When it comes to the protection of data, there are many tools that are available, largely because there are so many different threats to data security. Data can be stolen, changed, copied, destroyed or even encrypted without the owner's authorization. Anyone of these events can cripple or in some cases even destroy a business. The truth is, however, different types of data are most vulnerable to different types of threats and few businesses have the resources to protect data equally from every type of threat. This is why vulnerability management is so important. It is important to identify where, when and how your data is most vulnerable, then develop a plan for addressing your biggest vulnerabilities while still not ignoring other possibilities.
Biggest Threats To Data
Data theft is by far the most common threat and it is also the most difficult to protect against. This is partly because there is an infinite number of ways in which to steal data and from an unlimited number of points. As a business, however, there are two primary ways you need to protect data; at the endpoints and during transmission.
Endpoints: The endpoints are the places where all of your data is stored. This can include cloud storage, servers or even computer hard drives. Endpoint threats are probably the most severe because they contain the mother lode of data. While data is certainly at risk during transmission, the amount of data that can be stolen during transmission is generally relatively small in comparison to what is stored in endpoints. Think of it as the difference between hijacking an armored car versus breaking into a bank vault. Overall, breaking into the armored car may be faster and more convenient, but the haul is also likely to be smaller.
Transmission: Data is almost always most vulnerable when it is being transmitted. Therefore, while the endpoints need to be protected, additional security measures also need to be taken when data is transmitted. There are basically two ways to secure data during transmission. The first is the creation of a VPN or a private portal through which to transmit the data and the second is with encryption. Encryption helps to ensure that even if the data is intercepted, it can't be read by whoever intercepted it, which generally renders it essentially worthless.
Identifying Where You Are Most Vulnerable
Most businesses are most vulnerable to different types of threats. Businesses that have information that needs to be regularly accessed by clients are significantly more vulnerable to a different type of threat than businesses that store data that is only accessed by employees. In addition, when the data that needs to be accessible to clients is financial information, the threat only increases. It goes without saying that financial institutions need to have the highest levels of security devoted both to the storage and transmission of data, with healthcare facilities not far behind.
Other businesses are less likely to have data stolen in transmission or need to place a higher priority on internal theft than on external theft. This is, again, why vulnerability management is so important. Few businesses can really afford to have state-of-the-art security for both the storage and transmission of data, yet almost all businesses need to implement heavy protections against certain types of data breaches.
Pharmaceutical companies, for instance, maybe at higher risk for worms or viruses that are meant to simply destroy data rather than steal it. Ultimately, what it comes down to is who stands to profit from certain events. In some industries, competitors may stand to benefit almost as much from data simply being destroyed as getting their hands on it.
In other industries, the data they store or transmit may be less valuable, but their connections aren't. One of the largest data breaches in history, the Target data breach, was actually accomplished by exploiting a link between a small HVAC company and one of the largest treasure troves of financial information on the planet. Therefore, good vulnerability management is not just assessing where your own business might be most vulnerable but where you might also be the weakest link in someone else's security systems.
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