What is Data Integrity and Why is it Important?

SHAIVI CHAPALGAONKAR | July 19, 2021

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In an era of big data, data health has become a pressing issue when more and more data is being stored and processed. Therefore, preserving the integrity of the collected data is becoming increasingly necessary. Understanding the fundamentals of data integrity and how it works is the first step in safeguarding the data.

Data integrity is essential for the smooth running of a company. If a company’s data is altered, deleted, or changed, and if there is no way of knowing how it can have significant impact on any data-driven business decisions.

Data integrity is the reliability and trustworthiness of data throughout its lifecycle. It is the overall accuracy, completeness, and consistency of data. It can be indicated by lack of alteration between two updates of a data record, which means data is unchanged or intact. Data integrity refers to the safety of data regarding regulatory compliance- like GDPR compliance- and security. A collection of processes, rules, and standards implemented during the design phase maintains the safety and security of data.

The information stored in the database will remain secure, complete, and reliable no matter how long it’s been stored; that’s when you know that the integrity of data is safe. A data integrity framework also ensures that no outside forces are harming this data.

This term of data integrity may refer to either the state or a process. As a state, the data integrity framework defines a data set that is valid and accurate. Whereas as a process, it describes measures used to ensure validity and accuracy of data set or all data contained in a database or a construct.

Data integrity can be enforced at both physical and logical levels. Let us understand the fundamentals of data integrity in detail:

Types of Data Integrity

There are two types of data integrity: physical and logical. They are collections of processes and methods that enforce data integrity in both hierarchical and relational databases.

Physical Integrity

Physical integrity protects the wholeness and accuracy of that data as it’s stored and retrieved. It refers to the process of storage and collection of data most accurately while maintaining the accuracy and reliability of data. The physical level of data integrity includes protecting data against different external forces like power cuts, data breaches, unexpected catastrophes, human-caused damages, and more.

Logical Integrity

Logical integrity keeps the data unchanged as it’s used in different ways in a relational database. Logical integrity checks data accuracy in a particular context. The logical integrity is compromised when errors from a human operator happen while entering data manually into the database. Other causes for compromised integrity of data include bugs, malware, and transferring data from one site within the database to another in the absence of some fields.

There are four types of logical integrity:

Entity Integrity
A database has columns, rows, and tables. These elements need to be as numerous as required for the data to be accurate, but no more than necessary. Entity integrity relies on the primary key, the unique values that identify pieces of data, making sure the data is listed just once and not more to avoid a null field in the table. The feature of relational systems that store data in tables can be linked and utilized in different ways.

Referential Integrity
Referential integrity means a series of processes that ensure storage and uniform use of data. The database structure has rules embedded into them about the usage of foreign keys and ensures only proper changes, additions, or deletions of data occur. These rules can include limitations eliminating duplicate data entry, accurate data guarantee, and disallowance of data entry that doesn’t apply. Foreign keys relate data that can be shared or null. For example, let’s take a data integrity example, employees that share the same work or work in the same department.

Domain Integrity
Domain Integrity can be defined as a collection of processes ensuring the accuracy of each piece of data in a domain. A domain is a set of acceptable values a column is allowed to contain. It includes constraints that limit the format, type, and amount of data entered. In domain integrity, all values and categories are set. All categories and values in a database are set, including the nulls.

User-Defined Integrity
This type of logical integrity involves the user's constraints and rules to fit their specific requirements. The data isn’t always secure with entity, referential, or domain integrity. For example, if an employer creates a column to input corrective actions of the employees, this data would fall under user-defined integrity.

Difference between Data Integrity and Data Security

Often, the terms data security and data integrity get muddled and are used interchangeably. As a result, the term is incorrectly substituted for data integrity, but each term has a significant meaning.

Data integrity and data security play an essential role in the success of each other. Data security means protecting data against unauthorized access or breach and is necessary to ensure data integrity.

Data integrity is the result of successful data security. However, the term only refers to the validity and accuracy of data rather than the actual act of protecting data. Data security is one of the many ways to maintain data integrity. Data security focuses on reducing the risk of leaking intellectual property, business documents, healthcare data, emails, trade secrets, and more. Some facets of data security tactics include permissions management, data classification, identity, access management, threat detection, and security analytics.

For modern enterprises, data integrity is necessary for accurate and efficient business processes and to make well-intentioned decisions. Data integrity is critical yet manageable for organizations today by backup and replication processes, database integrity constraints, validation processes, and other system protocols through varied data protection methods.

