Data security is on everyone’s mind, and R&D is no different.
In fact, data security in R&D is critical to the success of most organizations. Research and development is the backbone of innovation, growth, and progress. It’s where growing companies, streamlining our everyday lives, and creating safer societies begin.
But many don’t prioritize R&D data security as they should, and that can lead to critical failures like data breaches, product delays, and even legal trouble.
In this article, we’ll discuss what makes R&D so important, how data security can impact R&D, and steps you can take to improve your organization’s R&D data security.
What is R&D intelligence?
R&D stands for Research and Development. R&D intelligence is the process of gathering and analyzing data to create holistic research and development strategies.
Research and development departments are the driving force behind most organizations—from streamlining manufacturing to securing government agencies to the latest web based phone service technology.
R&D focuses on:
- Improving existing organizational processes.
- Helping organizations make big decisions through understanding the needs of the organization itself, target demographics, and the organization’s limitations.
- Market research to discover the needs of target demographics and corner new markets.
- Researching and developing new products and services.
- Improving existing products and services.
- Improving organizational security.
In short, R&D covers all aspects of organizational progress.
Without R&D, organizations wouldn’t be able to grow, innovate, or improve.
How important is data security to R&D?
In August 2022, US President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law. This statute gives focus and investment into technological research and development.
The CHIPS and Science Act also outlines requirements for NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) to oversee, including an initiative to help institutes tackle data security incidents.
That is to say: R&D security is becoming culturally, politically, socially, and economically important to building a better future.
But that’s big-picture stuff. How important is data security in our day-to-day research and development?
Securing R&D data involves both cybersecurity and maintaining critical software and hardware.
Cybersecurity in R&D
As we’ve discussed, research and development covers a wide range of processes for all different types of organizations.
Cybersecurity is the process of digitally securing an organization’s technological infrastructure, protecting an organization from cyber attacks.
These attacks can be hackers trying to gain important information, which is especially dangerous for government organizations that hold a lot of data critical to national security.
Businesses also want to protect against cyber attacks. Perhaps your company is developing a new online system for improving e-commerce. Now imagine another company hacks your R&D department and steals that idea, creating their own version and implementing it before you do.
Malicious actors can range from hostile foreign nations trying to gain access to new military innovations to hackers partaking in corporate espionage to internet trolls being internet trolls.
Just type “data breach” into your internet search engine and you’ll see dozens of recent top stories from all over the world that highlight the importance of data security.
Research and development departments are where innovation starts, and this makes R&D an attractive target for hackers.
Not valuing R&D cybersecurity puts you at risk of:
- Losing critical data
- Employee data breaches
- Financial loss
- Product development delays
- Regulatory trouble
- Legal trouble
- Loss of reputation
As you can see, R&D cybersecurity is a vital tool for organizational success.
Software and hardware maintenance
We’ve talked about the importance of cybersecurity, but that isn’t the be-all and end-all of data security.
Technology offers us untold possibilities for building our organizations. We rely on technology heavily for innovation, communication, organization, and centralization.
But technology isn’t infallible. It can and will fail–often at the worst possible moment.
Think of something as simple as your home WiFi going out right in the middle of a busy work-from-home day. Your entire workload screeches to a halt while you troubleshoot, call an engineer, wait for someone to come out, etc.
It’s staggering just how much a single technological failure can impede progress. Hardware failure can cause data corruption, data loss, and expense to fix or replace. Software glitches can also cause data loss and corruption, as well as wasting time as tech support works on fixes.
R&D projects require masses of information through research, product prototypes, experiments, and organizational data. All that work can be gone in an instant due to faulty or degraded technology.
Let’s use a pharmaceutical company developing a new drug as an example.
They rely on hardware to keep the lab at an appropriate temperature and software to monitor experiments. If anything should fail, the experiment could be contaminated or destroyed, meaning hours, weeks, or even months of work down the drain.
It’s vital that organizations keep their hardware well-maintained and their software up-to-date and secure. You can mitigate the risks of technical failure by investing in good hardware and software, doing regular maintenance, and having top-tier tech support.
If you discover any hardware problems, have a robust data warehouse migration strategy to move your data to new hardware or a secure cloud storage service.
Steps to securing data during R&D
Now we understand the importance of R&D data security, let’s look at how you can implement it.
Assess your situation
The most important step to better R&D security is making a plan. To do that, you need to know:
- What information you need to keep secure—huge amounts of data might require a server farm or cloud storage service. Small amounts of data might only need on-site storage.
- Who needs access to this information and how they access it—this includes different levels of access, the ability to add and revoke access, and whether remote access is required.
- Your existing infrastructure and its capabilities—you might need to add hardware, software, or additional staff to secure your data.
- Your plans for future growth—you don’t want to invest in extra security only to find it’s not enough 12 months down the line.
Making a plan before you jump into R&D security investment will save you money and resources and ensure you have a solid starting point.
Understand the risks you face
You can’t protect yourself if you don’t understand the threats.
Cyberattacks come in different forms, but the most common are:
These utilize social engineering to coerce people into handing over sensitive information like passwords. They usually come in the form of an email or text that looks completely legitimate. In fact, they contain links to malicious websites that ask for personal information.
People will hand over that information because everything looks legit.
Ransomware takes control of your device and asks for a ransom to release it. This is usually in the form of money, but can also be sensitive information.
Malware infects your device and can cause irreversible damage, allow access to malicious actors, or quietly monitor everything you do.
Understanding the most common kinds of cybersecurity threats can help you mitigate them.
Create a robust data security tech stack
No matter your problem, technology has a solution.
Each organization is unique, with its own challenges, needs, and risks, but there are some general ideas to get you started:
- An antivirus
- A firewall
- Regular security updates
- Checking access controls
- Invest in good hardware and software
Depending on your situation, you might also need additional security like a VPN, a virtual PBX system, or AI-powered technology.
You can develop in-house data security solutions, or you can outsource to third parties. If you go the third-party route, do some research before committing. Read reviews and testimonials from trusted sources, ask industry peers and tech experts, and look for companies with cybersecurity certification.
Now you’ve taken care of the tech, it’s time to look at the people.
Not all your employees are tech-savvy, and even the tech-savviest can fall prey to data security oversights.
Educating all members of your organization about cybersecurity can make people aware of risks and help build better technology habits.
Training on safe password etiquette (yes, the most common password is still 1234), using two-factor authentication, how to spot phishing scams, and verifying secure web domains using services like Only Domains can change your entire organization’s approach to cybersecurity.
For existing employees, create mandatory training. When onboarding new employees, bake data security training into the onboarding process.
Back up everything
Data security might fail, and you should be ready for that possibility.
To mitigate catastrophe, make sure all your data is backed up somewhere safe, secure, well-maintained, and, most importantly, not connected to your existing network.
If you have onsite hardware like hard drives or servers, you can back up data and then disconnect the hardware from your network.
You can also use cloud storage solutions to keep data safely backed up away from your network. Cloud storage usually offers tiered storage plans for different needs. For example, services like Vonage cloud calling allow you to keep backups of your communications.
Always check your backups to make sure they’re up-to-date and not liable to fail.
The importance of data security in R&D intelligence
Data security is vital to successful research and development. Without it, R&D can fall prey to malicious cyber attacks, corporate espionage, and even hostile governments.
Understanding the importance of R&D data security allows you to create a better environment for innovation and growth.
Improve your R&D data security to avoid falling prey to cybersecurity threats or avoidable tech failures.