In basic terms, ‘data discovery’ is the approach to enterprise data for locating where your data resides within the core database, infrastructure, and the siloes. ‘Data Classification,’ on the other hand, is the process of logically labeling data to give it a proper context and recognition as to what type of information it is. Say, for example, a file that holds the address and credit card details of the customers can be labeled as ‘Personally Identifiable Information or PII’ and give a higher risk score as it contains the most sensitive data.
While implemented properly, the DDC approach (data discovery and classification) will enable an enterprise to effectively locate their data and label various data sets or files based on the sensitivity and criticality of data each contains. With such identification and classification, it becomes easier for the data security administrators to apply appropriate security measures to various criticality data to avoid any threats of data breaches and mitigate any possible future risks.
Why is DDC important?
Putting it simply, if the enterprise database owners do not know where their data resides, they cannot monitor, control, or even make use of the same. They cannot also protect the most valuable data, which leaves them vulnerable to breaches and attacks. Proper data classification apropos to identification can let you know how to protect and treat your data well, how to devise the policies around your data management, and prioritize your data risk mitigation. Above all, DDC is important as it helps identify the true nature of data and its regulatory compliance and for the admins to implement proper controls to ensure the same.
Most of the organizations still trail back in terms of data security. They tend to spend money on putting in firewalls and defending in the perimeter around their hosted data but tend to ignore the data itself at the baseline. This is good to go if the security threats on your data originate only from outside the organization, but this is not the case always. Your data can be spoiled from within itself, which again stands a higher chance than the external threats.
Year after year, on following the cybersecurity cases, we can see that many of these threats are now originating from within the organizations. Employees and other people who have authentic access to the database tend to make mistakes in compliant data management or sometimes intentionally try to tamper with the data. Having Firewalls and other perimeter protections in place is, in fact, good, but there is no point in locking your front door to block entry if the thief is already there inside your house.
Major barriers to data discovery and classification
Given the myriad of tactical, strategic, technical, and operational reasons for implementing data discovery and data classification, many companies are still not doing it. The answer to it is vague if not complicated.
At the first point, discovering and classifying various forms as structured, semi-structured, or unstructured data in any unified ways across the databases on cloud and on-premises is a very complex process. Due to the variety in terms of data types, scale, and underlying complicated data platforms and architectures, it is not easy to accomplish discovery and classification fully manually. It is also very challenging to maintain a coherent approach for data classification across various database environments and consistently assign labels to data. However, without ensuring such consistency, the effectiveness of the entire DDC process is in question. Reliable remote database administration services like RemoteDBA can offer you guidance in implementing a proper DDC process for your enterprise database security.
The nature and structure of data are also changing constantly, which means you need to retract and reclassify data continuously to ensure authenticity in classifying the moving data. Every business and the related process tends to evolve, which brings in more and more changes and complicates the DDC efforts. Also, with the introduction of changes in legacy or advanced technologies, the data related approaches and regulatory compliances also change from time to time. With all these, it becomes hard to keep up with any solid or centralize compliance requirements regarding data protection.
Another reason for the slow uptake of DDC could be the lack of affordable and easy-to-use technology solutions for DDC available in the market. Many such solutions introduced from time to time had some fundamental issues with their identification and classification capabilities. In terms of a strategic approach to DDC, here are some methods to follow.
A cultural shift of having a data-centric security approach
Data discovery and classification is the most fundamental step if you are focusing on a data-centered cybersecurity approach. Suppose you can determine and classify the most sensitive data. In that case, you can custom set as to who can have access to the same and what changes to be brought in to ensure your most sensitive data confidentiality.
Meeting the compliance mandates easily
Irrespective of your organization’s size or what industry you are working in, if you can effectively store and process your sensitive data, you are bound by the regulatory compliance mandates. There are many such data security regulations like HIPAA, GDPR, SOX, and FISMA, to name a few, which all mandate you to identify which files contain the most sensitive data and how access to it has to be limited. Without knowing where all your sensitive data is stored, you will fall at the first hurdle itself.
Also, with the intrinsic value of enterprise data, ransomware attacks are increasing, which may pose a significant risk to your organization. The attackers try to hijack your sensitive data and damage your reputation if you are not willing to pay a big ransom. Suppose any such ransomware attack happens, with a proper DDC in place. In that case, you can quickly determine that encrypted files they hold do not have any security or compliance threats to your organization. With a proper backup and recovery mechanism in place, you are fully out of these ransomware risks.
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