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Digital data is growing faster than ever before. In fact, it is estimated that by 2020 there will be 44 trillion gigabytes of digital data being created and copied on an annual basis. With the rise in data production and consumption, utilizing advanced data analytics is not just a competitive differentiator for companies anymore; it’s a crucial sign of an innovative and successful business.

The growth of data brings a wealth of knowledge and insights that enhances business in countless ways, but with great power comes great risk. The popularization of cloud storage exposes data in new and varied ways, potentially violating the privacy of an organization and any sensitive financial, legal or competitive information it may hold.

The Northridge Group is a consulting company that lives on the trust of our clients and puts a premium on the security of internal and external data. While digital data is growing at a rapid pace, the security of data does not have to suffer. Here are three areas to consider for keeping internal and client data safe and how to implement these practices in your own company:

data security

Physical Security: Physical security is the most obvious and simple first step to preventing a breach in digital data. Simple and expected actions to ensure the security of sensitive data include locking offices, utilizing cameras, and having secured and personalized access to locations where confidential information is accessible. At Northridge, we have secured rooms with cameras, work areas with badge-restricted entrance to allow in only those with a business need, and logging and automatic notification if certain restricted areas are accessed.

Internal Security: While data hackers are certainly a real threat, the biggest risk a company faces in data security is its own employees. While most employees aren’t trying to leak private company information, there are numerous ways that they can unknowingly do this. Companies should put care into hiring, conducting background checks, and carefully screening potential employees who might be interacting with sensitive data on the job. Additionally, establishing and communicating security policies upfront and reviewing security protocols through regular training is a necessary step to enhance data security among employees.

Once employees are hired and trained, companies can combat accidental data leaks by setting up all users on virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). VDI allows all users in a company network to sign on to a password enabled, encrypted data center from anywhere in the world. Most importantly, it allows your employees to work with their data completely inside your organization to keep potentially sensitive information centralized.  With VDI, an IT team can monitor and apply critical software updates, enforce periodic password changes, and perform routine monitoring and control to help protect employees from accidentally making mistakes that could jeopardize the security of client or internal data.

VDI can be further bolstered with an encryption mechanism and user rights management, such as Microsoft Right Management System (RMS). RMS can restrict what employees can do with data they may have access to, including whether they can copy/edit or transmit that data.  With RMS, all data, documents, and files that are modified, sent or copied can be recorded and restricted to ensure client and internal security.

Network Security and Data Testing: One of the best ways to prevent hackers from accessing information is to act like one. Northridge employs a third-party testing company to perform a penetration test, which allows a certified organization to act out the same methods and techniques that a hacker might use to gain access to your network and steal data. A penetration test ensures that all vulnerable areas are recognized and addressed before data is accessed by an unauthorized source.    Periodic tests are important, but companies also need ongoing Intrusion Detection and Prevention.  For example, your Wi-Fi network infrastructure should be continually scanning for rogue access points and providing alerting or nullifying services to prevent “man-in-the-middle-attacks”.

Additional tests can be done internally on a more regular basis by combing through user and employee access patterns and searching for anomalies that might indicate a breach in security.

Big data isn’t going away any time soon and neither are the hackers that prey on it. By setting up physical, internal and digital security protocols, you can focus more effort on the reward of gathering and utilizing essential data for your company, rather than the potential risks.