August 29, 2023

In the digital economy, collaboration and data sharing are essential for fostering innovation and enabling high-quality decision-making. A survey conducted by Accenture showed that companies that used collaborative strategies achieved quadrupled revenue and grew 13 times in profitably. By collaborating and sharing data, stakeholders can gain valuable insights, identify emerging trends, and drive sustainable growth in the digital age. It promotes knowledge exchange, development of advanced technologies, and enhances transparency and accountability. However, privacy and security concerns must be addressed while embracing collaboration and data sharing to ensure responsible use of data, both in transit and at rest.

What is Data in Transit vs. Data at Rest?

Data in transit, or data in motion, is data actively moving from one location to another such as across the internet or through a private network. Data protection in transit is the protection of this data while it’s traveling from network to network or being transferred from a local storage device to a cloud storage device – wherever data is moving, effective data protection measures for in transit data are critical as data is often considered less secure while in motion.

Data at rest is data that is not actively moving from device to device or network to network such as data stored on a hard drive, laptop, flash drive, or archived/stored in some other way. Data protection at rest aims to secure inactive data stored on any device or network. While data at rest is sometimes considered to be less vulnerable than data in transit, attackers often find data at rest a more valuable target than data in motion. The risk profile for data in transit or data at rest depends on the security measures that are in place to secure data in either state.

Protecting sensitive data both in transit and at rest is imperative for modern enterprises as attackers find increasingly innovative ways to compromise systems and steal data.

The Role of Digital Rights Management in Protecting Data in Transit and at Rest

Data can be exposed to risks both in transit and at rest and requires protection in both states. As such, there are multiple different approaches to protecting data in transit and at rest. Digital Rights Management (DRM) plays a major role in policy-driven data protection and is a popular tool for securing data both in transit and at rest. For protecting data in transit, enterprises often choose to encrypt sensitive data with DRM prior to moving and/or use encrypted connections (HTTPS, SSL, TLS, FTPS, etc.) to protect the contents of data in transit. For protecting data at rest, enterprises can simply encrypt sensitive files with DRM prior to storing them and/or choose to encrypt the storage drive itself.

Best Practices for Protecting Data in Transit and at Rest

Unprotected data, whether in transit or at rest, leaves enterprises vulnerable to attack, but there are effective security measures that offer robust data protection across endpoints and networks to protect data in both states. As mentioned above, one of the most effective data protection methods for both data in transit and data at rest is data encryption with DRM.

In addition to encryption and DRM, best practices for robust data protection for data in transit and data at rest include:

  • Implement robust network security controls to help protect data in transit. Network security solutions like firewalls and network access control will help secure the networks used to transmit data against malware attacks or intrusions.
  • Don’t rely on reactive security to protect your valuable company data. Instead, use proactive security measures that identify at-risk data and implement effective data protection for data in transit and at rest.
  • Choose data protection solutions with policies that enable user prompting, blocking, or automatically apply DRM protection on sensitive data in transit, such as when files are attached to an email message or moved to cloud storage, removable drives, or transferred elsewhere.
  • Create policies for systematically categorizing and classifying all company data, no matter where it resides, in order to ensure that the appropriate data protection measures are applied while data remains at rest and triggered when data classified as at-risk is accessed, used, or transferred.

Finally, if you utilize a public, private, or hybrid cloud provider for storing data or applications, carefully evaluate cloud vendors based on the security measures they offer – but don’t rely on the cloud service to secure your data. Who has access to your data, how is it encrypted, and how often your data is backed up are all imperative questions to ask.

While data in transit and data at rest may have slightly different risk profiles, the inherent risk hinges primarily on the sensitivity and value of your data; attackers will attempt to gain access to valuable data whether it’s in motion, at rest, or actively in use, depending on which state is easiest to breach. That is why a proactive approach including classifying and categorizing data coupled with content, user, and context-aware security protocols is the safest and most effective way to protect your most sensitive data in every state.

Using a DRM solution such as NextLabs SkyDRM that uses a policy-driven encryption technology to provides persistent protection of files, allows enterprises to strike a balance between effective collaboration and security by ensure data is protected regardless of where it is stored, with whom it is shared, and how it is used.

SkyDRM classifies, protects, tracks, and controls every digital asset to enable enterprises to monitor, safeguard, and control access rights to their data wherever it goes to prevent data theft and achieve compliance. To protect data at rest and in motion, SkyDRM provides digital rights protection based on zero-trust principle to control access and use of data stored in files to only those authorized. It uses a attribute-based access control (ABAC) policy engine with dynamic authorization technology to determine access rights, control usage, revoke rights on expiration, and apply watermark overlay in real time. SkyDRM’s policy engine can dynamically grant or deny access to files based on user identity (for example user property, location, and role) and metadata of file (for example sensitivity, classification, and which customer the file belongs to). SkyDRM also has a unique capability to work with and protect digital twins, 2D & 3D models, and any complex file types natively across organizations with federated identity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between data at rest and data in transit?

The difference between data at rest and data in transit is simply whether the data is currently stationary or moving to a new location. Data at rest is safely stored on an internal or external storage device.

Data in transit, also known as data in motion, is data that is being transferred between locations over a private network or the Internet. The data is vulnerable while it is being transmitted. Data can be intercepted and compromised as it travels across the network where it is out of a user’s direct control.

Data may or may not be encrypted when it is in transit and at rest. Encryption is not a native characteristic of data in either an in-transit or at-rest state. Encryption and DRM protects data from unauthorized use and can be implemented on data in transit or at rest. DRM applies encryption to make data unreadable if it falls into the hands of unauthorized users.

Affording valuable data extra protection through DRM is always a good idea, whether it’s at rest or in transit. It is critically important to protect sensitive data in transit with DRM when it is potentially exposed to unknown entities.

What is an example of data in transit?

An example of data in transit is information transferred between a remote user’s mobile device and a cloud-based application. If the data is transmitted in plain text and not encrypted, it can be compromised by malicious actors. Valuable or sensitive in-transit data should always be encrypted.

What are some data at rest examples?

Data at rest is information that is currently not moving between two points and is safely stored on a computer or device. As soon as a user attempts to transfer any of these items over the network, they become data in transit. Examples of data at rest include:

  • Financial spreadsheet files stored on your laptop’s hard drive.
  • Customer contract or proprietary information shared amongst project members.
  • 3D model of a new product prototype uploaded to a cloud storage for sharing with supply chain partners.
  • Employment records stored in corporate HR applications.
  • Sales and demand forecast information that is stored in company portal.

Learn how to secure data in transit and at rest, watch this video on using DRM with dynamic authorization to secure PLM & 3D CAD files.