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Data Protection

10 Data Security Best Practices: Simple Methods to Protect Your Data


Data security is more important than ever because of an expanding cyber attack surface, frequent supply chain attacks, and evolving AI threats. The global average cost of a data breach reached an all-time high of $4.45 million in 2023, according to the 2023 Cost of a Data Breach Report by IBM Security.

In this article, you’ll discover the main data security strategies and 10 methods of protecting data that apply to most industries. These data protection methods will also help you comply with data security laws and regulations.

Data threats and benefits of maintaining data security

Below, we overview the data security field, highlight the key benefits of robust data security systems, identify the types of data that require protection, and outline the critical threats organizations face. Let’s dive in.

What is data security?

Data security is a combination of processes and tools that aim to protect an organization’s sensitive assets. Valuable data must be protected both at rest and in transit. Security officers should also consider other vectors of data security such as safe data creation and use.

Vectors of data security

Efficient data protection measures involve implementing real-time monitoring and quickly reacting to any suspicious events to make your data resilient to fraudulent activity.

Why does data security matter so much that authorities and regulators constantly create new data security guidelines and requirements?

Main benefits of robust data security

Let’s take a look at the key benefits of high-level data security in your organization:

5 benefits of strong data security

Safeguard information

Strengthen your reputation

Comply with data security requirements

Reduce litigation expenses

Enhance business continuity

1. Safeguard information — Knowing your information is protected from both internal and external threats can give you peace of mind. Thus, you’ll have more time to concentrate on your business strategies rather than worrying about data leaks.

2. Strengthen your reputation — Organizations and businesses that are looking for long-term cooperation always pay close attention to the reputation of their potential partners. Applying reliable security measures to protect data also inspires your customers’ trust.

3. Comply with data security requirements — Implementing data protection and security best practices can help you comply with data security requirements. This will help your organization avoid extensive fines due to non-compliance.

4. Reduce litigation expenses — Preventing an incident from happening is always more cost-efficient than dealing with its consequences. The more time and effort you spend on data security, the less money you’ll spend on containing and recovering from a potential incident.

5. Enhance business continuity — Robust data security and privacy best practices contribute to uninterrupted operations, reducing the risk of business disruptions and, consequently, revenue loss.

Which data needs protection?

To understand which data is at risk, let’s first take a look at the types of data most commonly stolen:

Categories of most breached data

Your organization’s sensitive data must be guarded according to relevant laws and regulations in your industry and jurisdiction.

In the table below, you can see some of the most commonly breached types of sensitive data and the laws, standards, and regulations that govern their protection:

IT compliance requirements for three important types of data
Data categoryRelevant laws, standards, and regulations
Financial dataPayment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), SWIFT Customer Security Programme (CSP), Sarbanes–Oxley (SOX) Act, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), System and Organization Controls (SOC) 2
Personal dataGeneral Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), California Privacy Rights Act of 2020 (CPRA)
Protected Health Information (PHI)Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

Additional IT standards to consider are NIST 800-53, NIST 800-171, and ISO 27000 Series.

Key threats to corporate data

No system is 100% immune to misconfiguration, insider threats, and cyber attacks. An organization’s sensitive data can get lost, damaged, or obtained by the wrong people.

Here are the key threats an organization’s data or systems may face:

Most common threats to corporate data

In this article, we focus on internal human threats, as even external cyberattacks are often caused by employees’ actions — 74% of all data breaches include a human element, according to the 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon.

To understand how data is compromised, let’s recall a few examples of data breaches caused by insiders:

  • Human error and negligence — A legitimate user can make errors due to negligence, lack of attention, fatigue, and other human factors in cybersecurity.

In January 2023, adversaries tricked a Mailchimp employee into revealing their login credentials through a social engineering attack. As a result, at least 133 Mailchimp user accounts were compromised. Some of those were the accounts of well-known companies like WooCommerce, Statista, Yuga Labs, Solana Foundation, and FanDuel.

  • Malicious insiders — Internal users may intentionally steal, damage, or destroy an organization’s data for their own benefit.

