More than 130 global jurisdictions have enacted data privacy laws. While each contains rules and requirements distinct to their regions, they share a common priority: identity security.\n\nThat\u2019s because if an attacker compromises a single identity in an organization where sensitive data is collected, stored, and handled, it\u2019s all downhill from there. A single stolen credential \u2013 an IT admin\u2019s SSH key, a developer\u2019s secret, or a vendor\u2019s password \u2013 is the starting point for a nefarious momentum that\u2019s tough to stop. This is why securing the identities that can access sensitive data and the identity-rich infrastructure where your data lives is essential.\n\nRead on for an examination of why identity security should live at the core of data privacy strategies and provide best practices.\n\nWhat\u2019s at stake? Data\u2019s value and inherent risks\n\nIn today\u2019s digital age, data is the lifeblood of businesses and organizations, fueling decision-making, innovation, and customer trust. And the benefits of being an effective data steward are often rooted in outcomes that don\u2019t happen. For example, a health insurance company that keeps its members\u2019 data off the dark web won\u2019t appear in reputation-damaging headlines; that\u2019s the ideal outcome. A consumer technology company that protects its users\u2019 data from breaches won\u2019t join the ranks of firms contributing to the billions other companies have paid in General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) fines.\n\nThe list goes on; the stakes keep rising\n\nIn short, data is the currency of the digital economy. It can be quietly stolen, sold, and exploited relatively easily, making it an attractive target. And the owners of personal data have very few options for stopping these outcomes. If consumers learn their credit card information was affected by a breach, they can cancel the card or change the password relatively easily. In contrast, personal data is far more challenging to modify once compromised. It is intrinsic to who you are, the life you\u2019ve built and every entity you engage with \u2013 people, healthcare institutions, businesses, and governments.\n\nControlling access to data: start with identity\n\nThis heightened value of data underscores the need for comprehensive data privacy measures and strong identity security controls and hygiene. And the pressure is on. Regulations like GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and the Network and Information Systems (NIS2) directive in the EU have set stringent standards for data protection. But the job of securing data is complex. Across privileged IT users and everyday employees, there are too many identities and privileges to handle. The economic pressure and staff burden make it impossible for security teams to keep up with access certification.\n\nData privacy begins with controlling who can access sensitive information. In the realm of identity security, this involves managing access rights effectively. Whether it\u2019s sales representatives accessing customer data, HR professionals handling sensitive employee information or IT managers overseeing system resources, it\u2019s essential to maintain the principle of least privilege (PoLP) to ensure that only the right people have access to specific data, reducing the risk of unauthorized data exposure. This requires comprehensive identity and access management (IAM) controls and capabilities.\n\nHere are two examples:\n\nData location and privileged access: where PAM comes into play\n\nWhile controlling access to data is crucial, securing the infrastructure where data is stored and managed is equally essential. This is where privileged access management (PAM) controls come into play.\n\nConsider admins needing access to critical databases or engineers responsible for maintaining cloud-based storage and data services. A comprehensive PAM program, rooted in fundamentals but evolved to secure a broader range of identities, can ensure:\n\nAlso worth mentioning: encryption plays a pivotal role in safeguarding data, ensuring that even if unauthorized access occurs, the data remains unreadable.\n\nPrivilege and machines: protecting non-human identities\n\nIn the context of data privacy, privilege isn\u2019t limited to human users alone \u2013 especially at a time when machine identities outnumber human identities by 45:1. Non-human entities like servers, applications and automated processes also require identities and privileges.\n\nIt\u2019s essential to align these non-human identities with PoLP to limit access to only what\u2019s necessary. Furthermore, the authentication of machines must be fortified to prevent misuse or compromise.\n\nSecrets management and credential rotation are as critical for non-human identities as humans, and organizations look to secure them without compromising agility and development workflows.\n\nHere are a few best practices to apply:\n\nComplying with data privacy regulations requires meticulous reporting and auditing processes. Organizations must provide specific insights into their data security practices and demonstrate adherence to best practices. In this context, data sovereignty becomes increasingly relevant as regulators and organizations work to maximize ownership and control of data.\n\nThe problem is that economic pressures, such as staffing and resource gaps, make it hard for security teams to keep up with audit and reporting demands.\n\nThis exemplifies how automation can help \u2013 and why it\u2019s essential. The work associated with compliance will only increase; if teams aren\u2019t growing in parallel, you need efficiencies that can help you scale up to audit requirements. Automated access certification processes and ensuring a constant review of existing entitlements can help remove time-consuming manual tasks from the equation.\n\nA Zero Trust approach is standard practice for compliance across industries. This means working under the assumption that all users and devices are implicitly untrusted and must be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated regardless of location or network.\n\nMany directives and guidelines reflect Zero Trust principles; in conversations with auditors, it\u2019s essential to show which identities have access to what resources and demonstrate what controls you have in place to secure it all.\n\nHigh-risk access in the cloud and zero standing privilege\n\nCloud environments are complex, and the sheer number of servers and accounts makes it easy to overlook security configurations, making robust identity security controls in the cloud crucial. In turn, misconfiguration of cloud access is a common pitfall for organizations\u2019 security. Recent data breaches have highlighted the importance of proper cloud access management. Many incidents result from simple misconfigurations rather than sophisticated cyberattacks.\n\nBut there\u2019s hope. Pursuing zero standing privileges (ZSP) can significantly reduce the risk of identity compromise and credential theft and misuse. By limiting access to only what is necessary for a specific task and reducing standing privileges to the minimum, ZSP enhances data security and privacy.\n\nEspecially in developing their own cloud-based software offerings, implementing least privilege and ZSP principles can help organizations meet requirements for data privacy regulations and earn SOC 2 or ISO 27001 certifications. These certifications also accelerate growth opportunities by building trust and credibility for consumers.\n\nWhile zero standing privilege (ZSP) is often associated with privileged access, a growing discussion exists about extending its application to data consumers across departments, such as HR, sales, and finance. Ensuring all users operate under PoLP is a proactive step toward bolstering data security and compliance.\n\nProtecting data in today\u2019s threat landscape\n\nData privacy and security remain critical for organizations and the stakes are higher than ever. With regulations and frameworks increasing, the rising value of data and the integration of data-driven technologies all demand a proactive approach to identity security. Organizations must prioritize robust identity security controls and hygiene, implement ZSP and stay abreast of evolving compliance requirements to safeguard their most valuable asset: data. By doing so, they can mitigate risks, protect customer trust, and thrive in a world where data is the new currency.\n\nLearn more with this whitepaper exploring five foundational principles for a comprehensive Zero Trust implementation, as well as six practical steps for putting your strategy into action.