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Managing Data Integrity

How Is Data Integrity Maintained?

Data integrity refers to the overall completeness, accuracy, consistency, and reliability of data over its lifecycle. Protecting data integrity involves taking measures to protect data against improper maintenance, modification, or alteration to ensure data authenticity. Managing data integrity is important for ensuring searchability, traceability, connectivity, stability, reusability, and maintainability. If your organization’s data is altered or deleted, a solid data integrity management strategy can help you to discern the who, what, when, and where of the compromise, or could possibly prevent a compromise altogether. Data can be compromised in a number of ways:

Human error. Data can be compromised by anyone who accesses the data, whether unintentionally through the actions of authorized users, through the malicious actions of unauthorized cyber threat actors, or anyone in between.

Transfer errors. With so many devices being used to access data, it is possible for data to be unintentionally altered or compromised during the transfer of data from one device to another.

Misconfigurations and security errors. Security issues such as security loopholes or misconfigurations can leave your data vulnerable to cyber threat actors who can breach your system and compromise your data integrity.

Weak hardware and/or infrastructure. If hardware and/or infrastructure is outdated or insufficient, data integrity can be compromised.

Cyber threats. Cyber threats such as malware, bugs, hacks, and spam can breach your data integrity.

The process of ensuring and preserving the validity and accuracy of data requires ongoing effort. Here are some ways that you can maintain data integrity:

Validate inputs and data. Data supplied by an unknown source such as an end-user, another application, third-parties, or a malicious user needs data inputs to be verified and validated to ensure accuracy. The data itself also needs to be validated periodically to ensure that data processes have not been corrupted.

Removing duplicate data. Clean up stray data to minimize vulnerabilities. The more redundant documents, spreadsheets, emails, and shared folders that your organization has, the more opportunities there are for data compromise.

Back up the data. Back up data frequently to preserve data integrity. In the event of a cybersecurity or ransomware attack, your back up data will save you precious time, money, and disruption by allowing for a quick resumption of normal activities without permanent data loss.

Access controls. Implement a least privilege model where only users who need access to data can gain access to data. This high-level control can preserve data integrity by limiting access to both the cyber assets and to the physical servers, ensuring that the few people with access are knowledgeable and trusted individuals.

Audit trail. An audit trail is a critical tool that provides an organization with breadcrumbs to track down the source of a data breach.

Data entry training. Knowing how to preserve data is essential for data integrity. Train employees on how to enter, maintain, and access data, and extol the virtues of responsibility in data quality preservation. Data integrity is a team effort; ensure that you have the buy-in from all of your team members.