In August 2023, two former Tesla employees were blamed for leaking the personal data of Tesla’s current and former employees to a German newspaper. Their actions resulted in the exposure of the personal data of 75,735 people, potentially subjecting Tesla to a $3.3 billion GDPR fine.

  • Privilege misuse — Users with elevated privileges can engage in various types of sensitive data misuse or improper data handling.

In May 2022, a research scientist at Yahoo allegedly stole intellectual property on their AdLearn product after receiving a job offer from their competitor, The Trade Desk. Yahoo claims that this incident compromised their valuable trade secrets while giving competitors a major leg up.

  • Third-party threats Data security threats can come from partners, vendors, and subcontractors with access to your organization’s sensitive data. Third parties can also become intermediaries for outside attackers, as in some supply chain attacks.

In June 2023, Zellis, a payroll solutions provider operating in the UK and Ireland, faced a data breach due to the exploitation of a zero-day vulnerability in their vendor, MOVEit. Several Zellis customers have been impacted by the breach, including BBC, Boots, British Airways, and Aer Lingus. Personal data of thousands of their employees could be compromised.

All of the threats described above may jeopardize your sensitive data and disrupt your business operations:

How data threats affect organizations

However, if you notice and respond to a data security threat in a timely manner, you can efficiently mitigate its consequences.

How to secure data in your organization?

To answer this question, let’s take a look at the main ways to secure data. According to Gartner, the key four methods of protecting data are:

1. Encryption — prevents unauthorized parties from reading your data.

2. Masking — suppresses or anonymizes high-value data by replacing sensitive information with random characters. You can also substitute data with a low-value representative token; this method is called tokenization.

3. Data erasure — involves cleaning your repository of data that is no longer used or active.

4. Data resilience — involves full, differential, and incremental backups of your critical data. Storing your valuable data in different locations helps to make it recoverable and resilient to different cybersecurity threats.

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Discover Ekran System’s diverse capabilities for sensitive data protection.

Now, it’s time to examine the fundamental principles behind strong data security.

Core data security principles and controls

Confidentiality, integrity, and availability form the CIA triad, which is vital to ensuring strong data protection:

CIA triad for protecting data
  • Confidentiality — Data is protected from unauthorized access.
  • Integrity — Data is reliable and correct, and sensitive information is guarded against illegitimate changes.
  • Availability — Data is easy to access for all legitimate users.

To adhere to these three principles, organizations need practical mechanisms called data security controls. These are countermeasures for preventing, detecting, and responding to security risks threatening your valuable assets.

1. Administrative controls

Guidelines, procedures, and policies for achieving an organization’s security goals

2. Physical controls

Physical restrictions that ensure data security, such as locks, boxes, fences, and cards

3. Technical or logical controls

Automated software tools for protecting digital  data from possible security risks

The 10 best practices for data security and privacy that we describe below cover these controls as well as major compliance requirements of data security standards, laws, and regulations.

Top 10 data security best practices for your organization

While different businesses, regions, and industries may require different data protection practices, we have selected the best practices that will suit most organizations. If you’re wondering how to ensure data protection in your organization, follow these top 10 data protection best practices.

10 data security best practices
1. Define your sensitive data2. Establish a cybersecurity policy3. Build an incident response plan4. Ensure secure data storage5. Limit access to critical assets
6. Continuously monitor user activity7. Manage third-party-related risks8. Pay special attention to privileged users9. Educate all employees on data security risks10. Deploy dedicated data security software

Now, let’s talk about each of these data security and privacy best practices in detail.

1. Define your sensitive data

Consider reviewing your data before implementing security measures:

Five parameters for data review

First, assess the sensitivity of your data. There are three data sensitivity levels:

  • Low-sensitivity data — Safe to be seen or used by the public, such as general information published on websites.
  • Medium-sensitivity data — Can be shared inside the organization but not with the public. In case of a data leak, there will be no catastrophic consequences.
  • High-sensitivity data — Can only be shared with a limited circle of insiders. If compromised or destroyed, it can have a catastrophic impact on the organization.

