The Importance of IT Security for Data Management

IT security has never been so crucial for businesses and organisations. Alongside ever-evolving cybersecurity techniques and infiltration methods, any entity that collates, records or uses data must comply with advancing data protection requirements and regulations.

In the UK, data breaches cost a small company an average of £4,200, extending up to £19,400 for medium-sized businesses and several million for larger enterprises – the average cost of rectifying the issue can be as high as £3.4 million, according to the latest July 2023 statistics.

Unfortunately, only 28% of British organisations are taking active steps to prevent data losses and corruption, and 37% have zero safeguards in place, according to the IBM Security Report.

Let’s look at why that is a potentially huge problem and what you can do to protect your business today.

Why Is Data Security So Important to UK Businesses?

The reality is that a data breach can be as severe as any catastrophic cybersecurity event, not least in terms of reputational damage when customers, service users or clients are informed that an unauthorised or malicious third party has accessed their personal data.

Many incidents go unnoticed until after the event – meaning any retrospective IT security provisions put in place can do very little to mitigate the impact or recover data that has already been lost or stolen.

As we use more and more remote devices and connectivity and rely on digital infrastructure to communicate and trade, there are greater avenues by which a hacker might access data, from customer card details and billing information to confidential address and medical records and even copies of ID documentation that can lead to banking and identity fraud.

The responsibility for protecting that data and any digital information collected or used by the organisation lies with the business, regardless of how a third party accessed the data. Therefore, a robust security strategy is essential, protecting against accidental data losses due to human error, deliberate hacking attempts and even inside threats.

Of course, this applies to every organisation, from profit-making businesses to community organisations, local councils, schools and education providers, healthcare services and many more.

Changes to the IT Security Landscape and Impacts on Data Management

Today’s world revolves around data, putting greater emphasis on organisations to introduce best practice data governance rules and protocols. Those using public cloud-based storage, remote servers and multiple devices are more exposed to data security risks, with a complex infrastructure that means there are more touchpoints to monitor.

Consumers are also very aware of data privacy issues, with concerns around scams and hacking attempts that have increased the focus on data protection, and the rules businesses and organisations need to comply with.

Over the last few years, this demand for better data protection has contributed towards a raft of new global rules and regulations, from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to the Data Protection Act 2018 in the UK and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the US, with new rules around preventing financial fraud.

While the costs of a data breach can be serious, they can be exacerbated by fines and penalties imposed by regulators.

UK organisations are obligated to report data breaches to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) with maximum fines of up to £17.5 million, or 4% of the worldwide revenue of the business in the previous financial year – whichever of the two is higher.

These penalties are levied when the regulator finds that the organisation has breached a requirement or committed an infringement that contravenes the data protection legislation.

What Are the Best Ways to Introduce Good IT Security for Data Management?

The most appropriate options will depend on the types of data you collect, store or use, the sensitivity of that data, and the volume of data you gather.

Our IT technicians can evaluate your existing IT security to identify any potential gaps or shortfalls, recommend additional safeguards to strengthen your data security strategy and ensure any attempted data breach is immediately flagged and prevented.

We have summarised a few of the potential solutions below:

  • Data encryption uses algorithms that convert text and digits into formats that cannot be deciphered without a secure encryption key. In effect, the data is scrambled and is unreadable to any unauthorised user.
  • Data masking means that the organisation uses an application to mask data, normally data that identifies an individual. That data can then be safely used in an open environment while complying with the rules around data usage.
  • Physical data security involves an appraisal of how your on-premises data storage assets are protected from illegal access, whether you might wish to use a secure cloud provider as an alternative or need to implement better controls to protect your own data centre.
  • Access management controls, based on a least privilege access policy, mean that your IT infrastructure has segregated and individualised access permissions. Each colleague can only access the data essential to their role, while more confidential data can only be seen by those with the necessary level of approval.
  • Data monitoring tracks and logs data usage and can spot unusual events, activities or anomalies – including any attempt to hack, delete or access protected data. These systems can shut down cybersecurity attacks before they occur and highlight vulnerabilities that require attention.

There are many other viable and reliable ways to reinforce data management security, but in every scenario, workforce training is highly recommended. Introducing security and password policies while educating staff on spotting a potential attack is a valuable exercise in risk mitigation.

Working with an experienced IT security provider is equally advisable, where endpoint security monitoring can provide an improved threat detection capacity, with response tools to react immediately to any possible breach.

Introducing Data Security Measures for BYOD Setups

Finally, a note on BYOD connectivity – a popular way to minimise spending on static hardware and support hybrid and remote working. In this environment, users can log onto a network or system from any location or device, adding complexity to your data management approach.

Jera advice, as always, would depend on a risk assessment and appraisal of your IT security, but issues can be quickly rectified with security software across business networks, adding centralised monitoring and control over all access requests, and using multi-factor authentication.

Regular software updates, data backups and device scans, accompanied by some of the techniques we have listed above, can make a significant difference to the likelihood of a data breach occurring and give you peace of mind that your digital assets are protected, with full regulatory compliance.