Data theft can devastate any company, resulting in lost profits, regulatory enforcement, litigation, and reputational damage that can be difficult to overcome. Every organization must protect its customer data and assure that sensitive information is kept safe.

That said, the data in your company’s possession is held in different states – and each of these states has particular vulnerabilities. A security tactic that works for one state may be inefficient for another. Knowing the biggest threats for each type of data can help you to design controls that will keep all of your clients’ personally identifiable information safe.

What Are the Three States of Data?

To create the best information security system for your data, you’ll first need to understand the differences among data at rest, data in motion, and data in use.

Data at Rest

“Data at rest” is data that is not being used or transferred. This means that the data is likely being stored on a hard drive, flash drive, or another device. The term can also refer to data stored in a cloud service, such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS). Data at rest is easier to secure, but thieves typically see this data as a more attractive target because there’s more of it to steal. Data at rest is also more vulnerable to malicious attacks from employees who have access to the storage network.

Data in Motion

This refers to data moving from one location to another, such as between two storage devices. This includes downloads, transfers, or any other means of taking data from one place to another. Of the three states, data in motion is by far the most vulnerable. In particular, Man in the Middle (MitM) attacks (where a malicious actor inserts himself into a transaction or transfer) are easier to execute with data in motion.

Data in Use

This refers to data being accessed or used at any given moment. If you are creating, deleting, editing, or processing your data, then it is “in use” until such time as it is stored (at rest) or transferred (in motion).

What Are the Best Practices for Keeping Data at Rest Safe?

As we discussed previously, data at rest can be a tempting target for hackers. The following defense methods can help you protect your stored data.

Keep Your Storage Organized

Disorganized or unclassified data storage can create unnecessary vulnerabilities that hackers will exploit. Creating a well-maintained and well-documented storage system will help you to keep an eye on all of your information and to notice whether anything has been disturbed. Classifying your data based on how valuable or vulnerable it is will also help you to allocate your defense resources correctly.

Encrypt Your Data

Data encryption translates your data into a code that is undecipherable to anyone without the correct encryption keys. Encrypting your data while it is stored means that even if unauthorized access happens, the encrypted data will not be of use to the thieves. Encryption is a powerful tool that can keep information from falling into the wrong hands.

Practice Due Diligence

It’s imperative that you understand where your data is stored and what safeguards are in place. If you’re using cloud storage, your server will likely have a number of protections in place; those are a great addition to a strong defense strategy. Depending on these outside controls alone, however, can have disastrous results. Whatever cloud services you use, you still have a responsibility to create security controls for your storage and make sure the data is safe.

What Are the Best Practices for Keeping Data in Motion Safe?

Data in motion is harder to protect than stored data. These security measures will provide a solid foundation for your data protection efforts.

Secure Your Network

Your company will need to access and transmit data to provide the best service for your clients; leaving critical data in storage is simply not an option. This means that your private network must be secured and protected so that data is safe while in transit. There are a variety of ways to secure your network, such as implementing firewalls or using encrypted connections and SSL certificates. Whatever method you choose, your goal should be to assure that no outside actors are able to see or acquire sensitive data while it moves within your company.

Restrict Access to Data

An important part of data protection is knowing who has access to it and who is responsible for any transmissions. This means that restricting data access on a need-to-know basis and implementing access logs can help you track when data is being moved and who was responsible for moving it. If a breach occurs at this level, access control will make it easier to determine where it originated and what must be done to prevent future breaches.

Encourage Good Security Hygiene

The safety of data transmitted within your company depends on the security of your staff’s accounts. Usually data will be transmitted via email or messaging apps, and your employees need to have unique names and strong passwords to keep that data secure. Multi-factor authentication is also a great option for protecting data, and your employees should be encouraged to implement such protection on their accounts.

Endpoint security should also be a concern, and any laptops or mobile devices used by your staff must be secured. Training your staff on the importance of data security should be an integral part of your overall data management plan.

Use ZenGRC for Data Protection

Your best defense in the face of data theft is preparedness. Part of that preparedness is a risk management system tailored to your company’s needs. Organizing this important information in spreadsheets can result in redundancies or worse, risks that slip through the cracks. How can you best streamline your risk management and protect your customers’ data?

ZenGRC is an integrated software solution that allows you to view your entire risk landscape in real time. This innovative platform will help you track and assign risks for all data, whether it’s at rest or in motion.

Schedule a demo today to learn how ZenGRC can help create a risk management system tailored to your data protection needs.