Is a Proactive Approach Best for Data Privacy and Cybersecurity?

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Click to learn more about author Ashok Sharma.

The dependence on the internet and the constant connection with cyberspace make personal data vulnerable to issues people and businesses are unaware of. Companies today are a storehouse for extensively valuable data – from employees’ data to the business’s financial data to corporate intelligence to customer information. 

The data aggregation happens at many levels with many people involved in data control, Data Governance, data security, and the organization’s privacy, thus making information security and management very tactical.

Data breaches, hacking attacks, and privacy threats are likely to happen in many instances. If a business has taken only primitive protective measures to stop these advanced threats, they need to stop and think again about their cybersecurity strategies

In the past, data security, online privacy, and data breaches weren’t given much importance. But things have changed, with many countries raising the alarm over privacy issues and implementing privacy regulations to check unwanted data leakage, secure consumer data, and give data owners more control over their information. The current situation thus demands a proactive approach to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of data.

What’s the Difference Between a Reactive and Proactive Approach? 

Reactive approach: If an organization uses only specific cybersecurity measures, they follow a reactive approach. Reactive measures concentrate on strengthening against general attacks. These measures even trace down hackers that managed to breach the security measures. Some of the reactive approaches include:

  • Firewalls
  • Disk encryption 
  • Antivirus or anti-malware software
  • Password protections
  • Multi-factor authentications
  • Spam filters
  • Vulnerability scanning
  • Ad blockers
  • Centralized security monitoring

These measures prevent viruses and malware from known sources from entering your network and corrupting your database. The drawback with organizations using a reactive approach is that they often use it as a sole security measure, though it should be a part of the overall defense strategy. 

Proactive approach: This technology approach constantly changes and brings in new features. With preventive mechanisms improving day by day, the attacking methods see constant innovations. Therefore, a proactive approach helps in guarding the wall between attackers and defenders.

The proactive approach consists of measures that prevent cyberattacks from occurring. This method finds loopholes in the system or scans the potential vulnerabilities. Once the weak points are identified, they are removed or corrected before getting exposed and exploited. A few of the proactive approaches include:

Are Your Online Activities Being Scanned?

Almost every website you visit will track your online activity. The algorithms are designed to monitor your every visit, and the data get collected into an organized database. 

You might have heard about “cookies.” The cookies in this context are information collectors that gather and store your information. A cookie may contain information like sign-in details, user credentials, registration documentation, user preference, online shopping data, etc. 

Your browser stores this data and sends it back to the web server every time the browser gets back to the website. There are three types of internet cookies, which are listed below:

1. Session cookies: These are short-term cookies that save your online activities. Since websites have no memory, your browsing history is stored by them for later use. These cookies expire as soon as you check out from a web page. Session cookies help you to log out of shopping websites anytime without losing your shopping cart details.   

2. First-party cookies: These cookies track your preferences when you visit a website and remember any personalizationdone by you. They are also known as permanent cookies since they remain stored in your hard disk for longer durations. This helps to save log-in details, language preferences, menu settings, bookmarks, etc. The expiry date of these cookies depends upon the time fixed for them. Most websites favor having an extended expiry date for these cookies to make the most of your preferences.

3. Third-party cookies: These cookies track your behavior while visiting sites online, gathering information to either send it over or sell it to advertisers. You must have seen those little ads appearing on websites you visit showing content relevant to your preferences.

Tackling Cookies

If you want to reduce the snooping of these cookies, you have the option to enable a “do not track” (DNT) setting within your browser. Enabling DNT will help keep a check over your online activity from being tracked across different sites by advertisers. Though, there are no strict guidelines that force individual websites to consider this request. There are also no penalties for those that do not respect your request.

Bottlenecks in Data Privacy and Cybersecurity

Compliance: It is the solid foundation of any organization, but you cannot keep it with security. Organizations that practice data security based on compliance are putting themselves at risk. This is because they are avoiding adopting the proactive approach to secure their data. 

Data sensitivity: Identifying which data is sensitive and not is another problem when securing data because it varies from organization to organization. For some, the data might constitute a lot of importance, while for others, it may not hold due significance; hence, defining data sensitivity is a big issue. A good example would be consumers’ financial data, which are very sensitive and need to be well-protected. This ability to discern data privacy and its rights makes a lot of difference.

Managing the balance between technology and people: Once you have identified the data that needs protection, the next logical step is defining and putting a strategy in place. Some might argue that it would suffice to use technology. But in reality, this would be satisfying just one aspect of achieving the proactive approach. Maintaining an efficient balance between people and processes is equally important and challenging to achieve.  

Types of technology: When technology is deployed to secure the information, it can be for your devices or your network. While hardware protection is equally essential, data protection should be the ultimate purpose. And this is why it is always better to switch from a perimeter-based method to a data-based security approach.

Legal requirements: Regulations like the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) and the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) for the European Union protect individuals’ data and privacy. The primary purpose behind these regulations is to give complete control to users over their data. Below are some of the laws covered in these regulations:

  • The right to be aware of your data being gathered and how it will be used
  • The right to remove personal information that is being collected (with a few exceptions)
  • The right to withdraw from letting your private data being traded to third parties
  • Providing notifications whenever a data breach occurs
  • Secure management of data when transferred across borders
  • Necessitating specific organizations to assign an official (e.g., a data protection officer) to supervise adherence to GDPR compliance

Better Alert Than Never

It is always better to carefully examine your data security points and be proactive in your approach to securing data. Moreover, it is essential to be aware of evolving global privacy regulations – especially considering the growing accountability and risk associated with legal punishments.

Applying a compliance mechanism along with approaches to securing data privacy will help in averting threats. Be mindful when rolling out newer technologies and systems. This especially holds true in the case of cutting-edge technologies like AI, machine learning, and blockchain. 

Since these technologies are included in maintaining data privacy and revealing loopholes and issues simultaneously, it would be better if organizations would be in tandem with a design process that necessarily incorporates privacy and cybersecurity from the beginning. This would help in removing a lot of obstructions on the way to achieving a solid defense mechanism.

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