A Comprehensive Guide to Top Levels of Data Security

Data breaches are no longer a thing we can be oblivious to, regardless of how unfamiliar we may be with the world of IT. Quick as businesses can be when it comes to embracing new and latest technology, they often fail to back the new technology up with adequate security plans. Data protection is about making sure data remains available after incidents like system or component failures, hack attempts, or even natural disasters.

According to Kroll Ontrack Research, one-third of companies experience data loss when moving data. This means that malicious intent may not be the only reason why you may lose your data; it may also be lost if you decide to move to a new location.

Considerations for evaluating the potential adverse impact to your business due to loss of data confidentiality include:

  • Loss of critical organizational operations
  • Negative financial impact (money lost, lost opportunities, the value of the data)
  • Damage to the reputation of the organization
  • The potential for regulatory or legal action
  • A requirement for corrective actions or repairs
  • Violation of your mission, policy, or principles

So, be it an organization or an individual, we are all vulnerable to data breaches and hence it is becoming highly imperative that we all become aware of data security systems. Data breaches that compromised the personal information of millions of people around the world include popular, huge organizations like T-Mobile, Quora, Google, and Orbitz.

Facebook was also reported to be dealing with major breaches and incidents, due to which 100 million of its users were affected.

Naturally, this has got IT leaders concerned and a deeper understanding of the top levels of data security is needed. Data protection centers around three control areas:


Authentication refers to the mechanism by which we identify that the person who’s trying to access our data are who they say they are. Options like strong passwords, one-time password tokens, biometrics and other authentication factors, you can be confident and secure about the people accessing your data.


Authorization is the mechanism of making sure that the person is allowed to access the data. This can usually be much harder to ensure that authentication.

For example, if an excel sheet with an important database of your organization’s customers is open to being accessed by Authenticated Users, we just assume everyone who’s authenticated is also authorized. But that is not always the case. We must work to increase the accuracy and effectiveness of our authorization to ensure only selected people to have access to company information and nobody other than them can manipulate our system to access it.

Access Auditing and Analysis:

Auditing and analysis mean making sure that the authentication and authorization controls put in place are working as designed. In the case of unstructured data, however, it is difficult to audit the access to that data, check potential access against actual access, and spot possibly abusive behavior.

The 5 Data Security Levels and Their Importance:

The matter of data security is often complex and requires a certain level of expertise. Businesses are often so unprepared for data loss that, according to a report, 60 percent of small companies go out of business within six months of a cyber-attack.

There are 5 levels of security that act as layers of protection for your data, which many businesses can be simply— and unfortunately—unaware or ignorant of:

 Level 1—Regular Backups:

Ensure that your data is saved “across multiple drives” from time to time, as and when you update it. This will help you to benefit from RAID (redundant array of independent disks) in the case of hardware failure, as those are simply unpredictable and can happen at any time.

 Level 2— Implement Data Security Policies:

Make sure information security is embedded into your company’s structure and a security protocol is present.

Along with a data storage policy that you must establish in the company and make your employees aware of, you must also keep yourself updated about developments in the field. This will help you identify or foresee threats to your company’s data in time to prevent any damage from happening.

In order for these policies to work, you must classify information into levels. The appropriate classification level is usually determined by the magnitude of the damage that could be caused by the disclosure.

The higher the damage that is likely to be caused if certain organizational information is leaked, the higher the security level it should be protected under. There are 3 main levels that data is usually classified under:

Public: This level contains data and information that is least sensitive, which means that it poses little to no risk to the organization, even if it is accessed by a malicious individual. This type of data includes information that you publish in fiscal reports, sales documents and case studies.

Private: This includes mildly sensitive data which, if exposed to someone outside of authorized personnel, can cause serious damage. Needless to say, only your company employees should have access to this data. You may also further restrict its availability to certain positions or departments in the organization.

Restricted: This is the most important layer containing sensitive data that could cause irreparable damage upon being compromised. Make sure the access to this information is on a strict need-to-know basis and is tightly guarded.

According to FAS, the three classification levels — Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret (as they call it) — differ from each other by about an order of magnitude (factor of 10). That is, the disclosure of Secret information would cause about ten times as much damage as disclosure of Confidential information, and disclosure of Top Secret information would cause about ten times as much damage as disclosure of Secret information.

This assumption appears to be a realistic approach because of the difficulties in determining information disclosure damages very accurately and the consequent necessity to have significant differences in the assigned Top Secret, Secret, or Confidential damage levels.”

 Level 3— Be Wary of Internal Threats:

This refers to Authorization and Authentication that we discussed earlier. Studies suggest that most of the data breaches that happened last year were planned or carried out by someone close to the business.

Also, a big percentage of employees often leave their systems unattended during breaks/meetings, or do not shut them down properly when leaving, while others click on spam links that end up installing viruses onto their machines. This is why you must be careful with the authentication and authorization mechanism of your company data and make it a point to monitor your staff closely.

You must also make sure to see that your employees understand the threats that can be posed to your company data due to carelessness and human error, so that they follow security rules carefully and without fail.

 Level 4 – Encryption:

Secure both incoming and outgoing data in real time from malware, viruses and other malicious attacks through firewalls, security software and on the storage devices. Both your company servers and your employee devices should be encrypted on multiple levels of your IT structure.

Level 5:

According to findings released on Small to Medium businesses tightening their cybersecurity efforts by CompTIA in 2015,

“SMBs are seeking ways to gain technology and implement security on the cheap.”

“Without an abundance of capital to invest in technology initiatives, many firms seek the best value or the lowest cost option. [They are] choosing to handle technology issues internally using employees who may be tech savvy but actually hold other jobs such as sales or accounting.”

Therefore, it is suggested that third-party security providers who can provide top levels of data security are hired for this purpose.


Thousands of kinds of malware and scams exist on the Internet and can take huge advantage of the vulnerabilities of your systems and networks. It is essential that IT leaders and business owners stay aware of the extent of the threats that can be posed to their data systems. Moreover, they must also prepare themselves accordingly, both for the prevention and solutions in case a breach happens.

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