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Types of Data Security Controls & Implementation

by Chris Brook on Monday April 3, 2023

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Organizations use various types of data security controls, along with their corresponding implementation methods, to safeguard their digital assets. This article delves into the main types of data security controls, their associated technologies, and how to implement them for maximum impact.

What Are Data Security Controls?

Data security controls encompass an array of cybersecurity measures taken to protect an organization’s data. They include the mechanisms, procedures, policies, and governance strategies to prevent and detect security incidents and data breaches.

The importance of data security controls cannot be overstated in an era of digital transformation that drives competitive advantage in areas such as business communications, eCommerce, and intellectual property (IP). Data security is imperative to safeguard digital assets from unauthorized access, theft, and corruption. 

Moreover, the myriad data security threats an organization has to contend with, like phishing attacks, denial of service (DDoS), SQL injections, man-in-the-middle, and many more malicious attacks, have become substantial. 

Therefore, the hallmark of effective data security control, in addition to detecting, preventing, and minimizing threats, is to facilitate adequate risk management.  

What Is Data Security, and Why Is It important?

You can’t discuss data security controls without discussing data security. As its name implies, data security concerns protecting data from anything that might imperil its legitimate use, such as its destruction, degradation, leakage, availability, and theft. 

Data security is the foundation on which data security controls are built. As an extension of data security, data security controls provide the implementation “muscle” used to actualize data security. 

Moreover, data security safeguards data throughout its lifecycle, using the three pillars known as the CIA triad model:

  • Confidentiality: This revolves around data privacy. It ensures information is stored or transmitted so that it remains private and accessible only to those it is meant for.  
  • Integrity: Integrity provides data with a high degree of trust. And this is only possible by keeping it authentic and correct, by ensuring no tampering or illegal falsification occurs.
  • Availability: Data doesn’t have much use if it isn’t readily available to those who need it, when they need it. In practice, this involves reducing downtime by keeping networks and computer systems up and running. 

With proper data security implemented through robust controls, the CIA triad of cybersecurity can be achieved.

Data Security Controls and their Classifications

The presence of robust data security controls are mandated in laws such as HIPAA to protect the data privacy of individuals.

However, the global nature of data communications and eCommerce has given data security mandates from regulatory bodies like General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) an outsized influence on best security practices worldwide. Therefore, it is no surprise that most organizations incorporate GDPR into their data security controls. 

There are several ways data security controls can be categorized, although none is written in stone.

We have used the nomenclature of internal and incident-related controls to differentiate between those that are fundamental to data security and those that are more reactive in nature.

Internal Controls

These are some examples of the most straightforward ways of classifying data security controls:

  • Technical: These controls leverage software tools and artifacts, including hardware equipment, to bolster data security. 
  • Architectural: Under this rubric are controls that oversee how the components and subsystems connect and interact with each other to deter cybersecurity breaches.
  • Operational: These constitute operational procedures, including rules and mechanisms to implement data security.
  • Administrative and Physical Controls: These controls use administrative and physical constraints to limit data security incidents. The former crafts policies and actions to enforce standards, while the latter protects access to physical areas, especially sensitive data locations.

Here are more in-depth explorations of each data security control.


These are the most easily recognizable data security controls. They typically come in the form of software and hardware technological implementations to protect digital assets.

Common examples of technical data security controls include firewalls, the use of virtual private networks (VPN), authentication and authorization mechanisms, antivirus software, access control lists (ACLs), and intrusion detection systems (IDS). 

Here are some examples of technical sub-categories:

  • Data loss prevention (DLP): DLP protection aims to block the output or leakage of personal data and confidential information from corporate networks.
  • CASB (Cloud Access Security Brokers): These are cloud-based or on-premise software that enforces security policies so organizations can extend security beyond their boundaries.
  • Encryption mechanisms: This uses encryption technology to protect the privacy and confidentiality of data by turning them into ciphertext using encryption algorithms and encryption keys.
  • Identity and access management: While these tools are centered on authentication and authorization, they are a bulwark against attacks compromising privileged accounts to steal login credentials.
  • Third-party risk management: Supply chains, along with open-source software, have become an indispensable part of today’s digital ecosystem. Controls that provide third-party risk management plug the vulnerabilities that lurk in third-party tools, so they don’t become attack vectors to infiltrate corporate networks. 


This involves using how the system is constructed to act as a bulwark against cyber attacks. It is foundational cybersecurity built into a system’s conceptual model. As a result, it usually employs design patterns, defense-in-depth methods, and well-structured database normalization techniques to bolster data security.


Operational data security controls implement rules and processes to safeguard data. They may include adopting the principle of least privileges and other data access rules such as password change frequency and password strength requirements.

Administrative and physical controls: 

These controls are practical guidelines and rules that govern employee and vendor behavior to ensure an organization meets its data security goals. Administrative controls usually involve a large breadth of data security policies that codify how to handle data, especially sensitive ones that involve customer details, intellectual property, and business secrets. 

However, they also depict the mundane such as physical access to facilities, internet browsing restrictions, and forbidden website policies. 

Incident-Related Controls

This is simply another categorization of data security controls with an incident-related theme 

  • Preventive: As the name suggests, these controls prevent data breaches from occurring. These involve system and software hardening through applying the principle of least privilege, multi-factor authentication, and anti-network sniffing networks.
  • Detective: These controls are built to detect and pinpoint threats in the IT environment before they blossom into full-fledged attack vectors. It adopts continuous monitoring and intrusion detection systems to scan the environment for possible threats.
  • Corrective: These controls move into response mode after a data breach has occurred. Their disaster recovery procedures include patching the vulnerability, restoring data, and applying antivirus software.

How Fortra’s Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration Can Help You With Data Security and Data Security Controls

Digital Guardian Secure Collaboration offers granular data security controls that travel with your organization’s data as it moves, even when it travels outside of your corporate network. Furthermore, its integrated and scalable solutions pair well with our data loss prevention and data classification capabilities for comprehensive data security controls that meet your data security needs.

Please, explore our definitive guide to data security today to understand how to control your organization’s most sensitive data. 

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