Threats to Data Integrity

Data integrity can be compromised by human error or any malicious acts. Accidental data alteration during the transfer from one device to another can be compromised. There is an assortment of factors that can affect the integrity of the data stored in databases. Following are a few of the examples:

Human Error

Data integrity is put in jeopardy when individuals enter information incorrectly, duplicate, or delete data, don’t follow the correct protocols, or make mistakes in implementing procedures to protect data.

Transfer Error

A transfer error occurs when data is incorrectly transferred from one location in a database to another. This error also happens when a piece of data is present in the destination table but not in the source table in a relational database.

Bugs and Viruses

Data can be stolen, altered, or deleted by spyware, malware, or any viruses.

Compromised Hardware

Hardware gets compromised when a computer crashes, a server gets down, or problems with any computer malfunctions. Data can be rendered incorrectly or incompletely, limit, or eliminate data access when hardware gets compromised.

Preserving Data Integrity

Companies make decisions based on data. If that data is compromised or incorrect, it could harm that company to a great extent. They routinely make data-driven business decisions, and without data integrity, those decisions can have a significant impact on the company’s goals.

The threats mentioned above highlight a part of data security that can help preserve data integrity. Minimize the risk to your organization by using the following checklist:

Validate Input

Require an input validation when your data set is supplied by a known or an unknown source (an end-user, another application, a malicious user, or any number of other sources). The data should be validated and verified to ensure the correct input.

Validate Data

Verifying data processes haven’t been corrupted is highly critical. Identify key specifications and attributes that are necessary for your organization before you validate the data.

Eliminate Duplicate Data

Sensitive data from a secure database can easily be found on a document, spreadsheet, email, or shared folders where employees can see it without proper access. Therefore, it is sensible to clean up stray data and remove duplicates.

Data Backup

Data backups are a critical process in addition to removing duplicates and ensuring data security. Permanent loss of data can be avoided by backing up all necessary information, and it goes a long way. Back up the data as much as possible as it is critical as organizations may get attacked by ransomware.

Access Control

Another vital data security practice is access control. Individuals in an organization with any wrong intent can harm the data. Implement a model where users who need access can get access is also a successful form of access control. Sensitive servers should be isolated and bolted to the floor, with individuals with an access key are allowed to use them.

Keep an Audit Trail

In case of a data breach, an audit trail will help you track down your source. In addition, it serves as breadcrumbs to locate and pinpoint the individual and origin of the breach.

Conclusion

Data collection was difficult not too long ago. It is no longer an issue these days. With the amount of data being collected these days, we must maintain the integrity of the data. Organizations can thus make data-driven decisions confidently and take the company ahead in a proper direction.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are integrity rules?

Precise data integrity rules are short statements about constraints that need to be applied or actions that need to be taken on the data when entering the data resource or while in the data resource. For example, precise data integrity rules do not state or enforce accuracy, precision, scale, or resolution.

What is a data integrity example?

Data integrity is the overall accuracy, completeness, and consistency of data. A few examples where data integrity is compromised are:

• When a user tries to enter a date outside an acceptable range
• When a user tries to enter a phone number in the wrong format
• When a bug in an application attempts to delete the wrong record

What are the principles of data integrity?

The principles of data integrity are attributable, legible, contemporaneous, original, and accurate. These simple principles need to be part of a data life cycle, GDP, and data integrity initiatives.

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What are the Benefits of Data Modeling for Businesses?

