of communication methods including APIs, services, etc. Some of these methods are secure (authenticated and encrypted) while others are insecure (unauthenticated and unencrypted).

It’s recommended that you should rely more on secure communication to protect databases from unauthorized access. You may only be communicating on the internal network, but those communications should be secured regardless. It’s a crucial strategy to prevent data loss.

 

3. Application Whitelist

Application whitelisting is a stronger security control that allows only pre-approved and specific programs to run. Any other program that is not whitelisted is automatically blocked by the system.

This method places control over which programs are secure and authorized to run on a network or a user’s machine. It ensures that users cannot run malicious or unauthorized programs that may be harmful to the organization.

 

4. Encrypt Sensitive Data

Encryption is one of the most basic yet effective preventive measures to be taken for preventing data loss. End-to-end encryption enhances data protection regardless of whether the data is in a private or public cloud, on-device, or in transit.

The primary goal of encryption is to provide confidentiality and drive key security processes like authentication, authorization, integrity, and non-repudiation. Companies can incorporate encryption in security lifecycle processes to provide persistent data protection. 

As always, secure key management is paramount for data security and the prevention of data loss.

 

5. Implement Digital Identity

Digital identity is the unique representation of a user or a program that helps authenticate that individual or an entity is who they claim to be. It can consist of the credentials necessary to gain access to a network or system, or advanced identifiers like voice recognition, face recognition, and biometrics.

It is frequently said that identity is the new perimeter, and in many respects, it is. Having robust and tested identity management can is a critical element of your overall security posture.

By implementing digital identity only authorized users will be able to access devices, networks, and data. While this isn’t the strongest security measure, it can significantly help reduce the likelihood of unauthorized access, theft, or data loss.

 

6. Enforce Access Controls

In conjunction with identity management, access control is critical to prevent data loss. Access control is the process of granting or denying specific access from a program, process, or user. It also involves the process of allowing and revoking those privileges. At a high level, access controls help facilitate the selective restriction of access to data.

While enforcing access control strengthens an organisation's overall security, these systems are complex and can be challenging to manage in a dynamic environment. Focus on least privilege and maintaining permissions as fine-grained as possible.

When a user or program is added to an access control system, the administrators should use an automated provisioning system to set up permissions and privileges based on access control frameworks, workflows, and job responsibilities.

In today’s dynamic IT environment, access control must be regarded as a powerful technology infrastructure that uses the most sophisticated tools and processes to prevent data loss and the inherent risks that come with it.

 

7. Use Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) Tools

SIEM is a set of services and tools that offers insights and can help identify incidents by pulling together and analyzing logs and activities from a myriad of sources within an IT environment. It provides real-time visibility across a company’s information security systems.

Additionally, it also offers event log management and automatic security event notifications to keep concerned personnel updated. SIEM tools and software typically come with dashboards for security issues and methods for alerts. 

 

8. Patch and Update your Software

Patching should be a crucial element of any business’s data loss prevention strategy, regardless of whether you have a small business with a few devices and software, or a big organization with plenty of users and devices.

Attackers love security vulnerabilities. They can exploit these vulnerabilities to infect your computer or modify data in your database, leak sensitive data, and do much more damage to your organization’s integrity. If you want to prevent data loss, you need to pay attention to it. 

Software updates help protect your data from unauthorized users or attackers by fixing security vulnerabilities present in the software.

 

9. Protect your Hardware

Hardware security is one of the most underrated yet crucial methods of data loss prevention. It mainly consists of physical security which includes three important components: access control, surveillance, and testing. Hardening measures include locks, fencing, access control cards, fire suppression systems, and biometric access control systems.

Here are some quick ways to restrict access to your hardware and prevent data loss:

  • Install servers and related equipment in a restricted, locked access room.
  • Restrict access to USB consoles, which can provide access to important data or give more powerful access than SSH connections.
  • Restrict access to hot-swap and hot-plug devices in particular as they can be easily removed.
  • Store spare customer-replaceable units (CRUs) or fire-replaceable units (FRUs) in a locked room. Restrict access to the room to only authorized personnel.

 

10. Data Backup

One of the biggest defences in data loss prevention is data backups. This is especially true for ransomware. Create a data backup strategy that can protect your business by helping to recover or restore your data that has been corrupted or lost. Ensure you have good backups and offline backups as well.

Regular Data Backups

Data backups should be scheduled on a regular basis - whether it be hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly - having a routine schedule for data backups helps build continuity and guarantees better protection against data loss.

If you have any sensitive data, whether it is emails, spreadsheets, documents, software, databases, decryption keys, or any other stored data on your devices, make sure you back it up regularly but make sure that the standard data protection mechanisms are in place. Many attackers go to backups to find sensitive data that is not protected as it is in the primary source.

Test your Backup Solution

Having a backup solution is one thing, but whether or not if it accurately works and recovers data at the time of an emergency is another. Often data backups fail and result in data corruption or incomplete files. Businesses should proactively ensure that data backups contain the most up-to-date information. Regular, frequency backup testing is necessary to identify issues with backup quality, storage, or performance. This lets you fix issues before any major disturbance occurs and impacts your data.

Diversify your Backups

Diversification in data backups is certainly a key aspect of data storage. Make sure that copies of data backup are sent to multiple locations. There is a wide variety of data backup and storage solutions available such as cloud backup systems, virtualization, and local drives.

By diversifying your backups, you can protect the interests of your business in times of data breach or catastrophe. Because, let’s face it, protecting data at all times is a non-negotiable requirement for all businesses to ensure uninterrupted operations.

 

11. Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is the process of detecting and preventing data breaches, unwanted alteration, and exfiltration of sensitive data. It helps monitor data access and sharing by end-users to identify anomalies or unusual behaviour.

DLP tools are often used to classify and prioritize data security. By implementing DLP in your organization, you can protect personally identifiable information (PII), protect Intellectual property (IP) consisting of sensitive information, achieve in-depth data visibility, and secure your mobile workforce in BYOD environments as well.

 

Overall, data loss prevention policies and tools play a big role in data protection - one that’s unavoidable by organizations and is highly crucial to secure data. No organization wants to suffer a data breach that could have been avoided with a simple few steps in the right direction, and that’s where we step in. We can help you prevent data loss and secure your business. Come in and see us.