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Linux Data Security Primer: Safeguard Your Sensitive Information and Brand Image
Data security is critical for running your business smoothly and earning customers’ trust. People provide information when purchasing products at e-commerce sites, signing up for services, giving feedback about experiences, and much more. However, many are becoming less open to sharing their data with companies unless they feel confident employees there will handle it responsibly.
Prioritizing data security is an excellent way to protect information and strengthen your brand image. Breaches capture the headlines, causing negative publicity and making formerly loyal customers doubt a company’s trustworthiness. Fortunately, you can take decisive steps to prevent these instances.
Background and Statistics on Data Security
People have expressed data security concerns since the early days of the internet. However, it wasn’t until 2005 that history’s most substantial data breaches started occurring. That was when many government agencies and private businesses began switching from physical to digital records.
The change gave cybercriminals much bigger targets, encouraging them to get creative with their attack methods. Recent statistics highlight how the data breach risk has only risen since then.
Billions of Records Compromised in 2023 So Far
A running list of 2023’s global data breaches indicated more than five billion affected records as of October. Additionally, examining the specifics for that month and previous ones revealed the risk exists for companies of all sizes and types. Affected businesses ranged from healthcare organizations to education companies and restaurants.
Breach Costs Reach Staggering Levels
Data from a 2023 study conducted by IBM also found average data breach costs topped $4.45 million in 2023, setting a new record and revealing a 15% jump over the past three years. Additionally, 95% of the 553 global organizations studied reported experiencing more than one breach.
The Cloud Poses Data Risks
IT decision-makers move assets to the cloud for various reasons, but tighter security often plays a role in that choice. It’s because cloud providers usually have numerous features to improve data security. These offerings don’t eliminate a customer’s responsibility but provide additional safeguards.
Even so, research from 2023 indicated IT teams must not let their cloud deployments bring a false sense of security. One finding was that 39% of respondents experienced cloud breaches in 2022. There were also some worrisome takeaways about sensitive data. Although three-quarters of study participants said they stored such information in the cloud, an average of only 45% reported they encrypted the content.
The studies show how breaches hurt the bottom line and severely disrupt business operations.
What Is Data Security and Why Is It Essential?
Keeping data secure means only allowing authorized people to access it. It also requires protecting the material from issues like malware or accidental deletion. If the information relates to a tightly regulated industry, data governance professionals may need to set parameters about how long to keep the information before deleting it.
The Risks of Hidden Data
Data security extends to understanding where the information resides, mainly when the material is sensitive. Many companies collect massive amounts of information, so executives don’t necessarily know what the business has and how to find it. Besides posing security risks, this situation limits leaders from capitalizing on their data and using it to make better decisions.
Operating System Vulnerabilities Cause Data Loss
A worldwide Statista analysis of the most common reasons for lost data as of 2023 revealed a positive finding for Linux users. It showed operating system vulnerabilities were the top cause of data loss in 36% of cases.
A popular and arguably justified opinion in IT communities is that Linux is more secure than Windows as an operating system. It offers security by design and maybe a less appealing target for hackers since the overall Linux user base is smaller. Plus, since Linux is open-source, thousands of fellow users check new releases for problems.
Companies Lose Customers After Data Breaches
A 2022 study of thousands of consumers from four countries indicated a third stopped engaging with companies after data breaches. Additionally, 36% doubted companies reported all incidents, and 23% did not trust them to protect their information.
These findings highlight how companies may experience far-reaching and irreversible effects after data breaches. Such events can damage brand images and push customers to begin doing business with companies practicing better security practices and controls.
What Are the Types of Data Security?
Security teams must take comprehensive approaches to data protection by familiarizing themselves with these safeguards.
Encrypting a disk protects its information by scrambling the data, making it less valuable and accessible to unauthorized people. Linux users can opt for full disk encryption (FDE) or encrypt drive partitions. Tomb, eCryptfs, and Cryptmount are a few of the many third-party tools that facilitate disk encryption for Linux users.
Eye-opening research published in April 2021 showed 22% of PC users kept running Windows 7 on their computers. However, software updates for that version — including security patches — ended in January 2020.
Linux makes software updates easy because users can configure them to happen automatically. It’s also advantageous that new releases occur frequently and get thoroughly vetted by the open-source community. Then, vulnerabilities get spotted and fixed sooner.
Maintaining network security requires retaining visibility into the relevant activities. Linux provides many ways to achieve it, including giving administrators plenty of customization and granular options. They can set user permissions to strengthen security, too.
