Three Strategies For Securing Your Data

How secure is your data?

In this day and age, there is an endless, growing supply of information online—and this amount of information keeps multiplying by the second.

A single like, swipe or interaction with the screen of your smartphone creates a piece of data that gets added to our vast and ever-growing respository of information. No matter how small, any action online or within an enclosed ecosystem can be tracked. But as the available data online increases, so does the vulnerability of each individual’s security.

This practice holds security risks not just at the individual, but also at the corporate level. Companies find themselves not only vulnerable to data breaches and loss of intellectual property but also at immense risk of losing the trust and security of their customers and employees alike in the event of a security breach. As cyber attacks have increased exponentially, Gartner found that businesses spent more than $123 billion on security in 2020—and this has long been projected to grow to over $170 billion in 2022.

The Rapidization Of Digital Transformation During The Pandemic

The situation has grown even more dire amid the Covid-19 pandemic. On one hand, the global crisis greatly accelerated the pace of the digital transformation. But this has brought with it a great increase in security risks.

The reality is, with the onset of the strict guidelines and enforced quarantines for public safety, more and more people began spending the majority of their time online. Activity on some of the most popular applications skyrocketed and entire initiatives for remote work quickly came to fruition out of necessity. Suddenly, the routine everyone was so used to transitioned into the digital realm. As people sought more ways to connect, the internet became a place of refuge for such connections. But businesses must understand the underlying fact that every action in the digital space can be tracked.

The result? Cybercrime in the form of malicious emails has increased 600% during the pandemic. And though more companies are catching on to digital transformation, many are finding they do not have the tech stack in place to ensure security. As more user data floods into some of the biggest networks many of us use every day, cybersecurity has been dangerously reduced to an afterthought for many.

But even as severe data security risks have become more ubiquitous than ever before, there are three strategies and technologies that can allow for better preparedness and protection against cybercrime.

1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence—and particularly machine learning and deep learning—can afford a solid technical foundation for not only combatting but also preventing cybercrime. Its fundamental value comes down to the nature of the technology itself. The essence of artificial intelligence is identifying patterns based on data input and learning to discern anomalies or deviations from the norm.

In the specific instance of cybercrime or hacking in the financial sector, for example, an AI algorithm can detect abberations in cash flows, documentation access and other unusual circumstances and then alert leadership about potential breaches.

But one area where AI is growing even more sophisticated is in its predictive capabilities. An example of such an ability in the same case scenario would be if the system could identify areas of weaknesses internally and then alert leadership about security measures that need to be taken in various parts of the business.

2. Blockchain

Albeit a buzzword in many ways, blockchain can also provide basic strategies to ensure security through decentralization. Essentially, the security that blockchain technology promises is based on peer-to-peer identification and validation.

Due to the decentralized nature of the technology, it has a solid use case for cybersecurity and data protection. What makes the solution stand out is the immutability of the information stored on the blockchain. This means the information cannot be tampered with, as network nodes continuously cross-check the information and can detect signs of alteration or tampering.

Another benefit of blockchain technology is its elimination of the risk of human oversight, a significant contributing factor to data breaches. This makes it possible to fully automate the verification process and also marks a shift toward more transparency and decentralization when it comes to data sharing.

3. Tokenization

Tokenization is exactly what it sounds like—using a “token,” or a string of non-sensitive data, to replace sensitive information. Although the value of a token is typically separate from the sensitive data it masks, there can be some overlap in value. The length or format of the original data can determine how easily replaceable the token is, which helps in the upkeep of workflow and operations. Tokens also ensure that the original data is stored outside of the company’s internal systems.

Tokenized data is fundamentally different from encrypted data in that it’s impossible to decipher or even reverse the tokenization process. The only way to decipher tokenized information is to leverage additional data that is typically stored elsewhere. This provides for the added security of knowing that even if the surrounding environment of a token is breached, the original information will remain intact.

This process of replacing original data with a randomly generated value is often used for credit card numbers (think: Apple Pay) and bank account numbers. Some of the largest users of this technology are Visa and MasterCard.

The Future Of Data Security

Data security will continue to be at risk as the speed at which data is created will not slow down. However, alongside the rise of cybercrime, there are new technologies and new frontiers allowing for more sophisticated, advanced protection strategies to keep the hackers at bay.

Originally published in Forbes