It’s also vital to ensure visibility into your data so that you can have a better understanding of what information needs protection the most. Read on to discover the best practices that’ll enable you to see and review all actions connected to your sensitive data.

2. Establish a cybersecurity policy

The second task is organizing all your cybersecurity mechanisms, activities, and controls to form a working strategy. Make your organization’s human and technical resources effectively support your data security efforts by implementing a data security policy:

6 tasks for creating a data security policy


Create a data usage policy


Implement a risk-based approach to data


Conduct a database audit


Implement patch management


Restrict the employee termination procedure


Appoint a data protection officer

Create rules governing your organization’s sensitive data for your data usage policy. It should contain guidelines for employees, stakeholders, and third parties when handling data.

Implement a risk-based approach to data. Assess all risks connected to the use of data in your organization along with data weak points. Then, concentrate on the highest risks first.

Regular database audits help you understand the current situation and set clear goals for further data defense. They allow you to track all user actions and see detailed metadata at any time.

Apply a proper patch management strategy. This is a list of steps and rules to patch vulnerabilities inside your corporate environment or just in code. Conduct patches regularly and document all actions accordingly.

Terminate employees thoroughly, from monitoring and recording employees’ activities and operations with critical assets to fully revoking access rights.

Also, consider appointing a data protection officer (DPO) who will:

  • Control compliance with data security requirements
  • Give advice on data protection measures
  • Handle security-related complaints among staff, providers, and customers
  • Deal with security failures

You may also refer to common examples of IT security policies to find the most suitable ones for your organization.

3. Build an incident response plan

An incident response plan sets out actions to handle cybersecurity incidents and mitigate their consequences in a timely manner. You can refer to HIPAA, NIST 800-53, PCI DSS, and other standards, laws, and regulations that set incident response requirements.don’t forget to:

  • Define security incidents, their variations, and the severity of their consequences for your organization
  • Choose people who will be in charge of handling an incident
  • Conduct a security audit, improve your plan based on previous incidents, and make an extended list of incidents your organization may face
  • Create a communication plan and a list of authorities you should inform in case of an incident

Also, create a data recovery plan to make sure you can restore the data and systems quickly after a potential incident.

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Experience the benefits of using Ekran System for security incident detection and response.

4. Ensure secure data storage

Before enforcing other data protection practices, ensure that data is stored securely at all levels:

3 tasks for safe data storage


Secure physical storage


Implement data-saving methods


Manage all devices

Carefully store physical media containing your data. It’s important to use waterproof and fireproof storage media. In addition, guard your data with deadbolted steel doors and security guards.

Furthermore, pay special attention to how you secure your data with the help of modern technologies. We’ve already talked about backups, encryption, masking, and confirmed erasure as the four main data security methods to safely store your files.

Consider deploying USB device management tools to secure all data stored on devices. Secure information on mobile devices and data shared via removable storage devices. Don’t forget about solutions that enable visibility and notifications on suspicious activity on devices that contain sensitive data.

5. Limit access to critical assets

Thoroughly protect data access as your starting point:

3 tasks for efficient access management


Control physical access


Implement password and identity management


Apply the principle of least privilege

Physical access controls protect access to data servers through locking and recycling of databases, video surveillance, various types of alarm systems, and network segregation. They should also ensure secure mobile device and laptop connections to servers, computers, and other assets.

Control all of your data access points and enable efficient identity management with biometrics and multi-factor authentication. Password management helps you create and rotate passwords automatically and increase the security of your entrance points.

You can also reduce insider risks by adopting the principle of least privilege or just-in-time privileged access management (JIT PAM), which gives privileged access to users that really need it for a specific task and for a limited time.

Don’t forget to secure access to your most critical data from any device and endpoint. The continuing trend of remote work and hybrid work models is leading to an increasing demand for secure access management solutions.

Privileged Access Management with Ekran System

6. Continuously monitor user activity

Consider enhancing your organization’s visibility with user activity monitoring (UAM) solutions. Comprehensive real-time monitoring of all employees with access to sensitive information may also include:

Tools for comprehensive user activity monitoring

The ability to view any user session related to your sensitive data at any time and receive alerts on abnormal user activity can help you secure interactions with your critical assets. This way, you will have a much greater chance of avoiding a costly data breach.

