Top 10 Data Security Standards Every Data Professional Must Know

Key Takeaways

Why are data security standards important?
Data security standards are critical tools for data protection, ensuring stakeholder trust and legal compliance. They are fundamental for maintaining data integrity and privacy across various industries.

Data Security StandardKey FocusRelevance for Data Professionals
ISO/IEC 27001Foundational standard for information security management, covering various business risks.Essential for developing and implementing an effective information security management system (ISMS).
NIST SP 800-53Comprehensive security controls for U.S. federal information systems; customizable and risk-focused.Crucial for professionals working with federal information systems in the U.S.; applicable in assessing organizational risks.
GDPRData privacy and security standard, focusing on EU citizens’ personal data with stringent requirements and penalties.Vital for ensuring compliance in data handling practices, especially for companies operating in or dealing with the EU.
HIPAAU.S. standard for medical data privacy and security; establishes specific rules for healthcare data.Key for professionals in the healthcare industry, ensuring the protection of sensitive health information.
PCI DSSGlobal standard for protecting cardholder data in financial transactions; requires strict security measures.Important for those handling cardholder data, ensuring secure transactions and data handling in financial sectors.
FERPAU.S. law protecting student education records and granting rights over educational data.Essential for educational institutions and professionals managing student data and records.
SOXAddresses corporate financial reporting and data management; focuses on fraud prevention and data retention.Relevant for public companies and those handling corporate finance and accounting data, ensuring regulatory compliance.
Cloud & IT Infrastructure Security Standards (ISO/IEC 27017, 27018, 27032, STAR by CSA)Guidelines for securing cloud environments, personal data, and establishing cybersecurity frameworks.Critical for managing security in cloud-based and IT infrastructure environments, ensuring robust cybersecurity practices.
Emerging TrendsAI, blockchain, global regulations, cloud security, IoT, and edge computing shaping the future of data security.Important to stay updated to adapt to evolving security challenges and technologies in data management.

This table above provides a comprehensive overview of the standards, their key focus areas, and why each standard is relevant for data professionals. Keep reading for a detailed exploration of each standard, its implications in particular sectors, and how it integrates into the broader landscape of data security and privacy.


In the digital era, data security is critical for both businesses and individuals. As data proliferation grows on diverse platforms, its protection becomes paramount. Data security standards, therefore, are vital. They serve as a robust framework to manage and shield sensitive information. This article dives into the top 10 data security standards essential for every data professional, spanning various industries and use cases.

These standards are indispensable for defending against unauthorized access, breaches, and cyber threats, ensuring data confidentiality, integrity, and compliance with legal norms. We’ll explore standards like ISO/IEC 27001 for information security management, HIPAA for healthcare in the U.S., and ISO/IEC 27017 for cloud security. Additionally, we’ll look at emerging trends in data security.

For data scientists, cloud architects, and cybersecurity professionals, these standards are key to mastering the intricate data security realm. In this article, we’ll explore them most important data protection standards shaping the storage and data security landscape.

General Data Security Standards

ISO/IEC 27001

ISO/IEC 27001 is a cornerstone in the landscape of data security standards, providing a systematic and well-structured approach to managing company and customer information. This standard is all about establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving an Information Security Management System (ISMS) within the context of the organization’s overall business risks. It is designed to ensure the selection of adequate and proportionate security controls that protect information assets.

Being internationally recognized, ISO/IEC 27001 is applicable to organizations of all sizes and industries. Its holistic approach covers more than just IT, encompassing legal, physical, and technical controls involved in an organization’s information risk management processes. The key benefits of implementing ISO/IEC 27001 include:

  • Risk Management: It helps in identifying risks to your information and putting in place controls to manage or reduce them.
  • Compliance: Adherence to this standard can demonstrate legal and regulatory compliance.
  • Reputation: ISO/IEC 27001 certification can provide a valuable marketing edge, showcasing an organization’s commitment to data security.

Businesses looking to integrate cloud solutions into their operations can benefit from the insights provided in our article on Cloud IDS Introduction, which aligns well with the ISO/IEC 27001’s emphasis on information security in diverse environments.

NIST Special Publication 800-53

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Special Publication 800-53, often abbreviated as NIST SP 800-53, provides a comprehensive set of security controls for U.S. federal information systems. This document is instrumental in the implementation of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and is used by federal agencies to assess and manage risks to their information and information systems.

