Data Privacy and security
By |Published On: July 1st, 2024|10 min read|Categories: Cybersecurity|

Understanding Data Privacy and Security: How do they Relate?

Data privacy and security are critical topics for any business to focus on in today’s environment. The rising costs of cyberattacks and other threats mean a clear strategy for safeguarding sensitive data is more important than ever before. This is something no organization can afford to overlook, no matter its size.

However, many firms may believe that data privacy and data security are one and the same – or at least similar enough that they can both be considered together. But in fact, there are a range of critical differences that must be taken into account if companies are to stand the best chances of protecting their most valuable assets from both malicious and inadvertent threats.

What are Data Security and Data Privacy?

Both data security and data privacy fall under the wider scope of data protection, but within this, each has their own focus, which will in turn require firms to put in place specific solutions in order to secure their information.

Data security refers to efforts to protect information from unauthorized access, tampering or exfiltration. This includes accidental data loss or disclosure, as well as protecting against malicious threats such as ransomware, which is a particularly potent risk at the current time, with almost three-quarters of organizations (72.7 percent) targeted by these attacks in 2023. To guard against this, data security covers a wide range of technical tools, from perimeter defenses such as firewalls through to data protection solutions such as encryption and anti data exfiltration (ADX) software.

Data privacy, meanwhile, is more tightly focused on issues related to the storage, sharing and processing of sensitive information, in particular details such as financial records, medical data or other personally identifiable information.

It means firms must pay close attention to ensuring data is being handled correctly in order to comply with the various regulations businesses are required to follow. A key priority is protecting the rights of individual users with regard to how their personal information is used and safeguarded.

Data Security vs Data Privacy

A basic way to think about data privacy vs data security is that security is all about protecting access to your data, whereas privacy is about controlling what people are allowed to do with the information once it is accessed. However, there is much more to it than this.

Key elements of data security include:

  • Network security
  • Access management
  • Encryption
  • Anti data exfiltration
  • Backup and recovery processes
  • Patch management

On the other hand, aspects that fall under the heading of data privacy include:

  • Data discovery and classification
  • User consent
  • Third-party handling and management of data
  • Data retention and deletion policies
  • Data integrity

There are also elements that cover both disciplines, such as employee training. In this case, it is important to not only educate users about looking out for tell tale signs of cybersecurity threats such as phishing emails, but remind them of their responsibilities for handling personal data, especially details belonging to customers.

Why it is Important to Know the Difference

It is possible to have security without privacy, but not the other way round. Therefore, it can be easy for firms to conclude they are meeting their requirements because they have put in place all the data security software tools needed to secure their sensitive information from hackers. However, they may still be falling foul of data privacy rules if they’re mishandling user data within the organization.

In other words, while data privacy depends on good data security best practices, these tools alone are not enough. To ensure user privacy is fully respected at all times, firms need to go beyond tools such as encryption and access controls. This means clear policies for how data may and may not be used, a comprehensive understanding of user consent and processes to minimize and delete personal data that is not essential for the smooth running of the business.

Making efforts to improve data privacy also feeds back into security efforts. For example, one of GDPR’s requirements is for businesses to have an assigned data controller with overall responsibility for information. This can help ensure there is ownership within the business of all data protection activities, while all individuals will know who to turn to with any issues.

Laws Associated with Data Privacy and Security

A key consideration for any business when developing a data privacy and data security strategy will be ensuring its efforts remain in compliance with various data protection legislation around the world. In recent years, these rules have been toughened significantly in both the US and Europe, with a much greater emphasis on data privacy and protection of customer and employee personal information.

The major legislation businesses will come across is the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was implemented in 2018 and applies to any company that holds the personal data of citizens from any of the bloc’s 27 member countries. A similar regime known as UK GDPR applies to British firms, with many of its provisions transferred directly from the EU version during Brexit.

The other major data privacy regulation is the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US, in force since 2020. Although this is a state-level regulation, much like the EU GDPR, it affects any business holding the personal data of California residents, effectively making it apply to the majority of US firms.

While both of these legislations have their own rules that must be followed, there are a few key similarities between them that are likely to apply to every business. Among these are:

  • Rights for individuals to opt out of data collection and processing
  • Rights for people to access their personal data on request
  • Rights for individuals to have data deleted
  • Requirements for firms to take specified data protection measures
  • Mandates for companies to inform regulators and affected parties about data breaches

Both GDPR and the CCPA have the same ultimate goal – to protect the privacy of citizens – and the penalties for failing in this regard are high. Under GDPR for instance, violations may be penalized by fines of up to four percent of global annual turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher.

Meanwhile, CCPA fines can go up to $2,500 per record for each unintentional violation, or $7,500 per record for each intentional violation. While this may sound much less tough than the EU version, the key factor in the CCPA is ‘per record’. As large data breaches can easily compromise millions of records at once, this can quickly add up to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

There are also a range of other data privacy laws that may apply to businesses depending on the sector they operate in and the type of information they hold. For example, in the US, HIPAA mandates strict rules for the storage and sharing of medical records.

Best Practices to Protect Your Data

A comprehensive data protection solution must use a full range of technologies and best practices in order to make sure information is safe from malicious threats, inadvertent data breaches, and mishandling. With this in mind, here are a few things every business must do to ensure both privacy and security.

    • Use strong access controls – Tools such as multifactor authentication, strong passwords and constant monitoring keep firms informed about who is viewing or processing data.
    • Minimize data retention – Evaluate what data is strictly necessary for business use and ensure no extraneous details are being stored, and that data is deleted once it has served its purpose.
  • Audit what data you have – Firms can’t protect what they can’t see, so it’s vital they have a full understanding of exactly what data they possess and where this is stored, including on personal and mobile devices.
  • Use encryption – Once your most important data has been identified, it’s important to ensure it is strongly encrypted whenever not directly in use – including both in storage and in motion.
  • Guard against data exfiltration – Unauthorized transfer of information outside the business is a major privacy and security risk, so guard against this with dedicated ADX solutions.

By ensuring that data storage is kept to a minimum, and what information they do possess is kept safe, firms can ensure that they are meeting their data privacy requirements under GDPR and CCPA while also protecting them from threats such as ransomware. Preventing unauthorized data exfiltration is the best way to guard against this type of breach and avoid the potential for heavy penalties for any data handling compliance failures.

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