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BIG DATA MANAGEMENT

Effective Ways to Prevent Data Breaches

Article | November 26, 2021

Data breach prevention is going to be the need of the hour as cybercrime continues to grow. Cybercrime is a growing threat to businesses of all sizes. Due to this unprecedented time many companies shifted to work-from-home model. Statics show data breaches are on a rise and can have devastating long-term financial set-back or reputational repercussions to your organization. As a result, businesses must ensure that their data is secure to avoid substantial loss or theft. As data breaches happens in different ways, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all remedy. Security needs a multifaceted approach to be effective. In this article we’ll find out different ways prevent data breaches. Impact of a data breach on businesses A data breach can destroy a business, especially for small and medium-sized businesses (SMB). Data is a valuable asset for any business especially, the data related to customers and payments. Cybercriminals find this data valuable. Lack of planning and security creates vulnerabilities for criminals to exploit. It is estimated that 60% of small and medium-sized enterprises will close within six months after the attack. Larger businesses or agencies, on the other hand, will survive. Nevertheless, they too will suffer the consequences. A data breach can impact businesses in the following ways; Financial Businesses must compensate for both immediate and hidden fines (fines, public relations, legal fees, and punitive regulatory measures) for a data breach. In addition, business needs to compensate customers, refund any stolen funds, and bear a share value loss. A smart organization will use this opportunity to develop data security and disaster recovery strategies, which entails financial investment. Fines and fees – The PCI Security Standards Council may impose fines or penalties for a data breach. Both regulatory organisations and card network brands will have different fines. Forensic investigations – Major consequences of a data breach include, the business that was attacked will be accountable to perform a forensic investigation to determine the causes of the data breach. These investigations are costly and often yield valuable evidence and insights to prevent future data breaches. Future security costs – Victims of a data breach may have to bear costs of credit monitoring for customers whose data was compromised. This may also include the costs of identity theft repair, card replacement, and additional compliance requirements from the PCI. Reputation Having a good reputation is the most prized asset for any organization. As a business, one must constantly put effort into building and maintaining brand integrity. A single compromising episode like a data breach can trash the best of reputations. According to a PwC report, 85% of customers won't shop at a business if they have concerns about their security policies. Customers value their privacy, and a data breach will be perceived as a lack of regard for their data and privacy. Furthermore, 46% of businesses reported that security breaches harmed their reputation and brand value. Intellectual Property The product blueprints, business strategies, and engineered solutions are some of your most valuable assets for any organization. Your trade secret gives you an added advantage over your competitors. Hence it needs to be protected as some may not hesitate to use breached intellectual property. Other significant consequences of a data breach include; A data breach can pit the CEO against the CISO Poisoned search results on your corporate brand Loss of sales after a data breach Unexpected expenses Less attractive to new employees, especially in tech positions Legal penalties after a data breach Understanding the aftermath of a data breach is an important step to safeguarding your business. The next step is to create an action plan is to protect what you've worked so hard on. How does a Data breach happen? Data breaches sometimes can be traced back to planned attacks. But, on the other hand, it can result from a simple oversight by individuals or flaws in the infrastructure. Accidental Insider For instance, an employee uses a co-worker's computer and reads files without proper approval or permission. However, the access is unintentional/accidental, and no personal information is revealed. The data was breached, however, because it was read by an unauthorised person. Malicious Insider This person deliberately accesses/shares data with the intent of causing harm to an individual or company. The malicious insider may have genuine authorization to use the data, but the intent is to use the info in nefarious ways. Lost or Stolen Devices Any laptop or external hard drive with important information on it that is not encrypted or unlocked goes missing. Malicious Outside Criminals These are hackers who attack several vectors to collect information from a network or an individual. Global cost of data breach According to the Ponemon Institute's Cost of a Data Breach Report, global data breaches cost $3.86 million on average in 2020. The amount in 2020 was somewhat lesser compared to 2019 when it hit $3.92M. The same report found that the average cost of a data breach in 2020 totaled $8.64M. Ways to prevent a data breach Conduct employee security awareness training Control access to data sensibly Update software regularly. Require secure passwords and authentication Simulate phishing attacks Evaluate accounts Limit access to your most valuable data. Review your user account lifecycle processes Insist on complex and unique passwords Protect against authentication bypass Store sensitive personal information securely and protect it during transmission Consider implementing a secure SSO solution Secure all endpoints Segment your network and monitor who's trying to get in and out Manage Vendors - Third-party vendors must comply. Conclusion Protecting against data breaches may appear to be a time-consuming procedure. You will be in a better position if you take an encrusted step to secure your data using various methods, policies, and procedures to ease security threats. FAQ’s How does a data breach impact an organization? Depending upon the company and data type, the consequences may include destruction or corruption of databases, leaking of confidential information, the theft of intellectual property, and regulatory requirements to inform and possibly compensate those affected. What is the most common data breach? Hacking attacks are the most common cause of a data breach. However, it is often a weak or lost password that is the vulnerability that the opportunist hacker is exploiting. { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "How does a data breach impact an organization?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Depending upon the company & data type, the consequences may include destruction or corruption of databases, leaking of confidential info, the theft of intellectual property, and regulatory requirements to inform and possibly compensate those affected." } },{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What is the most common data breach?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Hacking attacks are the most common cause of a data breach. However, it is often a weak or lost password that is the vulnerability that the opportunist hacker is exploiting." } }] }

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