NIST SP 800-53 covers a wide array of security controls that span across multiple levels, including managerial, operational, and technical aspects. These controls are customizable and are intended to protect against a diverse set of threats, including cyber attacks, natural disasters, and structural failures. Key aspects include:

  • Tailored Security Controls: It provides guidelines for tailoring the standard set of security controls to fit the specific needs of an organization.
  • Risk-Based Approach: Emphasizes a risk management framework for a holistic, organization-wide approach to information security.

For data professionals working with federal information systems in the U.S., understanding NIST SP 800-53 is crucial. It’s also valuable for those in the private sector who work with government agencies or want to align with federal standards.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in May 2018 and has since been a pivotal standard in data privacy and security, not just in the European Union, but globally. GDPR imposes stringent data protection requirements for companies that collect or process personal data of individuals within the EU. Key elements of GDPR include:

  • Data Subject Rights: GDPR enhances the protection of EU citizens’ personal data and increases the obligations on organizations.
  • Consent and Transparency: It requires a clear and affirmative consent for personal data processing and mandates that the purpose of data collection be explicitly stated.
  • Penalties for Non-Compliance: Organizations can face significant fines for non-compliance, making GDPR one of the most stringent privacy and security laws globally.

For data professionals, GDPR isn’t just a regulatory framework to comply with; it’s an opportunity to build trust with customers by enhancing data privacy and security measures. Those interested in data governance and its implementation can find relevant insights in our article on Data Governance Implementation Steps.

Industry-Specific Data Security Standards

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA, is a critical standard in the United States for safeguarding medical information. Enacted in 1996, HIPAA establishes necessary safeguards that healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses must implement to protect the privacy and security of health information. The act is divided into two main parts:

  • Privacy Rule: Governs the use and disclosure of Protected Health Information (PHI).
  • Security Rule: Sets standards for the secure maintenance, transmission, and handling of electronic PHI (ePHI).

HIPAA compliance is essential for healthcare organizations in the U.S. as it not only ensures the confidentiality and integrity of patient data but also maintains the trust of patients in the healthcare system. Non-compliance can result in significant financial penalties. For more insights into the intersection of healthcare and data, our article on Data Lake Fundamentals provides valuable information.

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI DSS, is a global security standard designed to protect cardholder data used in financial transactions. It applies to all entities that store, process, or transmit cardholder data and includes requirements for security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, software design, and other protective measures. The key components of PCI DSS include:

  • Data Protection: Ensuring the secure storage and transmission of cardholder data.
  • Access Control: Restricting access to cardholder data on a need-to-know basis.
  • Regular Monitoring and Testing: Regular testing of security systems and processes.

PCI DSS compliance is not just a requirement but a necessity for any business handling credit card transactions.

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law in the United States that protects the privacy of student education records. FERPA grants certain rights to parents regarding their children’s education records, which transfer to the student, or “eligible student,” when they reach the age of 18 or attend a school beyond the high school level. FERPA’s primary provisions include:

  • Access to Educational Records: Students have the right to access their educational records and request corrections to any inaccuracies.
  • Control Over Disclosure: Schools must have written permission from the eligible student to release any information from a student’s education record.

Understanding FERPA is crucial for professionals in the education sector, especially when it comes to managing student data. Our article on Data Lake vs. Data Warehouse can provide further context on how educational institutions can manage large volumes of data effectively.

SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act)

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, known as SOX, was passed in 2002 in response to major corporate and accounting scandals. It aims to protect investors from fraudulent financial reporting by corporations. While SOX is not a data security standard per se, it has significant implications for data management and IT security. Key aspects of SOX include:

  • Internal Controls: Companies are required to establish internal controls and procedures for financial reporting to reduce the risk of fraud.
  • Data Retention: It mandates the retention of business records, including electronic records and communications, for specific time frames.

Compliance with SOX is mandatory for all public companies in the U.S. and international companies that have registered equity or debt securities with the Securities and Exchange Commission. For data professionals, understanding SOX is crucial, especially when dealing with data storage and financial reporting.

