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As an InfoSec professional, identifying and mitigating risks is your primary responsibility. In the context of Salesforce, which for many businesses is the central repository of highly sensitive customer data, recognizing and navigating its potential vulnerabilities is crucial for safeguarding data. With it being so integrated into your business processes and integrated tech stack, Salesforce can introduce significant risk for businesses that do not have a strong security posture around it.  

Even if you have a team dedicated to Salesforce operations and security it’s important to have a working knowledge of Salesforce architecture and common causes for data leakage in order to create a sophisticated data loss prevention strategy. 

In this blog, we’ll explore the fundamental steps for data loss prevention in Salesforce. From setting up effective profiles and permission sets to utilizing field-level security and encryption, we’ll provide you with the necessary tools and knowledge to secure your Salesforce environment. Our focus is to equip you with strategies to keep your customer data safe and your organization resilient against potential security threats. Let’s dive into strengthening your Salesforce data security.

Understanding Salesforce Data Architecture

Understanding your Salesforce data architecture is crucial for effective data loss prevention. It allows you to identify which data is most critical to your business, understand how different pieces of data are interconnected, and recognize how these data elements are accessed and utilized within the system. This comprehensive understanding is key to implementing targeted data protection strategies and quickly identifying and rectifying any data loss incidents.

As a primer, let’s cover the three core components of Salesforce’s data model: 

Overview of Salesforce Data Model

1. Objects

Think of objects in Salesforce like tables in a database. They’re the backbone, storing data in a structured format. There are two types: Standard Objects, like Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities— and Custom Objects, which are created by you to store specific business information.

2. Fields 

Fields are akin to columns in a database table. Each field in an object stores a particular piece of data, like a name, date, or price. Salesforce offers standard fields and also allows the creation of custom fields for tailored data storage needs.

3. Relationships

Relationships define how different objects in Salesforce are connected to each other. They help in establishing connections between different pieces of data. For example, a relationship can link a contact to the account it belongs to, providing a comprehensive view of data interconnections.

There are various types of relationships like Lookup Relationships, which link two objects loosely, and Master-Detail Relationships that create a tight link between objects and the master object controls certain behaviors of the detail object.

When it comes to the basics of understanding Salesforce data loss, understanding this architecture is crucial for developing:

1. A holistic view of your data

Knowing how data is structured and interlinked helps in creating a comprehensive strategy for data protection. It allows you to see the full picture of how data flows and is accessed within your Salesforce environment.

2. Targeted security measures

With clarity on data architecture, you can implement security controls at the right places. For instance, you can set field-level security to protect sensitive fields or define sharing rules for specific objects.

3. Efficient data management

A deep understanding of the data model aids in efficient data management. It allows for setting up proper backups, understanding where critical data is stored, and how it’s being used, which is essential for both preventing and recovering from data loss.

4. Compliance and auditing 

Knowing your data architecture supports data governance compliance efforts. It ensures that you’re only collecting necessary data, storing it securely, and maintaining proper access controls as per various data protection laws.

5. Quick response to threats

Whether we are talking about a disconnected integration, a broken workflow or a data breach, understanding your data architecture allows for a quicker and more effective response. You can easily identify which parts of your data are at risk and take appropriate measures to mitigate any damage.

Common Causes of Data Loss in Salesforce

In the complex ecosystem of Salesforce, data loss can stem from a variety of sources, each necessitating its own unique set of preventative measures.

1. Accidental deletions by users

This often occurs when users unintentionally remove important records or fields, usually due to a misunderstanding of their functions or consequences. To prevent this, it’s crucial to enforce strict access controls, regularly update user permissions, and provide in-depth training on the implications of data deletion. Educating users on proper data handling and the impact of their actions plays a key role in mitigating such risks.

2. Data corruption during integration or migration 

This type of data loss can happen during the integration with other systems or while migrating data, often caused by compatibility issues, errors in migration scripts, or incorrect field mapping. To combat this, thorough planning and testing of integration and migration processes are essential. Employing data validation tools and ensuring robust backup systems are in place before initiating these processes can greatly reduce the risk of data corruption.

