Information is the modern world's currency. It is an understatement to say that data is an integral part of our lives. Data is the lifeblood of most, if not all, industries. As such, the quality of information is essential. Therefore, the issue of data integrity is becoming as crucial as data itself.
What is Data Integrity?
Data integrity refers to the maintenance and assurance of the accuracy and consistency of data. It is the characteristic of information to maintain unaltered and intact between transfer, storage, and usage.
Data integrity has three dimensions:
Data transfer is an integral part of any information-based system. Thus, it is significant that no changes in data happen during transmission. The communication should be secure to prevent modification from its source to the receiver.
For example, the data from the bank's servers should be the same data that you see when doing online banking. The communication between your computer and the bank should have security measures in place to prevent any party or technical issues from changing the data.
Similarly, storage is also an essential part of keeping data integrity. Naturally, servers and other means of storage are where data lives for most of its life. Safe storage means nothing can alter or change the data. That means you can use it for its intended purposes.
An example is your bank credentials in its servers. Banks stores your personal information in its databases. They use it to confirm your identity, especially during transactions. The data should remain unchanged in their servers for you to access your account.
Data auditing is the ability to check and verify the integrity of data. It allows the detection of modifications, bugs, and other alternations. Auditing prevents the failure of data integrity in both storage and communication.
Importance of Data Integrity
Data is not static. That means, it can change throughout its existence. Data can be created, updated, and deleted whether intentionally or not. Moreover, it is the driving force behind systems. Without data, systems are useless.
Parts of a system expects a specific input and creates a corresponding output. A system "expects" a particular data to process. System breakdown may happen when it receives data that is different from what it should receive. Data integrity ensures the smooth process of any system.
To use an earlier example, imagine your bank's system. They store your information in their databases. They also transmit this data whenever you conduct any transactions. Banks uses numerous systems from security to business process. You are using one of the bank's systems when you go to their website. When you log in, it checks its databases if the information you entered is similar to your personal information on their servers. Therefore, it is essential for the data in their servers to remain consistent so you can access your account.
How is Data Compromised?
Note that it is perfectly fine to change data. Updates and modifications are acceptable as long as it is consistent across systems and storage. The problem arises when unexpected changes happen. There are several ways to corrupt data, but it falls into two categories: technical issues and security flaws.
Technical issues happen in both software and hardware level. Technical errors directly affect data during storage and communication. Changes or deletion of pieces of data may render it useless. Systems are no longer able to use it as it is different from its original form.
Security flaws are one of the most common and most dangerous threats to data integrity. Cybercriminals aim to disrupt systems and gain financially by hacking into databases and interrupting communication. One such good example is the WannaCry attack of 2017. It is considered as data breach due to its effects across different industries. It changes the data by encryption rendering it useless. Financial damages reached up to $4 billion across the globe.
Achieving Data Integrity
It is essential to achieve data integrity to maintain quality processes and adequately working systems. The files in your computer should remain the same unless you change them. Data in companies' database should be protected from modification to protect the business. Here are a few steps to achieve data integrity:
Awareness and Education
Everything starts with knowing what data integrity and potential threats is. It is where cybersecurity comes in. At a personal level, you should know how to protect your files and data. You should at least know what tools and software to use to prevent a data breach.
On a larger scale, companies should make sure that their employees are aware of any security risks. A significant amount of data passes through the hands of employees. They should know how to handle it. It becomes their responsibility to keep data integrity while they manage it.
Regular back-ups help maintain data integrity. It also adds another layer of security. When a data breach happens, it may be impossible to recover data in its original form. The importance of data varies, but it should be accessible. Back up tools for personal use are available online.
On the other hand, companies backup their data using in-house servers. Having a good back up makes it easy to conduct data auditing. It ensures that any tiny changes can be corrected immediately.
Data breach due to cybercriminals is becoming an increasing concern. It means security should be a top priority for anyone. You should protect your data from third-parties who will modify it. We recommend that you install an excellent anti-malware solution.
Tools, such as MalwareFox, protects your system in real-time. It blocks malicious attacks and files from reaching your computer and modifying data. Additionally, you can scan your machine if you suspect any attacks.
Data is the new "gold" in the information society. It keeps the economy, technology, and most aspects of life running. Data integrity is critical in making everything run smoothly. Therefore, it is essential to take steps in protecting data at all costs.