Ultimate Guide to Data Security

Data security empowers your team to safely work everywhere, while accessing business data from anywhere. Learn how Forcepoint makes it possible.

Data is digital gold for individuals, businesses and governments alike. And as the modern workplace rapidly transitions to hybrid workforces and cloud-based services, an evolving threat landscape means organizations must give data the time, attention and technology necessary to keep it safe.

This means protecting sensitive and proprietary information from data leaks and data breaches is as big a part of success as protecting profits.

Data Security Fundamentals

What is Data Security?

Data security refers to all the practices and measures enacted to protect data from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification or destruction. It covers a wide range of techniques, technologies, policies and procedures designed around the concept of data loss prevention to ensure its confidentiality, integrity and availability.

A data security breach can lead to severe consequences, including financial losses, reputational damage, legal liability and a loss of public trust. Organizations and individuals have a vested interest in maintaining the security of their data to prevent threat actors from accessing it.

The progress of technology and the growing interconnection of data cause new challenges and risks to emerge over time. The rise of cloud computing, mobile devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) expanded the attack surface for many organizations and increased the complexity of data security. Now, a generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution is reinventing data risk, yet again.

Because of this continuing trend, a holistic approach to data security that considers the entire data lifecycle is indispensable. At Forcepoint, this includes giving acute attention to the discovery, classification, prioritization, protection and monitoring of data across the enterprise.

DLP software is part of technology layer of data security.

When properly implemented, data security involves multiple layers of protection, such as:

  • Physical security
    • Role-based access controls
    • Video surveillance
    • Secure storage facilities
    • Security personnel
  • Technical safeguards
  • Policies and procedures
    • Data classification levels
    • Data retention and destruction practices
    • Employee training for data security best practices

Types of Data Security

Data risk stems from the applications that data passes through and is used in. Because of this, there are several subtypes of data security that organizations must be aware of.

Whether you employ a piecemeal or comprehensive approach to applying security solutions, it is important to consider these key concepts within your data security strategy.

Data Security vs. Data Privacy

Data security and data privacy are closely related concepts that both have separate resourcing, strategy and technological requirements.

Data security focuses on protecting data from unauthorized access, maintaining its integrity and availability, and preventing it from leaving the organization. This extends to many aspects of a user’s day-to-day routine, and at Forcepoint this largely covers activities in the cloud, web, email, network and endpoint.

Data privacy covers the ethical and legal responsibilities of organizations when handling personal information and respecting individuals’ privacy rights. These responsibilities change from country to country but are often tied to industry-specific data privacy laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), or broad data regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Data security and data privacy often go hand in hand due to regulatory reporting requirements. At Forcepoint, this can be enforced by DLP software in the form of data security policies. Both aspects are crucial for maintaining trust with customers and regulators.

DLP software controls data privacy policies.

Key aspects of data privacy include:

  • Obtaining consent before collecting or using personal data
  • Collecting and processing data only for specific purposes
  • Collecting and retaining only the minimum amount of personal data necessary
  • Removing or encrypting personal identifiers to anonymize data
  • Respecting the rights of individuals to access and correct their personal data or to restrict its use
  • Notifying individuals and authorities of data breaches

Because of how much data organizations produce and are responsible for, a comprehensive approach to securing it is critical. Proactive practices such as data classification, data discovery, data encryption and DLP are useful for prioritizing, protecting and monitoring data.

Data Security Regulations

Governing bodies worldwide put data security regulations in place to ensure organizations take the proper care to safely collect, store and use sensitive information.

Any viable data security strategy must include the ability to ensure and demonstrate compliance with the pertinent regulations. A few of the key regulations that may impact your data policies are:

Depending upon the countries and industries in which you operate, there are numerous regulations that may affect your approach to both data security and data privacy.

Some organizations will turn to DLP software to assist with compliance. Forcepoint DLP offers out-of-the-box data security policies that map to your local data privacy regulations – while others provide a roadmap but require more work to get them to map correctly.

Being aware of all of these and having an active compliance plan in place for each one should be a critical component of any organization’s security operations.

The Data Security Threat Landscape


The threat landscape is constantly shifting in response to new innovations from both security practitioners and malicious actors alike, meaning that sound data security practices must involve more than simply applying strategies that have worked in the past.