3. Malicious activities

Includes cyber-attacks like hacking or phishing and insider threats where employees misuse their access privileges, are a significant threat to data security. To safeguard against these malicious activities, it is vital to deploy comprehensive cybersecurity measures such as firewalls, anti-malware tools, and intrusion detection systems. Additionally, implementing the principle of least privilege and monitoring user activities through audit logs can help in mitigating insider threats.

4. System failures or software bugs 

This can lead to data becoming inaccessible or lost. This type of data loss can be addressed by regularly updating and patching systems to fix known bugs and by having a robust backup and recovery plan in place. Such a plan ensures that data can be quickly restored in case of system failure, thus maintaining data integrity and ensuring business continuity.

Data Loss Prevention Strategies in Salesforce

Understanding the common data loss causes and implementing effective strategies for each can significantly reduce the risk of data loss in Salesforce. Regular audits, user education, and robust backup and recovery plans are key to maintaining a secure and resilient Salesforce environment. Here’s a deeper-dive into key strategies that can be pivotal in safeguarding your Salesforce data:

1. Role-based access controls and permission settings

Implementing role-based access controls is fundamental in managing who has access to what data within Salesforce. By meticulously configuring permission settings, you can ensure that users only have access to the information necessary for their role. This approach minimizes the risk of accidental deletions or unauthorized access. Properly defined roles and permissions not only streamline workflow but also add a layer of security by restricting data access to only those who need it.

2. Regular data backups and recovery plans 

Regular backups ensure that in the event of data loss– whether from human error, system failure, or malicious activity– you have up-to-date copies of your data to restore from. Equally important is having a well-defined recovery plan. This plan should outline clear steps for data restoration, ensuring quick recovery and minimal disruption to business operations in the event of data loss.

3. Audit trails and monitoring user activities 

Keeping a close eye on user activities within Salesforce can significantly aid in preventing data loss. Audit trails offer visibility into user actions, helping to detect any unauthorized or suspicious activities early. By monitoring changes made in the system, you can quickly identify and address potential security breaches or accidental modifications before they escalate into significant data loss incidents.

4. Implementing data validation rules and duplication checks

Data integrity is key in Salesforce, and implementing data validation rules ensures that the data entered into the system is accurate and consistent. These rules help in avoiding errors and maintaining the quality of data. Additionally, setting up duplication checks is important to prevent the creation of duplicate records, which can lead to confusion, inefficiencies, and increased risk of data mishandling.

Incorporating these strategies into your Salesforce data management practices can significantly bolster your defenses against data loss. They collectively create a robust framework that not only prevents data loss but also maintains the integrity and reliability of your data, ensuring that your Salesforce environment remains secure and efficient.

Salesforce’s Built-In Data Recovery Features 

Even with the best preventive measures in place, Salesforce data loss can still occur. That’s why having a solid understanding of data recovery options is essential for quickly restoring lost data with minimal impact. Salesforce provides built-in features for recovery, and there are also third-party solutions that can offer additional security. Here’s a look at the options and best practices for efficient data recovery:

Salesforce’s Built-in Recovery Features:

Salesforce provides several features and tools for backup and recovery, ensuring that data is protected and can be restored in case of loss or corruption. Let’s dive into Salesforce’s backup and recovery offerings:

1. Data export service

Salesforce allows users to manually export their data as a backup. This can be scheduled weekly or monthly. The exported data includes records from all objects and is provided in CSV files. This backup includes data and documents but not the metadata.

2. Data loader

For more granular control over backup, Salesforce’s Data Loader can be used. It allows for both export and import of data. Users can select specific objects and fields for backup. This tool is more hands-on and requires a certain level of expertise to use effectively.

3. Recycle bin 

Salesforce’s Recycle Bin acts like a safety net, temporarily holding deleted records for a set period. Users can easily restore records from the Recycle Bin, making it a first line of defense against accidental deletions.

4. Data recovery service

For more severe cases where data is not recoverable through the Recycle Bin, Salesforce offers a Data Recovery Service. This paid service can recover data that’s been permanently deleted, but it’s time-consuming and not always guaranteed. It should be considered a last resort due to its cost and uncertain recovery timeline.

5. Reports snapshot

Salesforce offers the ability to run reports and then export these reports for backup purposes. This can be useful for backing up specific data sets or for creating historical snapshots of data for compliance and auditing purposes.

