In part 1 of this series, we discussed data privacy, the related laws, and the data collection practices that help comply with those laws. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the challenges in securing customer data and five effective steps to overcome them.

 Many countries deem data privacy a fundamental human right and have implemented data protection laws. As discussed in the last blog, these laws aim to give more control to customers over how their data is being processed, and the visibility on how, why and where their data is being used. Not adhering to these laws can result in fines, sanctions, and other legal consequences.

 The customer information stored by businesses is threatened by many threat actors. Should personal data fall into the wrong hands, it can be misused in many ways, such as fraud, unethical advertising, impersonation, illegal access, identity theft, payment fraud, and more. A scandal, such as a data breach, can ruin an organization’s reputation for years. The next sections talk about how a data breach is caused and how to prevent them.

The threat actors behind data breaches 

A data breach occurs when confidential customer information is exposed inadvertently or otherwise. It can be caused by both internal and external threat actors. External threat actors deploy social engineering tactics such as phishing, malware attacks, and brute-force attacks. Most of these attacks are aimed at gaining an entry point into the network. Once that’s accomplished, they quietly work their way to the organization’s most prized resources.

 Did you know that social engineering tactics that target passwords are often the first step to gaining access into your network? Learn more about password attacks and how to prevent them.

Internal threats include negligent or malicious insiders. Negligent insiders become a vulnerability, especially when they don’t follow confidential data practices. Acts of human error include sharing passwords, sharing resources accidentally, leaving confidential devices unattended, accessing sensitive information over unprotected networks and using unprotected devices for work. Malicious insiders, on the other hand, actively perform acts such as data exposition and exfiltration.

Threat actors usually target PII, social security numbers, health records, critical system files, and proprietary information.

Watch for these signs 

An indicator of data breach can sit in your network for months before it causes damage and you would never know. Looking for these signs can help you prevent a data breach before it takes place in your network. Here’s what you need to watch out for. 

Compromised accounts: Data breaches often begin with the compromise of a highly privileged account in your network. The threat actor may compromise an account through means of a brute-force attack, malware propagation, or phishing attacks. They perform reconnaissance and deploy lateral movement techniques to reach your prized resources. Compromised accounts can lay hidden in your network for a long time.

Insider threats: Insider threats are difficult to detect, primarily because the person or persons involved might have legitimate access to data, either by group or individual access. Different from negligent insider behavior, insider threats might occur due to a variety of reasons and are usually hard to predict. Rule-based detection techniques may invariably fail to detect insider attacks. Implementing ML- based behavior analytics techniques is more effective against both insider threats and account compromise.

 All the challenges to secure customer data discussed so far seem daunting. However, with appropriate controls and timely detection, data breaches can be prevented and remediated.

 The next section describes how implementing some simple steps can help ensure the security of sensitive data in your environment. 

Some simple steps to secure customer data 

Here’s a simple plan that can go a long way to ensure the security of your enterprise data.

Tip 1: Locate the sensitive information

To secure sensitive data, you should know where it is. Take inventory of all the locations, servers, and files that hold sensitive data in your network, and establish controls to monitor what’s being accessed by who and when.

Tip 2: Keep only what’s necessary for your business

Additional data means additional responsibility. Avoid collecting any information you don’t need. This is especially important for businesses that deal with sensitive data, such as social security numbers, credit card information, or health records.

Tip 3: Secure your data

This should be implemented at multiple levels. The physical access of your servers should be highly restricted. Additionally, ensure the protection of your network by implementing proper firewall policies. Remote access and VPN usage should be monitored. Implement the principle of least privilege when granting access. If your data is in the cloud, ensure you follow cloud security best practices.

Tip 4: Properly dispose of what you no longer need

Some compliance regulations such as PCI-DSS mandate periods over which the data of an individual should not be retained. Even at this stage, identity thefts can happen. Proper disposal of sensitive information means making sure it cannot be reconstructed or read should it fall into the wrong hands.

Tip 5: Have an incident response plan in place

While it is important to try to prevent data breaches, every organization should have an incident response for data breach. An incident response plan can help you contain the breach, as well as remediate it. The sooner you act, the better. Automating the first response is a good step to contain a data breach quickly. Further steps should be planned according to the organization’s security policy.

Need help with securing enterprise data?  

Log360, ManageEngine’s unified SIEM solution with integrated DLP and CASB capabilities, can help you keep your customer data safe.

  • Discover data: Find, analyze, and track PII stored in files, folders, or shares.

  • Audit file servers: Monitor, report on, and receive real-time alerts for changes made to files and folders in your Windows file servers.

  • Analyze storage: Analyze and identify redundant, outdated, and trivial data to declutter your file servers and cut storage costs.

  • Detect insider threats and account compromise: Implement ML- based UEBA to unearth malicious insider behavior and hidden compromised accounts.

  • Automated incident response: Associate real-time alerts with workflow profiles. Perform end-to-end incident management.

  • Comply with privacy laws: Get audit-ready reports for HIPAA, PCI-DSS, the GDPR, GLBA, FISMA and other data privacy regulations at the click of a button.

 Learn more.

 For a free personalized demo of Log360, sign up here.