Cyberthreats like ransomware and malware capture headlines because of the financial and operational damage they wreak. Countless organizations across the world have admitted to paying ransom to get their data and systems back online, and others like the NHS have felt reverberations for even one day of downtime.

But there are other, less obvious data security threats. Open buckets on AWS are a popular origin for data leaks, when practitioners remove security controls during migrations to make things easier for themselves – leaving the instances unguarded and vulnerable to data leaks.

Now, with the popularity of cloud services like Google Docs, Slack and countless other productivity tools, organizations have even more risk to cover off in their data security strategy. Not only do IT teams need to ensure the SaaS vendors keep their infrastructure secure, but they need to gain visibility into what data employees are working with on these platforms. This risk is amplified with the rise of generative AI, which can learn off the data that is being shared.

Data Security Risks

There are numerous types of data security risks, and the list has only expanded with new hacking and social engineering techniques continuously emerging.

While large cyberattacks tend to garner headlines, not all data security risks are the product of intentional malicious action. In fact, major risks can result from unintentional behaviors that cause sensitive data to be released into unsecured spaces where it can be stolen or exploited.

Data security risk categories include:

  • Data exfiltration: This broad concept refers to any unauthorized movement of data, whether accidental or malicious. Outbound emails, downloads to insecure devices and uploads to external devices are some of the actions that can lead to data exfiltration.
  • Data leakage: Falling under the umbrella of data exfiltration, data leakage more specifically refers to the unauthorized transmission of data from within an organization to an external destination or recipient. The term can be used to describe either the electronic or physical transfer of data. Data leakage threats usually occur via the web and email, but they can also happen through mobile data storage devices such as laptops and USB keys that are lost, stolen or intentionally used to transfer sensitive information.
  • Phishing: Phishing refers to the fraudulent use of electronic communications to deceive and take advantage of targeted individuals. Email is the traditional medium for phishing, but increasingly attackers use additional avenues such as SMS, social media and phone calls. Phishing involves the use of social engineering to manipulate victims into performing specific actions – such clicking on a malicious link or downloading an attachment – or giving up confidential information such as account credentials. There is a growing list of specialized phishing approaches – spear phishing, clone phishing and whaling are a few – as attackers constantly devise new strategies.

Data security risks are a concern for everyone from the largest enterprises to small business, and the consequences of a breach can be devastating. It’s a huge reason why so many organizations turn to Forcepoint for help in securing their data.

To give a sense of the scale of the problem, 2022 saw a total of over 1 billion records exposed and over $5.3 billion in losses and fines incurred. In addition to the short-term financial impact of data security risks, breaches frequently lead to losses of customer confidence and brand value that can jeopardize the long-term viability of organizations.

Securing Data

Data Security Solutions

Organizations need to employ purpose-built data security solutions to mitigate risks. But not all solutions are one-size-fits-all like Forcepoint is.

Data security strategies must incorporate multiple solutions to provide all the capabilities needed to protect against modern threats and ensure responsible stewardship of sensitive data. Several factors distinguish Forcepoint data security solutions from underperforming competitors.

Organizations should be able to cover off a couple of different of activities with their data security solutions. These include:

  • Discovering data that is both actively used and redundant, obsolete or trivial.
  • Classifying data to get an accurate picture of what data the organization has and evaluate its criticality.
  • Prioritizing data that needs to be secured based on a variety of criteria.
  • Protecting data through robust data security controls.
  • Monitoring the flow of data throughout the business to ensure comprehensive coverage.



How to Implement Data Security Everywhere

Given that data security needs a comprehensive approach, the ability to unify policies, management and reporting is critical. Introducing: Data Security Everywhere.


Data Security Technologies

On-premises vs. SaaS

Deciding on which data security technologies to adopt should start by asking how the organization needs them to be hosted.

On-premises solutions are hosted internally and can be cost-effective to maintain after the initial cost of implementation. A Software-as-a-Service (Saas) solution is hosted by a third-party provider and stores data in a secure data center in the cloud. SaaS solutions are more scalable for growing organizations, and they are not vulnerable to catastrophic data loss if an internal data center is damaged by a disaster such as fire or flood.

