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Data Security and Privacy Concerns

January 11, 2024
Cyber security technology network and data protection technology on virtual dashboard.

The digital revolution has fundamentally altered how individuals and businesses manage data. Many people have transitioned from printed documents, handwritten notes, and other analog formats to digital solutions. Your tax paperwork, vehicle titles, health records, and other personally identifiable information may exist only in the cloud or on a computer hard drive.

This digitization makes data more accessible and harder to damage or misplace. However, growing reliance on technology has also led to new data security risks. According to the cyber economy researcher Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrimes will cost $9.5 trillion globally in 2024.1

Discover cybersecurity best practices that will help you safeguard sensitive information and ensure compliance with privacy regulations.

Types of Data Security Risks

Cyber threats continuously evolve as cyber criminals refine old methods and invent new ways to defeat data security measures. Current threats include:2

  • Malware: This malicious software infects devices and systems, which can lead to data loss or theft
  • Ransomware: Cyber criminals gain access to and infiltrate computer systems, encrypt valuable files, and demand a ransom to release the stolen data
  • Phishing: Cyber thieves impersonate reputable individuals or businesses to trick users into disclosing confidential and/or sensitive data
  • Corporate account takeover: Cyber criminals steal a company’s financial data and use it to send money to the criminals’ accounts

Other security issues include employee misuse of data, which can lead to data breaches and theft. For instance, an employee could leave a laptop or a USB drive unsecured, allowing the device and its data to be stolen.

Data Privacy Law

The United States and the European Union have various data privacy laws covering different industries and states. Data professionals should familiarize themselves with relevant regulations to ensure compliance.

Significant data privacy laws include:

  • California Computer Privacy Act (CCPA): Businesses must disclose how they use the data they collect from California consumers and allow them to delete and opt out of sharing this information3
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): Healthcare organizations must keep patient data secure and only share this information with authorized entities4
  • General Data Protection Regulation: This complex law places many restrictions on how organizations handle the personal data of European Union residents5

Personal Data Security Measures

Protecting personal information from cyber criminals may seem challenging, but there are many ways to reduce unintended data access and the risk of cyber threats. Follow these data security measures to safeguard your information from unauthorized users:6

  • Avoid sharing and collecting unnecessary personal data
  • Use a virtual private network (VPN) when accessing public Wi-Fi
  • Install the latest security software on all personal devices
  • Encrypt and anonymize sensitive records
  • Replace all weak passwords with strong, complex ones
  • Use multi-factor authentication in login processes

These simple steps can help you avoid becoming a victim of data theft, identity theft, fraud, and other consequences of data breaches.

Cybersecurity Best Practices

Cybersecurity refers to the practices and technology used to protect data, devices, and networks from unauthorized parties, unapproved access, and cyber threats. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, a component of the United States Department of Homeland Security, recommends that all individuals and organizations follow these cybersecurity best practices:7

  • Regularly update software and install software patches
  • Install and properly configure firewalls
  • Use complex, strong passwords

Employee Training and Awareness

So far, there’s no magic bullet for preventing unauthorized access to data. We’re all susceptible to human error and people are often the weak link in cybersecurity protocols. This is separate from deliberate insider threats: Even the best-intended employees can put private user data at risk by accidentally clicking a malicious link or using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection.

Cybersecurity training, however, ensures that employees have the knowledge and tools to safeguard data. The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education and private consulting firms provide many resources to educate staff about data security best practices.8

Securing Data in Cloud Computing

The cloud offers fast and convenient access to data from any location. However, data stored in the cloud could get leaked or stolen without proper protection. Companies can increase privacy and security in the cloud environment by limiting employee access to only nonessential data. In addition, creating written cloud service agreements allows businesses to establish data ownership and outline clear data security protocols.9

Design for Privacy Regulations

Privacy by design means incorporating privacy considerations at every stage of the development of products, systems, and processes. This approach requires businesses to anticipate data privacy concerns and proactively address them during the design process.10 For example, in regard to data collection, mobile app designers can limit the personal data they collect and retain from users. Similarly, website developers can help protect private data by building social media platforms that comply with international privacy regulations.

Data Auditing and Monitoring

Cybersecurity professionals can maintain data security and mitigate risk by conducting regular audits. These checks typically include reviewing cybersecurity protocols, assessing information technology infrastructures, and inspecting security controls. Audits identify vulnerabilities and anomalies that may indicate attempted or successful cyber attacks.11

Third-Party Vendor Risk Management

Third-party vendors often need to access sensitive data to perform the services for which they have been hired. Companies should assess vendors’ security measures and calculate risk before granting access to information. They should also continually monitor vendors throughout their relationship to ensure that service providers use strong, effective data protection practices.12

Response to Data Breach Prevention Failures

No data breach prevention plan is foolproof, so even the most vigilant companies can experience the disruption of business operations caused by cyber attacks. Business analysts and security teams can prepare for the worst by creating a comprehensive incident response plan. This disaster-recovery document should include protocols for responding to incidents, communication plans, and strategies to repair the damage caused by data breaches.13

Privacy Impact Assessments

A privacy impact assessment evaluates privacy risks in new projects. Businesses can use these tools to ensure compliance with privacy laws and increase consumer trust by making their data security practices more transparent.14

Future Trends in Data Security and Privacy Management

As the threat landscape evolves, many companies have turned to new technologies for data security and privacy management. For example, cybersecurity professionals can use artificial intelligence to detect threats and automate security processes. Many cloud services providers have also stepped up their security measures by offering features such as data loss prevention and identity and access management.15

Vital Expertise to Protect Your Future

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Led by award-winning industry experts, Marquette's CIS program offers a career-changer pathway for those entering the profession from another field and it features a wide array of courses, so you can tailor your degree to your career goals and interests.

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  1. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from cybersecurityventures.com/cybercrime-to-cost-the-world-9-trillion-annually-in-2024/
  2. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from mass.gov/info-details/know-the-types-of-cyber-threats
  3. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from oag.ca.gov/privacy/ccpa
  4. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/laws-regulations/index.html
  5. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from gdpr.eu/what-is-gdpr/
  6. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from irs.gov/newsroom/small-security-measures-that-make-a-big-difference-when-it-comes-to-online-safety
  7. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from cisa.gov/news-events/news/what-cybersecurity
  8. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from nist.gov/itl/applied-cybersecurity/nice/resources
  9. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from ftc.gov/business-guidance/blog/2020/06/six-steps-toward-more-secure-cloud-computing
  10. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from iab.org/wp-content/IAB-uploads/2011/03/fred_carter.pdf
  11. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from isaca.org/resources/news-and-trends/industry-news/2022/essentials-for-an-effective-cybersecurity-audit
  12. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from isaca.org/resources/news-and-trends/isaca-now-blog/2022/eight-steps-to-manage-the-third-party-lifecycle
  13. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cybersecurity-incident-response-plans.pdf
  14. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from app.org/resources/topics/privacy-impact-assessment-2/
  15. Retrieved on December 12, 2023, from isaca.org/resources/news-and-trends/industry-news/2023/an-executive-view-of-key-cybersecurity-trends-and-challenges-in-2023