7. Manage third-party-related risks

It’s crucial to monitor the actions of third-party users inside your IT infrastructure. Third parties may include partners, subcontractors, vendors, suppliers, and any other external users with access to your critical systems. Even if you trust third parties, there’s a chance their systems are vulnerable to hacking and supply chain attacks.

In addition to monitoring third-party vendors’ sessions on-premises and in the cloud:

  • Make sure you clearly understand what your third-party landscape looks like, and define workers who control and process your data
  • Sign a service-level agreement (SLA) with third-party service providers
  • Ask for regular accountability to be sure data security standards are maintained
  • Work with your vendors to improve your mutual security

Third-Party Vendor Security Monitoring with Ekran System

8. Pay special attention to privileged users

Keep in mind that privileged users have elevated rights to access and alter your organization’s sensitive data. Privileged account and session management (PASM) functionality serves to fully control access to as well as monitor, record, and audit sessions of privileged accounts.

Consider implementing five core PASM features:

Five integral features of PASM

Privileged accounts can pose the greatest insider threats from data mishandling, privilege abuse, or data misuse incidents. But simple solutions and strict controls can mitigate most of these risks.

9. Educate all employees on data security risks

It’s important to educate your employees on how to handle your corporate assets securely and how to recognize malware and social engineering attempts.

Don’t forget to provide new training to give up-to-date information about the latest data threat landscape. Also, consider creating introductory training for new employees. It’s vital to educate your staff and trainees regularly.

5 tasks for corporate data security training


Tell about negligence and malware


Teach how to handle your corporate data


Give tips for preventing phishing attacks


Show security measures for each endpoint


Ask trainees and employees for feedback

According to the people-centric approach to data security, employees play a major role in your threat mitigation process. Knowledge can significantly reduce people-related data leaks and make security measures more obvious for your employees.

10. Deploy dedicated data security software

Look into deploying a specialized data protection solution to control the security of your sensitive data. When implementing security software, give preference to solutions with the following capabilities:

  • User activity monitoring
  • Automated access management
  • Notifications on security events
  • Auditing and reporting
  • Password management

Moreover, you might need to ensure the visibility of various types of devices and endpoints from one place. Deploying too many different tools and solutions isn’t always effective, as it can slow down your IT and security management processes, increase your expenses, and complicate maintenance.

That’s why we recommend you choose an all-in-one solution like Ekran System. Read on to find out how Ekran System can help your organization enhance data security.

Securing data with Ekran System

Ekran System is a full-cycle insider risk management platform that can help you protect your data in accordance with requirements established by the GDPR, HIPAA, NISPOM, NERC, SOC 2, and other standards, laws, and regulations.

You can implement the required technical data security controls by deploying Ekran System. Our platform has the capabilities to help you protect data from insider threats and follow the data security best practices described above:

  • Privileged access management (PAM) — manage user access rights, passwords, and sessions of privileged users and regular employees
  • Identity management — implement two-factor and secondary authentication to secure user accounts and ensure user accountability
  • User activity monitoring (UAM) — get complete real-time visibility into user actions with your data
  • Incident response to suspicious events — detect and contain security threats with the help of customizable user activity alerts and incident response capabilities
  • Cybersecurity incident investigation — conduct audits and generate reports on user  activity related to your sensitive information on all data security vectors, and even in the case of incidents

These features of Ekran System allow you to deter, detect, and disrupt insider threats to your corporate data and provide all necessary details during a forensic or internal inquiry.

Interested in how Ekran System compares to other insider threat management solutions? See why Ekran System is a worthy alternative for Proofpoint and other ITM products.


Data security aims to protect data during its creation, storage, management, and transfer. Insiders can pose risks to your organization’s data by violating security rules on purpose, mishandling data, or having their accounts compromised.

Consider implementing the best practices described in this article for optimal data security. Deploying Ekran System is a practical way to enhance the protection of your data against people-related threats and comply with industry requirements.

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See how Ekran System can enhance your data protection from insider risks.