Application security involves many proactive steps to prevent hacking. They include engaging in comprehensive and frequent testing, deploying data encryption methods, maintaining robust access control, and running penetration tests to identify weaknesses.
Statistics from 2022 showed 82% of study participants viewed the cloud as somewhat secure. If you use the cloud to store data, following best practices can increase people’s confidence in your brand. For example, multifactor authentication increases the information users must provide, significantly decreasing the chances of unauthorized cloud usage.
Another smart strategy is to spread your cloud metadata across several locations. Then, if hackers compromise it, they only get small amounts rather than all of it. You must also verify and periodically review cloud providers’ security practices, checking you’re happy with how an external company protects the data entrusted to it.
What Are Common Data Security Risks Organizations Face?
Data security threats are rampant, so organizations’ IT teams must stay abreast of the risks and actively prevent them. Here are some of the top concerns.
Malware can quickly infiltrate a system, causing data corruption, loss, and inaccessibility. It has also become more problematic for Linux users. Linux malware increased by 50% from 2021 to 2022.
Hackers frequently exploit known software vulnerabilities, so installing patches as they become available is a data security best practice. Linux users have two methods of activating automatic updates to prevent unpatched software risks.
Employees can cause data breaches, but not only through malicious behavior. One 2022 study of organizations showed that 92% had data breaches resulting from people sending emails to the wrong recipients.
Linux has three file-permission levels, and administrators can set controls for individuals and groups. Those actions limit the overall number of people working with — and possibly misusing — sensitive data.
Phishing attempts are increasingly realistic and convincing, so even people who know the telltale signs often get fooled. An October 2023 study highlighted a 1,265% increase in malicious phishing emails since the fourth quarter of 2022. Researchers believed generative AI tools such as ChatGPT were partially to blame for helping hackers create misleading content faster.
However, Kali Linux is a Linux distribution designed for security professionals. It includes numerous phishing simulators to improve cybersecurity training.
Lost or Stolen Devices
As today’s laptops get smaller and more lightweight, the risk of them getting lost or stolen increases, too. People take them on public transit or leave them visible through the windows of their unattended cars. Individuals who split their time between offices and home-based work may also use laptops running Linux in several places throughout the week.
Techniques and Best Practices for Data Security
Keeping a company’s data secure and protecting its brand image is much easier when you rely on well-known safeguards.
Getting on a frequent backup schedule is an ideal way to minimize the impact of lost data. A good starting point is to categorize your data by importance to your business.
For some applications used less often throughout the workday, losing an hour’s worth of data may not be a significant problem. However, if you collect real-time data or information allowing you to make urgent decisions, an hour of downtime could be catastrophic. Talk to your IT team and other experts when determining where and how often to back up the data.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a valuable protection measure because it requires a person to have the password they set and another piece of information. It might be their fingerprint or a code sent to their smartphone. Activating 2FA means a hacker cannot access data with a password alone. That’s critical, especially with so many passwords getting compromised in data breaches and eventually leaked online.
Timely Patches and Updates
Installing patches and other updates is a practical way to keep hackers from exploiting known vulnerabilities and using them as entry points to your network. Installing automatic updates in Linux is the easiest way to take this data security measure.
Linux-Specific Security Configurations
The default setting for systems running Linux has external root access enabled. However, taking steps to change that will prevent unauthorized access or errors that could cause data loss. When you do that, it’s also a good idea to check that only the root account has a user ID of 0. If others do, their permissions are equivalent to the root account’s.
Limit sudo use, too. Otherwise, hackers could enter the system and use temporary privilege escalation to increase what they can do gradually and the overall damage caused.
Linux Data Security Tools
There are various open-source tools for safeguarding data in Linux that you can use, along with the best practices mentioned above. Here are some to consider.
SELinux is a security enhancement for Linux that increases the administrative controls over user privileges. Someone with admin privileges can go beyond specifying who can read, write, or execute a file and set rules concerning data movement.
Install ClamAV to take care of your virus-detection needs. It offers file scanning on demand and provides automatic signature updates and compatibility with numerous data types.
Rkhunter uses online databases full of examples of safe files to check your system for backdoors, rootkits, and local exploits.
Tripwire is an intrusion detection system that gives you better insight into what’s happening on your network. Having that knowledge lets you be more proactive.
Wireshark is a network protocol analyzer that shows you data traffic and its captured signals, making it easier to spot anomalies.
Final Thoughts on the Importance of Robust Linux Data Security
This primer emphasizes why data security is vital for everyone to practice, regardless of your business type or size. Doing so can protect your reputation and keep customers loyal. Applying these tips is a practical way to prevent breaches in a significant and growing threat landscape.