Cloud and IT Infrastructure Security Standards

ISO/IEC 27017

ISO/IEC 27017 is a code of practice for information security controls designed for cloud services. As an extension of ISO/IEC 27001, it provides additional cloud-specific controls and clarifies the implementation of existing controls in the context of cloud computing. Key aspects of ISO/IEC 27017 include:

  • Cloud Service Provider and Customer Roles: It delineates the security responsibilities between cloud service providers and their customers.
  • Data Security in Cloud Environments: Addresses various aspects of cloud data security, including data encryption, access controls, and operational security measures.

This standard is particularly relevant for organizations adopting cloud services. Understanding and implementing ISO/IEC 27017 can greatly assist in managing cloud security risks. For more information on cloud security, readers can refer to our article on Cloud Security Explained.

ISO/IEC 27018

ISO/IEC 27018 is a code of practice for the protection of personally identifiable information (PII) in public clouds acting as PII processors. It builds on the concepts of ISO/IEC 27002, focusing on personal data protection, particularly in cloud computing environments. Key elements of ISO/IEC 27018 include:

  • Consent and Control: It emphasizes the need for cloud service providers to obtain consent from data subjects for processing their PII.
  • Data Breach Notifications: Specifies the obligations of cloud providers to inform customers in the event of a data breach.

For data professionals working with cloud solutions that handle personal data, adherence to ISO/IEC 27018 is crucial for maintaining trust and compliance. Our article on Data Governance Implementation Steps can provide additional insights into managing data responsibly in the cloud.

ISO/IEC 27032

ISO/IEC 27032 is a guideline for cybersecurity, focusing on the intersection of different security domains in the cyber environment. It provides a framework for establishing and maintaining a Cybersecurity Management System (CSMS). Important aspects of ISO/IEC 27032 include:

  • Cybersecurity and Its Relationship with Other Security Disciplines: It explores how cybersecurity intersects with information security, network security, internet security, and critical information infrastructure protection (CIIP).
  • Guidelines for Collaboration: Offers guidance on collaboration between different stakeholders in cyberspace, including incident response planning and management.

Professionals engaged in IT infrastructure management and cybersecurity will find ISO/IEC 27032 invaluable for developing a comprehensive approach to cyber threats. Related insights can be found in our Introduction to Cloud IDS, which discusses intrusion detection systems in cloud environments. If you are using AWS, read our guide on IDS/IPS on AWS.


The Security, Trust, and Assurance Registry (STAR) by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is a comprehensive program for security assurance in the cloud. STAR encompasses key principles of transparency, rigorous auditing, and harmonization of standards. Key features of STAR include:

  • Open Certification Framework: STAR includes a free, publicly accessible registry documenting the security controls provided by various cloud computing offerings.
  • Integration of Popular Standards: Aligns with other industry standards like ISO/IEC 27001, offering a well-rounded approach to cloud security.

STAR by CSA is particularly useful for organizations seeking to assess the security posture of their cloud providers and for cloud services aiming to demonstrate their security commitment. For professionals exploring cloud governance, our guide on Cloud Governance 101 offers complementary information.

Emerging Trends and Future Directions

The realm of data security is continually evolving, influenced by emerging technologies, shifting regulatory landscapes, and novel cybersecurity threats. Staying abreast of these changes is crucial for data professionals to ensure that the standards they adhere to remain effective and relevant. In this section, we’ll explore some of the key trends and anticipated future directions in data security standards.

AI and Machine Learning in Data Security

  • Automated Threat Detection: AI and machine learning algorithms are increasingly being employed to detect and respond to security threats more efficiently. These technologies can analyze large volumes of data to identify patterns indicative of cyber attacks, often much faster than human operators.
  • Predictive Security Measures: Machine learning models can predict potential security incidents by analyzing trends and anomalies, allowing organizations to proactively fortify their defenses.

Incorporating AI into data security strategies is becoming more prevalent. For a deeper understanding of AI and its implications in various fields, our article on What is a Data Scientist offers valuable insights.

Regulations and Compliance in a Global Context

  • Cross-Border Data Transfer: With the increasing globalization of business operations, there’s a growing need for international standards and agreements on data protection and cross-border data transfer.
  • Evolving Compliance Requirements: Regulations like GDPR have set precedents, but as digital data becomes more intertwined with our lives, new regulations are likely to emerge, requiring ongoing vigilance and adaptation.

Data professionals must stay informed about these evolving regulatory landscapes to ensure compliance and avoid legal and financial penalties.

