December 9, 2022

In today’s digital world, data is one of the most valuable assets for any organization. As the amount of data that businesses collect, process, and store grows, so does the importance of safeguarding that data


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Data security and privacy address different requirements, but they do overlap in their shared common goal—to protect sensitive and personal information.  This guide discusses the difference between the two functions and best practices for protecting organizational data. 

Data Security vs Data Privacy 

The concepts of data security and data privacy are closely connected, with each influencing the other. For example, organizations can improve data privacy using some of the same tools and processes utilized for data security. Conversely, data security can be enhanced using the governance principles applied to data privacy. Many government regulations and industry mandates impact both.  

But there are fundamental differences because each of these functions addresses different core aspects: 

  • Data security is focused on preventing unauthorized access to data and protecting it from threats such as malware and malicious hackers. 
  • Data privacy is concerned with how data is collected, used, stored, shared, and destroyed—in other words, how it’s governed. Data security by itself is not enough to ensure data privacy. 

Maintaining data security and data privacy requires multiple layers of defense.

In many cases, organizations can address both with the same defense solutions. Let’s dive deeper into each of these components. 

Data Security, Explained

Data security is essential for protecting organizations from risks such as data breaches and ransomware attacks. The implications of lax security are broad and costly, ranging from financial losses and reputational damage to mitigation costs and regulatory fines. The costs and the number of data breaches, for example, have escalated each year, reaching what many cybersecurity professionals have described as epidemic levels. 

Definition of Data Security

Data security refers to the collection of technologies, tools, controls, processes, and procedures designed to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, or what’s often referred to as the CIA triad: 

  • Confidentiality ensures that only authorized individuals can access the data. 
  • Integrity ensures the data has not been tampered with and can be trusted. 
  • Availability ensures that the data is available to those who need it, when they need it. 

Let’s look at some of the controls organizations can implement to maintain data security. 

Data Encryption

Data encryption is a security best practice that uses complex algorithms to change data into ciphertext that can’t be deciphered without unique decryption keys. Encryption protects the data from unauthorized access by essentially rendering it useless to anyone who doesn’t have the decryption keys.

Network Security Implementations

Network security is a set of cybersecurity controls that protect data by keeping intruders and threats from entering an IT network. Implementation includes both the deployment of security solutions such as firewalls and antimalware and the adoption of security policies and processes to ensure those technologies are properly configured and users are properly authenticated. 

Access Control

Data access control ensures users are who they say they are and that they have the right to access the data. Access control has two main components: authentication, which verifies the user’s identity; and authorization, which verifies the user’s access levels based on the organization’s data access policies. 

Activity Monitoring

Activity monitoring allows organizations to spot anomalous activity by tracking the behavior of users, devices, networks, and other resources that access the network. This can be achieved through techniques such as monitoring activity logs, inspecting network packets, and analyzing usage patterns.   

Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds a layer of security to user authentication, protecting the data in the case of compromised login credentials. A large number of breaches involve weak or stolen passwords, and MFA provides assurance of a user’s identity by requiring additional steps before they can access the data. 

Breach Response Protocol  

When an organization experiences a breach, a fast response is critical. A breach response protocol provides a set of procedures and steps that the company can take to mitigate the incident—minimizing its impact.

This protocol should include, among other things, components such as who is on the breach response team and how to mobilize it, how to stop additional data loss, how to preserve evidence for forensic investigation, and details on communication procedures. 

DLP (Data Loss Prevention)  

A common practice for preventing data leaks and losses due to both internal and external threats, DLP is a combination of software and processes that stop the data from leaving the organization or falling into the wrong hands. DLP tools range from intrusion detection or intrusion protection systems to encryption and endpoint security. Many organizations also integrate their identity and access management (IAM) into DLP for unified visibility and authentication

Data Privacy, Explained

As the regulatory environment has evolved over the last few years, there aren’t many organizations left without a need for addressing data privacy. While the data privacy landscape continues to grow more complex, implementing fundamental best practices can help organizations be better prepared for new mandates. 

Definition of Data Privacy

Data privacy refers to the proper handling of sensitive or confidential data, such as personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), and intellectual property. This includes the entire data lifecycle—from collection to proper disposal.  

In addition to protecting data confidentiality, various privacy regulations also provide consumers with the right to access, transfer, and request the deletion of their data. We discuss some of these regulations below. 


The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, brought sweeping changes to consumer privacy and has since become a gold standard that other governments are modeling. The purpose of GDPR is to provide EU citizens more control over their own data. The regulation affects organizations around the globe because it applies to most entities that not only sell services in the EU but also that advertise to EU citizens and use EU companies to process data on their behalf. 

California Data Privacy

The California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, has similarities with GDPR in that it gives California residents control over their PII and other data. While the regulation only applies to for-profit companies that meet specific criteria, it also has broader requirements for what must be protected—including any data that “is capable of being associated with or could be reasonably linked directly or indirectly” to a specific consumer or household.    

HIPPA-Compliant Data Privacy in Healthcare   

The Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, includes several components. Pertinent to privacy is the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which gives patients rights such as access to their PHI. HIPAA also includes a Security Rule that mandates the secure handling, maintenance, and transmission of electronic PHI to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the information.

Data Privacy in Financial Institutions 

Financial institutions in the United States must comply with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which limits the transfer of personal financial information and requires safeguards for protecting sensitive data. The act has a broad definition of financial institutions to include any type of entity that provides financial products and services, including professional tax preparers and courier services. 

Data Privacy Tips

While privacy regulations have different requirements and even definitions for what is considered sensitive data, organizations can meet many of those mandates with a set of common practices. Companies should have some basics in place before implementing controls, such as inventorying and classifying sensitive data and creating use policies. 

Implement Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Training, Company-Wide

Training is essential for preparing organizational workforces to meet cybersecurity and data privacy requirements, as well as keeping employees current regarding regulations, threats, and best practices. Employee awareness, training, and education programs have proven effective for preventing and mitigating incidents that could lead to policy violation and noncompliance. 

Utilize Cybersecurity Tools

Cybersecurity improves data privacy because it greatly enhances the enterprise’s ability to prevent unauthorized access by protecting data from cyber threats and attacks. Collectively, the data security controls mentioned earlier all serve to enable this objective. Cybersecurity extends strategy to cover not only data but also all the IT systems that contain it.   

Be On the Lookout for Incoming Threats

Threat detection mechanisms allow organizations to be more proactive and stay ahead of threats, so damage can be prevented or minimized. Since threats can come both from outside actors and insiders like employees and partners, this is a multifaceted technique that involves tools such as threat intelligence and behavior analysis. 

Enterprise Companies Are at Risk

Large organizations are always at risk based on the volume of valuable data, and can even be vulnerable via smaller companies with which they conduct business. Small businesses are an enticing target because threat actors know they don’t have a lot of resources to protect their data, and large companies are far from immune because sophisticated and well-resourced attackers are always looking for weaknesses that could give them a foothold inside an organization. 

Cybercriminals steal and monetize data in a variety of ways depending on the size of the companies, types of products and services provided, and other factors. Maintaining data security and data privacy is part of doing business in the modern era. And it will only become more important as organizations grow more digital and interconnected, and more regulatory bodies make the protection of consumer data a priority. 

SailPoint Solutions Meet You Where You Are

SailPoint offers a variety of solutions for securing your data and complying with privacy regulations. Our approach to securing identities enables organizations of all sizes to protect data, prevent unauthorized access, and support digital transformation initiatives.  

Learn more about SailPoint’s trusted expertise and experience securing changing IT environments—and how our solutions can help your organization

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