How to Best Secure Data at Rest, in Use, and in Transit in the COVID-19 Era

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Taking into consideration that internal and external cyber threats are on the rise especially with this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s necessary for you to put all measures in place to adequately protect your data at rest, in use, and in transit. The world has got to a situation where businesses depend on data to carry out transactions. 

Ordinarily, the best and safest option would have been not having any data, but this is not tenable in the technology-based world we are living in. It, therefore, becomes a very important task for your IT team to come up with hardcore strategies that will ensure your data, whether at rest, in use, or in transit is secured.

Cybercriminals set out to hurt your business through information theft and whether you want to believe it or not, the consequences of information theft can be utterly destructive. It’s, therefore, very important for the survival of your business, that you pay attention to how your sensitive information can be protected.

Once your information has been stolen, you should gear up for identity theft. The information that has been stolen can be used for corporate or even government espionage as well as a lure for ransomware.

Being very smart, they mostly have been targeting medium and small organizations for information theft, knowing fully well that the COVID-19 pandemic has almost rendered their situations relatively hopeless. Large organizations even in the face of the scourge are still able to fairly protect their data, hence, their preference for these “soft targets.” 

From reports of events across the globe, the pandemic has probably affected your organization in no small measures, but, you can’t afford to stifle finances for security purposes. Any attempt to do this might even be the worst measure because you could even end up not having anything on the ground after cybercriminals might have dealt you a crushing blow. 

You need to go all out to effect measures that will ensure you are up to date on security tools or policy enforcement notwithstanding the size of your organization. The risks involved in a major data loss to information theft should be the overriding reason for you to input resources (both budget and staff) to protect data.

It’s completely an erroneous belief to think that you should concentrate on the identification and mitigation of external threats, cybercriminals are well aware of this fact and have started to capitalize on internal threats especially now that you are working remotely. So, you must ensure that you allocate enough resources to mitigate internal threats. 

According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 30% of data breaches are due to insider theft or negligence. This is an indicator that you must not in any way overlook any aspect of the security of your data whether it is at rest, in use, or in transit.

Classifying and securing your sensitive data at rest

The first step you take in securing your sensitive data at rest is to know where it resides and then go on to classify it. Without embarking on classification, it won’t be possible for you to proceed to the very important aspect of limiting the locations you store this data. 

Classification will ensure that you easily identify which data is more critical and how to attach significance to it. You may need the input of different sectional heads from your brand to effectively do this.

Since these employees are in direct contact and make daily use of this data, it’s easier for them to know how vital any data may be to the smooth running and prospects of your business. Classification is not a one-time thing, inasmuch as you will be harnessing data on a regular basis, it’s vital that you constantly carry out a check in order to effectively prioritize the protection levels you accord to your data.  

There could be the possibility that data you once considered low risk can suddenly attain the configuration of high risk, this will necessitate a new measure of security processes such as encryption and the management of encryption keys. You can then determine if you want to embark on any of the options of encryption such as the selective encryption of database fields, rows, and columns or going on to encrypt all data notwithstanding the degree of sensitivity.

Any data you have at rest can only be truly secure if at the end of the day you have the requisite infrastructure to support it. If this is not so, you are playing the ostrich game. Patches should be done as at when due notwithstanding whether your data is stored on-premise or in the cloud and there must be constant monitoring of internal and external threats. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of your employees may have been given access to the critical information they should otherwise have no access to, there is the need to create the right awareness and training to understand the importance of securing data at rest to prevent data loss.

What to do with your sensitive data in use and in transit

Now that you have fashioned out a way to handle your data that is at rest, the other line of action is to safeguard your data in use and in transit. By every other standard, protecting your data at rest compared to either that in use or in transit could be regarded as a child’s play.

For data in use, you must know who the user is at every point in time. Only those who have a real need for the data should access it.

Especially with the restriction of lockdowns and a possible shift to remote working as a way to stay completely safe, you may have to get more granular and restrict access to the data itself.

If any particular data is not needed at the point in time, you can garble it apart from ensuring that only those who need it have access to it. Alternatively, you can think of using metadata instead of raw data as a way of ensuring your data does not get into the wrong hands.

Encryption and decentralization of data making use of VPNs and the blockchain technology can be capitalized upon to enhance data protection. Once your data is in transit, it must be encrypted before getting to the final destination where the accredited user can unencrypt it. 

This is a measure that will secure your data from both internal and external threats. You may look upon it as unduly amassing more costs but going a step further by providing proper visibility for breach detection purposes for your data in transit or in use will save you a lot of headaches eventually.

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About John Ejiofor

John Ejiofor is a curious life-researcher, whose quest to finding answers to life's pertinent questions has led to founding Nature Torch. This blog aims to debate and explore many questions about our earth -- including those a lot of people are uncomfortable with asking. He has been published on some of the internet's most respected websites, which you can find online.
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