What is Sensitive Data Exposure & how to protect data?

Sensitive Data Exposure is a type of security risk or vulnerability that many applications and users face with the Data in applications. Applications & online websites capture data from their users for different operations that they support.

How sensitive data get exposed?

A lot of Government websites, hospital websites, and many more collect people’s data for many purposes. Once this data is collected then the risk of getting this data breached starts at the same moment when this data enters the applications.

Some of the most common types of data that Applications ask users to provide are :

  • Credit card data.
  • Bank details.
  • Debit card data.
  • A lot of other payment options related data are available in the market today.

Not only payment data, but a lot of many other forms of data are being asked by the applications based on the need of the application functionality. There are mainly three stages of data handling:

  • The entry stage when the user enters the data.
  • The transmission of data.
  • Storage of data.

Any exposure to this data can cause serious issues. so sensitive data exposer becomes a security risk for applications that are not designed to handle the data and its security.

What makes your Data exposed?

We all know the importance of data and we value the data privacy.
But when it comes to securing this data we make very basic mistakes
and then these mistakes cost us a lot.

The simple idea here is the more you value your data then more you need to take care of its privacy and security.

Importance of Securing the Data

Our data gets exposed if we do not put it secure with passwords, encryption, we do not secure it while transmission, we do not secure our databases and repositories.

When we talk about data, then we must specify the access level also about that data.

Classification of Data

  • Public
  • Private
  • Confidential
  • Restricted at all.

This classification helps us to set up the security levels for our data. If we treat our data with no care then it will be very easy for people to get hold of it.

How to Protect Sensitive Data from Exposure?

1. Destroy after use

The first and easiest approach any application should use is to not store any sensitive data if it is not required. Always delete the sensitive data after the operation is done.

This goes for the payment and other sensitive data. Storing the payment data becomes a huge risk and it requires a lot of security measures to safeguard this data.

2. Follow International Standards

Each type of data has its own importance and each data have some standards attached to it and those have to be followed when dealing with that type of data.

For example, All sorts of payments data need to be handled with extra care and those care are well defined by the Standard organizations which are related to the payment industry like PA-DSS, PCI Council, etc.

These organizations suggest an end to end encryption of any kind of Payment data.

Similarly, some of the countries around the world have different data protection policies and they have guidelines on how to handle this sensitive data.

While developing an application the developer should check the data and all the standards available for that sort of data.

3. Limit the access

At the application level, we have databases that save the application data. Sometimes we have this sensitive data saved in our databases.

The access to this data must be protected by access levels specified for the users of this application.

A single user should not have full access to perform the CRUD operations on this data until unless he is an administrator.

This helps in limiting access to sensitive data and only expose limited data to limited users. This also helps in protecting the data from any of the Injection attacks.

4. Data Encryption

Data becomes more sensitive if it can be read by anyone, but if your data is encrypted then this becomes difficult for anyone to read it even if they have
access to it. Encryption helps to secure the data with an additional layer of security.

Encryption can be used at different levels in application. Data can be encrypted when saving data or it can be encrypted while transmitting.

There are a lot of secure encryption algorithms like AES and SHA-256 are available which are secure and help us to protect our data. We also have Transport layer security protocols like TLS 2.0 which is now upgrading to TLS 3.0.

We have HTTPS as Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. These protocols need public and private keys to encrypt and decrypt data, which makes the data more secure and it also assures that only authorized users will be able to read the data.