How Can Organizations Prioritize Data Privacy Through Encryption?

Waqas S
Cybersecurity Journalist   DontSpoof

Rapid technological advancements have transcended data in value, making it highly significant to individuals and organizations. With that being said, despite the many regulations protecting data rights, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Data Protection Act (DPA), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), there are still multiple threats to data. Threats are amplified even further when we take into account the fragility of the present-day cybersecurity landscape. 

As a solution, organizations now amalgamate “modern” technologies such as AI, Facial Recognition Surveillance, and Machine Learning into security tools.  However, it is possible that these technologies could be manipulated and weaponized to wreak havoc over users. 

It is crucial that organizations realize the significance of data privacy.  Not only is data privacy a necessity for companies working amidst the ever-evolving threat landscape of today,, it is also important  from the outset of data-sharing initiatives, along with being in compliance with data regulatory laws, and helping companies prevent hefty fines and general brand damage. Respecting the consumer’s right to data privacy is another motivational aspect for organizations to maintain data confidentiality. 

There are still questions regarding how data privacy can be achieved and whether or not it can be exercised on a global scale. Although these are valid questions, organizations should be more concerned with the small steps they can take to ensure that sensitive information is protected within their company. One such way organizations can protect their consumer’s data privacy is by harnessing the power of encryption, particularly by encrypting data when it is in transit and at rest. 

How Can Organizations Encrypt Data in the Cloud?

Despite strict encryption requirements being included in most data regulatory legislations, a recent study brought into light the alarming fact that a whopping 43% of cloud databases were not encrypted. This information comes off as even more disturbing when we consider that most organizations are now transitioning to the cloud, which opens avenues for cybercriminals to target cloud storage systems and proves to be a treasure trove of unencrypted data for them. 

Furthermore, organizations are always running the risk of being attacked. It is one reason why enterprises need to ensure data privacy when faced with common threats, including malware and ransomware attacks. According to Redefine Privacy, in 2021, ransomware attacks are estimated to cost $6 trillion annually. Therefore, the easiest way to guarantee security while storing data on a cloud-based server is by encrypting it, before sending it to the cloud.

To ensure that data privacy rights are being exercised in compliance with data regulatory laws, organizations should ensure that their consumer’s data is encrypted with a Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) certificate and an AES 256-bit encryption key. Additionally, companies also need to ensure that along with consumer data, any confidential or sensitive information stored on a local computer or drive, or any communication sent through email or any file sharing service is also securely encrypted before being sent to the cloud. 

The greater the number of people with whom the data is being shared, the greater  the risk to data privacy.  It is highly recommended that organizations only share confidential information with authorized users.  Alternatively, while storing data in one place, organizations can ensure that only authorized users have access by providing them with a copy of the encrypted encryption key, which makes instant collaboration within the cloud and saves time. 

How Can Organizations ‘Control’ the Encryption Key?

Suppose you store an organization’s sensitive data on the cloud.  In that case, you need to ensure that the encryption key is held securely to prevent any malicious actor from gaining access to your data by pretending to be an authorized user.  Fortunately, most Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) will encrypt their customer’s data, while some even offer critical management systems. It allows consumers to manage their encryption keys effectively. Since the encryption key is also stored in the cloud, bad actors could still gain access and exploit your cloud database as much and as often as they want to. 

However, to gain complete control of the encryption key, we recommend that organizations invest in getting their own key management system. Not only will a key management system give you more control over the encryption key, but it will also ensure that your organization’s data is kept confidential, even in the instance that your cloud server gets hacked by a malicious intruder. Furthermore, having a personal key management system is helpful  if you’re relying on a multi-cloud solution within your organization. 

In addition, by investing in a key management system, organizations need to understand the significance of cloud login credentials. If a cybercriminal gains access to the credentials of an authorized user, the organization will not  know that a bad actor has permeated their systems. Ideally, organizations should retain control of the encryption key, protected by several security measures, from PIN authenticated codes to multi-factor authentication. Organizations can also ensure protective data sharing by enabling a VPN connection for encrypted data transfer.

How Can Organizations Back-Up Encrypted Data? 

Once your organization has transitioned to a cloud-based storage system, they  believe they do not need to physically backup their data anymore, which could not be farther from the truth. With most cloud databases, there’s always the risk that a hacker might gain access to it, which is why organizations must back up their data onto an encrypted, password-protected hard-disk drive.  Not only will the password-protected hard-disk drive ensure that there’s a readily available  backup available, but it also minimizes the risk that comes along with unauthorized persons gaining access to confidential data. 

Moreover, backing up confidential data on a PIN-protected USB flash drive is another secure alternative in a ransomware attack.  Additionally, backing up data on a secure, PIN-protected USB flash drive is also useful for remote workers, who can utilize this option to secure data on the go. 

An excellent feature to keep an eye out for is brute force limitation, ensuring that only authorized users can access the drive’s contents. If a PIN is entered incorrectly ten consecutive times, this PIN will then be deleted, and the drive can only be accessed through the Admin PIN. If the Admin PIN is also incorrectly entered ten consecutive times, the encrypted encryption key is deleted, and the contents of the drive are permanently erased and lost forever. 

Parting Words

Hopefully, by the end of this article, we’ve acquainted our readers with a couple of ways through which they can uphold data privacy through encryption. 

Organizations must realize the significance of data encryption and acknowledge the stride made towards data privacy and aiding organizations to comply with strict regulations such as the GDPR. As an increasing number of consumers grow wary of data collection, organizations can make their companies stand out by following these simple steps and ensuring data privacy!

Waqas S

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