Data in use includes all data that is accessed, processed, and modified regularly. Some examples of data in use include files shared between employees, weekly logs, and daily manufacturing data. This state of data is exposed to security risks at all times, due to the numerous threat vectors present when it is accessed or shared. The threat to this data state is not just from hackers or external entities, but also insiders with malicious or financial motives and employees who don't adhere to data security policies.
Data in use is one of the three types of data states, the other two being data at rest and data in transit. It is important to understand the flow of data in use, where and to whom it is exposed to apply the right security controls. Data at rest is data that lies dormant within organizations' repositories and data in transit is data that is being shared or transmitted within or outside of the organization.
|Point of difference||Data in use||Data at rest|
|Use||Very actively accessed, or modified by users, leading to an increase in the number of users who have access to the data.||Data stored passively in data stores, often archived or stored away with no current business needs. The access to this data can be restricted by securing offline backups with the highest level of authorization.|
|Transmission||Data in use is shared frequently, multiple times by various users.||Data in rest is seldom shared and is exposed to minimal threats from users or unsecure sharing methods.|
|Vulnerability to attacks||Data in use is highly vulnerable as it is exposed to multiple threat vectors namely, unauthorized users, unsafe sharing methods, and data theft.||High: For data stored in the cloud.
Low: For offline backups with appropriate physical security controls.
|Security controls that may be employed||Security measures for data in use include user authorization and authentication, stringent user permissions management, and securing file sharing methods.||Well-protected offline backups to ensure availability of data in case a data theft occurs.|
Some of the threats data in use can be exposed to include:
You can protect data in use by safeguarding it where it is used the most, usually within the organization. Approach data security from 360-degree perspective to address as many security backdoors as possible.