6. Salesforce data recovery service 

Previously, Salesforce offered a Data Recovery service as a last resort, which was a paid feature and could be used to recover data that was permanently deleted and no longer available in the Recycle Bin. However, this service was discontinued in July 2020 due to its complexity and low customer satisfaction rates. Users are now encouraged to use partner backup solutions.

7. Native backup and restore functionality

Salesforce’s Native Backup and Restore functionality is a recently launched feature that’s fully integrated within the Salesforce platform. It offers a powerful and user-friendly solution designed to help customers quickly recover from data loss due to system failures, human errors, and cyber attacks with features like:

  • Data backup
  • Effortless restore
  • Fine-grained logging
  • Native controls
  • Data export 

Best Practices For Recovering Lost Salesforce Data

Let’s say you’re in a situation where data loss occurs. What do you do now? It’s all hands on deck. InfoSec and Ops teams should follow the following steps to stop the leakage source and prevent any further loss:

1. Immediate incident response

As soon as the data loss is detected, the team should promptly activate their incident response plan. This is a critical first step to contain the issue and prevent further data loss. This step may involve temporarily restricting access to certain parts of Salesforce, disabling integrations, or other immediate containment actions. Quick response ensures that the issue doesn’t escalate and lays the groundwork for a more detailed investigation and recovery process.

2. Assessment and identification 

The team needs to thoroughly assess the scope and impact of the data loss. This involves identifying the type of data that has been lost, such as contacts, sales data, or information from custom objects. Understanding the nature of the lost data is crucial for prioritizing recovery efforts and assessing the impact on business operations. Additionally, pinpointing the cause of the data loss is essential, whether it was due to human error, a system failure, a cyberattack, or other reasons. This step is crucial for not only addressing the immediate problem but also for preventing similar incidents in the future.

3. Notification and communication 

It’s important to communicate the incident to relevant stakeholders, including management, affected departments, and potentially customers, depending on the nature and severity of the data loss. Transparency is key in maintaining trust, and clear communication helps manage expectations regarding the recovery process. Additionally, if the data loss involves personal customer data, the team must be aware of and comply with relevant data breach notification laws, which may require informing customers or regulatory bodies.

Tools like Sonar will immediately notify your team about Salesforce changes and integration breaks via email and Slack, keeping your team’s finger on the pulse of your Org at all times.

4. Data recovery process

Utilizing the pre-defined data recovery plans, the team should start the process of restoring lost data. This could involve using Salesforce’s built-in recovery features like the Recycle Bin for recently deleted items, or resorting to the most recent backups for more extensive data loss. If a third-party backup solution is in use, the team should follow the specific recovery procedures associated with that system. It’s critical that the recovery process is executed in a controlled manner to ensure data integrity and to prevent further issues.

5. Post-recovery analysis and strengthening measures 

After the data recovery, it’s important to conduct a post-incident analysis to understand what went wrong and how similar incidents can be prevented in the future. This might involve revising data handling procedures, enhancing training for staff, updating security protocols, or making changes to backup schedules and strategies. 

What you’ll quickly learn is that poor Salesforce data security comes with more than just financial costs. That’s why strengthening measures should be put in place to enhance the overall resilience of the Salesforce environment against future data loss incidents.

Conclusion: Take a Proactive Approach to Salesforce Data Loss Prevention

In this post, we’ve covered the basics when it comes to mitigating data loss risk for your Org. But as security threats become more prevalent in our data-driven world, having the basics may not be enough. Having a proactive approach is key to ensuring the security of your data. 

Sonar not only allows you to be proactive about Salesforce data loss– but for your entire integrated tech stack. Leveraging the power of Salesforce integration users and event monitoring APIs, Sonar introduces a new level of transparency into the impact of changes across your integrated business systems. As the complexity and breadth of integrated tech stacks continue to grow, it becomes increasingly important to have a clear understanding of field mapping and bi-directional data synchronization across different platforms. This understanding is crucial for maintaining compliance with data security policies, safeguarding customer privacy, and ensuring that essential business processes remain uninterrupted and efficient.

Best part? You can try Sonar 100% free today. Let’s get started.