Cloud Security and Hybrid Environments

  • Cloud Security Frameworks: As cloud computing becomes more ubiquitous, security standards specifically designed for cloud environments, like ISO/IEC 27017 and ISO/IEC 27018, are gaining importance.
  • Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Environments: With the rise of hybrid and multi-cloud strategies, security standards will need to evolve to address the complexities and unique challenges posed by these environments.

For more insights into cloud computing and its challenges, articles like Multi-Cloud Governance can provide additional information.

The Future of IoT and Edge Computing

  • IoT Security Standards: The proliferation of IoT devices has opened new frontiers in data collection and analysis but also poses unique security challenges. Developing robust security standards for IoT devices is critical.
  • Edge Computing Security: As data processing moves closer to the source of data generation (edge computing), ensuring the security of these distributed systems becomes imperative.

Understanding the security implications of IoT and edge computing is essential for data professionals working in these rapidly growing fields.


In the ever-evolving landscape of digital data and technology, the importance of data security standards remains paramount. Throughout this article, we’ve explored a comprehensive range of data security standards, each serving a pivotal role in safeguarding sensitive information in different sectors and technological environments.


What are the 3 types of data security?

The three types of data security are Physical Security, Network Security, and Application Security. Physical Security involves protecting the hardware and physical infrastructure that stores and processes data. Network Security focuses on protecting data as it travels across networks, preventing unauthorized access and cyber attacks. Application Security involves securing software and applications against threats, ensuring data integrity and confidentiality within the software environment.

What is an example of a data security standard?

An example of a data security standard is ISO/IEC 27001. It is a foundational standard for information security management, covering a range of business risks. ISO/IEC 27001 is essential for developing and implementing an effective Information Security Management System (ISMS), applicable across various industries and organizations of all sizes.

What are the 5 levels of data security?

The five levels of data security are:

  1. Perimeter Security: Protects the outermost boundaries of the network, controlling access to data.
  2. Network Security: Secures data in transit across networks against unauthorized access and attacks.
  3. Endpoint Security: Focuses on protecting individual devices (endpoints) that connect to the network.
  4. Application Security: Ensures software and applications are secure from threats.
  5. Data Security: Direct protection of the data itself through encryption, access controls, and data integrity measures.

What are the principles of data protection?

The principles of data protection include:

  1. Lawfulness, Fairness, and Transparency: Processing data in a lawful, fair, and transparent manner.
  2. Purpose Limitation: Data should be collected for specified, explicit, and legitimate purposes.
  3. Data Minimization: Only collect data that is necessary for the intended purpose.
  4. Accuracy: Ensure data is accurate and kept up to date.
  5. Storage Limitation: Retain data only as long as necessary.
  6. Integrity and Confidentiality: Secure data against unauthorized access and accidental loss.

What is the strictest data security standard?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is considered one of the strictest data security standards globally. It imposes stringent data protection requirements for handling personal data of EU citizens, including consent, transparency, and severe penalties for non-compliance.

What is the importance of data security standards?

Data security standards are crucial for protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access, breaches, and cyber threats. They ensure data confidentiality, integrity, and compliance with legal and regulatory norms. For data professionals, adhering to these standards is key to maintaining trust and preventing financial and reputational damage.

How do data security standards impact cloud computing?

Data security standards have a significant impact on cloud computing by establishing guidelines for securing cloud environments. Standards like ISO/IEC 27017, 27018, and the STAR program by CSA provide specific controls for cloud service providers and customers, focusing on data encryption, access controls, and operational security measures, ensuring a secure and compliant cloud infrastructure.

Why is compliance with data security standards essential for businesses?

Compliance with data security standards is essential for businesses to protect sensitive data, avoid legal and financial penalties, and maintain customer trust. It demonstrates a commitment to data protection, which is critical in today’s digital landscape where data breaches can have severe consequences on a company’s reputation and finances.

How do emerging technologies influence data security standards?

Emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, and IoT influence data security standards by introducing new challenges and opportunities. Standards evolve to address the unique risks posed by these technologies, such as automated threat detection and predictive security measures in AI, and robust security frameworks for IoT devices and edge computing.

What role does GDPR play in global data protection?

GDPR plays a pivotal role in global data protection by setting high standards for privacy and security. It has influenced other countries and regions to adopt similar regulations, pushing for more stringent data protection laws worldwide. GDPR’s focus on consent, transparency, and hefty penalties for non-compliance has reshaped how organizations handle personal data globally.