Forcepoint data security solutions can be deployed in a variety of ways to meet the needs of every business.

Enterprise DLP is a popular solution for data security.
Enterprise DLP

Forcepoint Enterprise DLP helps organizations to discover, classify, monitor and protect data intuitively without compromising end-user productivity. Adopting it makes it possible to:

  • Create data security policies once and apply them to the web, cloud and private applications via the Forcepoint ONE Security Service Edge (SSE) platform integration
  • Simplify compliance by leveraging the industry’s largest pre-defined policy library and ensuring regulatory compliance across over 80 countries worldwide
  • Identify and protect critical intellectual property in structured and unstructured forms with unsurpassed accuracy, even when user devices are off the network
Risk-Adaptive Protection applies context to data security controls.
Risk-Adaptive Protection

Forcepoint Risk-Adaptive Protection applies a behavior-centric approach to data security, examining how users interact with data to better understand their intent. This allows organizations to:

  • Maintain productivity by allowing low-risk users to work unimpeded
  • Minimize false positives to avoid overloading security practitioners
  • Unlock broad monitoring capabilities across 100+ Indicators of Behaviors (IOBs)
  • Automatically limit access when users display uncharacteristic behaviors that could indicate compromise
Data classification gives companies better visibility of their data.
Data Classification

Forcepoint Data Classification uses Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to more accurately classify unstructured data, keeping critical information safe and boosting productivity. Powered by Getvisibility’s cutting-edge AI models, it can:

  • Accurately and efficiently determine how data should be classified, at scale
  • Cover the broadest range of data types in the industry to drive efficiency and streamline compliance
  • Seamless deploy with no user training, integrating with Forcepoint Enterprise DLP to allow organizations to select the requirements and criteria for data classification
Data visibility makes management of data easier.
Data Visibility

Forcepoint Data Visibility strengthens data security management and enhances DLP by providing a panoramic view of unstructured data located both on-premises and the cloud. It employs ML and AI to:

  • Provide a feature-rich dashboard for a global view that reduces redundant, obsolete and trivial data
  • Display the IP address, file path, file classification, PII, compliance risk, creation data, last-used date and permissions for each individual file
  • Report in detail across five pillars of risk analysis: content risk, dynamic risk, endpoint risk, access risk and audit risk

Data Security Best Practices

Best Practices for Securing Data Everywhere

With Forcepoint DLP, organizations can unify policy management from an on-premises deployment across cloud, web and private applications with just a few clicks. This makes it possible to manage multiple channels with a single policy and to rapidly extend policies to both managed and unmanaged devices, saving time and ensuring comprehensive data security. Access to Forcepoint’s database of over 1,600 DLP classifiers also offers granular policy enforcement for web, cloud and private apps, so you can secure data everywhere that users access it. 

Managing data security across all these channels is optimized when you take advantage of Forcepoint ONE Data-first SASE, an all-in-one, cloud-native security platform. Forcepoint ONE enables a modular approach to data security, allowing organizations to start by deploying what they need most and to subsequently add more solutions over time. Managing all security functions through a single pane of glass makes it easy to monitor and control data flows across all channels. Forcepoint ONE also includes the Insights analytics platforms, which visualizes economic value creation in real time to quantify the benefits of your data security program. 

Forcepoint DLP and Forcepoint ONE can also help businesses to use generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard without the risk of leaking critical data. Organizations can set policies on who has access to generative AI, prevent uploading of restricted files and block pasting of sensitive information. This frees up workers to enjoy the productivity gains offered by AI without losing control of intellectual property or other critical data. 

Analysts on Industry-Leading Data Security Tools

No two data security solutions are created equal. Many practitioners turn to industry analysts like Gartner, Forrester and Radicati for guidance on the benefits and drawbacks of each data security vendor.

The best place to start is with widely recognized publications that helpfully survey the current state of the market and identify what the leading solutions are. Take a look:

Case Studies

Depending on your industry, company size or industry, data security requirements will vary widely from one company to another.

To see how real customers are putting Forcepoint solutions to work to protect data everywhere, examine these case studies selected from the collection on our website:

Congratulations! You’ve now read all about data security, so why not try out one of our solutions yourself?

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