Data Security

A data security strategy protects digital information from the consequences of human error, unauthorized access, and cyberattacks. These consequences may include ransomware, brute force attack, or stolen sensitive data or corporate IP.

Although the technologies securing physical and logical networks are important, an effective data security strategy’s foundation comprises principles of constant vigilance and continuous improvement.

Data breaches can materially impact a company’s financial health and compromise customers’ sensitive information. With more volatile threat landscapes and more distributed information architectures, data security is no longer a checklist activity. Security is essential to any organization’s success.

In this guide, you will learn about data security’s importance in the face of common threats and the consequences should companies not follow best security practices.

Why is data security important?

Data is the lifeblood of modern enterprises, so it must be accessible and reliable. However, failing to protect enterprise data generates severe adverse effects, from financial loss to a damaged brand image.

Protecting data is increasingly complex as architectures extend far beyond the network perimeter. A holistic, responsive, and continuous approach to data security is essential for business continuity and growth. Yet vital as it is, security at any scale remains a challenge.

What are the 4 threats to data security?

The ubiquity of security threats makes protecting data even more challenging. A security breach can start anywhere — even from within the company. Here are four sources of cybersecurity risk.

1. Insider threats

Although script kiddies, cybercriminals, and state-sponsored advanced persistent threats capture the media’s attention, malicious insiders can cause just as much damage. Recent reports found a rising frequency of insider incidents and a growing concern over insider vulnerabilities. Insiders are not only employees. They can be any contractor, vendor, or other business entity granted access to enterprise data.

2. The human element

Insiders with no ill intent can compromise security just as severely. The 2023 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that poor security behavior contributed to 74% of breaches. A network administrator who postpones the application of a firewall security patch leaves the door open for an attack. An over-credentialed executive may overwrite valuable data. Employees can lose their access credentials to phishing and other social engineering attacks.

3. Technical vulnerabilities

Complex information architectures are another source of internal threats. Vulnerabilities appear in firmware, operating systems, and applications depressingly frequently. Microsoft reports that cybercriminals take two weeks to exploit vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, Edgescan’s most recent vulnerability report found that organizations take two months to remediate these security gaps.

4. External threats

Pervasive internal and external threats combined with the professionalization of cybercrime and emboldened state-sponsored threat actors make security breaches inevitable. This volatile threat landscape led 43% of global organizational leaders to tell the World Economic Forum they expect a materially significant cyberattack within the next two years.

What are the 6 ways to protect data?

The specifics of data security plans depend on a company’s priorities, risk tolerance, go-to-market strategy, and many other factors. Common methods for protecting data include:

1. Encryption & data masking

If security breaches are inevitable, one way to keep data secure is to make it unreadable without authorization. End-to-end data encryption thoroughly scrambles data. Without an encryption key, hackers would spend millennia running decryption algorithms. Data masking, tokenization, and other forms of obfuscation further frustrate cyber criminals by leaving them holding a pointer to data rather than the data itself.

2. Authentication

Identity has become a fuzzy concept in the digital age. An email address and password can’t prove who’s trying to access protected systems. Replacing discredited password policies with single sign-on (SSO), multi-factor authentication (MFA), and identity and access management (IAM) solutions are ways to validate identity.

3. Fine-grained access control

Yet identity confirmation is not sufficient for information access. Being an employee does not justify access to any enterprise data. Access control policies based on the principle of least privilege only grant permission to users on a need-to-know basis. Fine-grained rules let authorized users see only a filtered view of a dataset’s contents.

4. Network and device management

Conceptually, the secure perimeter is obsolete. Cloud data storage, remote workforces, and mobility have pushed endpoints far beyond the on-premises network’s firewalls. Data loss prevention (DLP) now depends on cloud-aware approaches that protect an organization’s sensitive data, no matter where it resides.

5. Resiliency

Data resiliency determines how long it takes to restore operations after a breach or other disruption. Bouncing back quickly depends on creating regular data backups with multiple copies stored in remote locations. Cloud data storage makes disaster recovery plans more robust.

6. Detailed auditing

Building a data security strategy upon regulatory or industry security frameworks lets companies measure their performance against independent standards. Independent audits reinforce customer trust by demonstrating companies meet the compliance requirements of frameworks like HIPAA, PCI-DSS, or AICPA SOC2.

What are some of the consequences of data security breaches?

When security systems fail, data breaches can materially impact a business. Hackers motivated by financial gain will use malware to launch ransomware attacks that exfiltrate sensitive information before rendering it inaccessible. More malicious attacks result in data erasure. Regardless of the attack mode, security breaches have several consequences.

Cost to the business

The financial impact of a security breach can be severe. First is the immediate remediation cost and the effect of disrupted operations. Should the breach result in the loss of personally identifiable information (PII) or healthcare records, the company will face stiff fines from regulators and potential civil suits from the people whose data was stolen.

Loss of trust with customers and prospects

Security breaches also undermine trust and brand loyalty. Businesses and consumers must know that the company they entrust their data with has its security house in order. A significant breach could have long-term consequences as customers leave for competitors.

Stolen intellectual property & weakened competitive advantage

State-sponsored threat actors will use stolen trade secrets to benefit their domestic industries. Hacktivists may release proprietary information into the public domain. In either case, companies may lose their competitive edge.

Data security best practices: Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity

Critical infrastructure, from power grids to internet service providers, are high-profile targets of cyberattacks. The National Institute of Standards and Technology issued its voluntary Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity to help organizations deploy more effective security systems.

NIST’s data security best practices fall into five core functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover.


Assessing security risk in a business context helps set priorities. The first step in developing a cyber security policy is identifying all external threats and internal vulnerabilities. Articulating leadership’s risk tolerance guides the organization’s focus and resources.


With priorities set, companies can implement appropriate safeguards such as physical, network, and cloud security controls. These safeguards are not limited to technical security measures. Awareness and training reinforce everyone’s role in protecting the organization.


Early detection of security events can prevent data loss or at least minimize the cost of a breach. Real-time security tools continuously monitor network traffic and other activity. A baseline of user behavior on networks and apps makes it easier to detect anomalous activity.


Incident response plans shorten the time it takes to secure a breach and assess its impact. Automated systems can remediate minor events, freeing incident response teams to focus on more significant attacks.


The sooner response teams restore normal operations, the less likely a breach will have a material impact. Recovery planning helps prepare the organization for various security scenarios. However, recovering from a severe event may still take years.

Build data-driven security strategies

Starburst’s modern data lake analytics platform lays the foundation for data-driven security decisions by unifying every data source within a single source of access. In addition, Starburst’s robust security tools enhance data protection even in highly distributed information architectures.


Starburst integrates with your third-party authentication services to verify user identities. Data teams can automate queries and data products by managing application identities.

Access control

Built-in access controls let you limit what authorized users may see or do based on their roles or the dataset’s attributes. These controls allow the creation of fine-grained access policies at the catalog, schema, table, row, and column levels.

End-to-end Encryption

By virtualizing your storage architecture, Starburst allows rapid access to information while leaving data at the source. Starburst does not move, copy, or store your data. All connections use TLS for end-to-end encryption.

Monitoring and logging

Starburst creates detailed query logs to support real-time usage monitoring. A graphical interface provides activity statistics and lets data security teams explore usage patterns.


Controlling access through Starburst’s single pane of glass and delivering rapid query results from any data source improves your security posture and streamlines compliance activities. Whether your organization must meet data privacy standards like GDPR and CCPA or industry standards like ISO 27001, you can use Starburst to automate compliance monitoring efforts and quickly respond to auditor requests.

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