What Is Data in Motion?

By Protegrity
Aug 23, 2023


3 min read
  • Cloud data in motion refers to data transfers, moving data off servers, to third parties, and across borders and jurisdictions
  • Protecting moving data is tricky for organizations, as many of them face both internal and software-related roadblocks
  • Finding customized solutions that allow you to choose the kind of protection you need to meet organizational and regulatory compliance requirements is crucial and may span over a variety of methods

Protegrity is here to help.

Data in motion, also known as data in transit, is the transmission of digital information from one location to another. This can include:

  •  Data transfers between devices 
  • Data transmitted between applications 
  • Data sent across the internet  
  • Data set to virtual private networks (VPNs).  

Data in motion is just one of three data states, including data at rest and data in use.  

How It Impacts You  

Every day, you’re putting data in motion. From automatic cloud syncing on your work computer or transferring funds between accounts or even texting family and friends that’s data in motion.  

However, data doesn’t have to leave a device to be in motion. Simply moving a document from one folder to another on the same computer constitutes data in motion.  

Other examples include: 

  • Sending and receiving email 
  • Completing a credit card transaction 
  • Transferring images from one computer to another using a USB flash drive 
  • Making an API call 
  • Your smartwatch counting your steps and transmitting that information back to your smartphone 

As you can see, data in motion is not limited to financial or technical applications. Information and transactions you conduct daily can constitute this concept and can reach the eyes of individuals or uploaded to systems you might not even be aware of.  

The State of Data in Transit

Today, more data exists in an in-motion state due to the influx of mobile and wireless devices, the ubiquity of IoT, and the advanced tools needed to analyze massive amounts of data. Several existing data regulations require specific protection for data in motion, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

Data at Rest Vs. Data in Motion 

Data at rest refers to static data and is the state data in motion returns to when the data is no longer in transit. Data at rest is stored on hard drives, cloud storage, databases, and other data storage infrastructure. The main difference between data and rest and data in motion is that one is moving and the other isn’t.  

In other words, think of it like your car. When you’re behind the wheel and on the road, it’s in motion. When you’re home and the car’s parked in the garage, it’s at rest. 

Examples of data at rest include: 

  • A picture of your dog saved to an external hard drive 
  • Word documents saved to your work laptop 
  • Customer banking details stored in a database 

Regardless of your data’s state, it is necessary to protect it from internal and external threats. 

How to Protect Data in Motion 

You can’t protect what you don’t know you have. Therefore, the first step is to remedy that problem by classifying and discovering your sensitive data. This might include personally identifiable information (PII), personal health information (PHI), or payment card industry (PCI) data. Then you must implement policies and tools to protect your sensitive data and maintain compliance with regulations. 

Not surprisingly, data in motion is considered less secure than data at rest because it’s often transmitted over the internet, requiring the data to leave the secure confines of a network perimeter. In addition, data moving between two points is also vulnerable to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks. During an MITM attack, a hacker puts themselves between two users or the user and the device, whatever data is moving between, and either views the data or actively manipulates it. 

One of the more infamous MITM attacks was leaked by Edward Snowden and involved the National Security Agency (NSA) or its UK counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), impersonating Google to intercept data that people thought they were sending to Google.  

To help protect against an attack like the one described above, data is often encrypted to secure it in motion and prevent interception. This ensures that the data cannot be viewed or changed. Protegrity offers flexible protection methods to allow you to choose the best data protection based on how you use your data. These methods include:

  • Anonymization 
  • Tokenization and Vaultless Tokenization 
  • Pseudonymization  
  • AES Encryption and Format-Preserving Encryption (FPE) 
  • Static and dynamic data masking

InfoWorld also emphasizes that the more secure method of securing data at rest is to encrypt it as it’s stored rather than secure the storage system in which it is stored. 

Cloud Data in Motion 

According to Infosys, enterprises gained $414 billion in net new profits annually through effective cloud adoption, so it’s no wonder that cloud operations and storage are on the rise. With so much at stake, it’s imperative for organizations to implement effective cloud-native protection whether data is at rest, in motion, or in use. 

Protegrity Cloud Protect, part of the Protegrity Data Protection Platform, protects your data regardless of its state in the cloud, across cloud vendors, and even as it spans hybrid-cloud environments. We also honor our commitment to being cloud-neutral through our Protegrity Partner Network, which includes AWS, Snowflake, and Microsoft Azure. 

Instead of managing disparate security policies, the Protegrity Data Protection Platform allows you to safeguard your data from one, centralized tool. This makes it easier to discover and classify your sensitive data, so you know what to protect. Your data is also protected as you migrate to the cloud (in motion) and remains protected once it reaches its destination (at rest), allowing you to take advantage of the full capabilities of the cloud (in use). With one solution, Protegrity gives you the confidence to embrace the cloud, knowing that your data is always secure. 

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