Control Data Sprawl with Classification and Governance

 In Cybersecurity

The unending quest for data at forward-focused enterprises comes from a good place. But more data means more problems. A newly decentralized workforce, the shift to the cloud, and constantly changing regulations can turn data—an otherwise powerful asset— into a potentially dangerous liability.

Organizations struggle more than ever to keep track of all the data in their possession, where it lives, how it’s used, and who can access it. The lack of awareness opens the door for malicious attacks and costly breaches while threatening compliance with PCI, HIPAA, and other regulations.

Overcoming or preventing data sprawl comes down to control. Whether you are starting a new data program or improving the one you have in place, incorporating data classification and governance into your efforts will yield the best results.

When It’s Time for Data Classification

There’s never a bad time to invest in data classification. Chances are, if you don’t have a program up already, your organization falls into one of two categories:

  • Proactive implementation. You might be starting operations in a new department, territory, or industry. You might be completely overhauling your data program. Or you might be entering a new role as a CISO, looking to get things organized. If you have a blank slate, implementing data classification and governance can provide a roadmap for keeping the reins tight on your data from the start. 
  • Problem-solving implementation. If you have a data program in place, data classification and governance can be as simple as bringing in outside experts to evaluate your program’s maturity and identify gaps. In a worst-case scenario, following a breach or compliance failure, you can establish controls on data that has been compromised, identify who has access that shouldn’t, and create a new system for keeping your data safe.

Answering the Big Questions

Data classification starts by providing a taxonomy around the what, where, and who of enterprise information. Classification increases awareness around:

  • Types of data. Enterprises generate vast amounts of data every day from all sorts of endpoints. Some data is mundane, but some is extremely sensitive, such as credit card numbers or intellectual property. Internal teams may not even know they have such highly sensitive information in their system.
  • Locations.  Cloud computing and remote work rapidly expanded options for sharing, sending, and storing data. In the process, tracking data down became much more difficult. Information may live in data centers, within cloud sharing apps, on remote workstations, and even on employees’ personal devices. Pinpointing all possible locations is critical for determining the necessary security measures.
  • Access. In any given organization, it’s common for many people to have access they to data they don’t need. This can happen innocently through a transfer or a change in roles. But weak access protocols make it possible for disgruntled employees to go rogue or bad actors to gain access via stolen credentials. Classification helps establish limits around access to significantly shrink the attack surface.

Implementing Rules and Tools

Once they have a big-picture view of their data, organizations can rank the data in their system based on sensitivity and invest in protection resources accordingly. These resources should include a two-pronged governance approach dictating access, use, and storage moving forward:

  1. Establish administrative controls. Whether you’re starting from scratch or revising, create robust data policies and procedures that go beyond the bare minimum. Clearly communicate these controls so everyone from the C-suite on down understands the data protocols and consequences for failing to follow them.
  1. Add enforcement. If administrative controls represent your path, consider technology as your guardrails. Adding solutions for Data Loss Prevention and Identity and Access Management help enforce your policies, keep employees within bounds, and reduce your chances for a data breach.

Getting Started  

How can you fight data sprawl in your organization? Start by selecting the right partner.

Stratascale offers Data Governance Assessments and more to help organizations establish or strengthen data programs. Unlike a traditional vendor, Stratascale will:

  • Interview department leads to locate and classify data
  • Identify who has access/permissions
  • Help create policies based on industry best practices
  • Recommend optimal tools and applications for your environment
  • Implement technology solutions
  • Provide recommendations for advancing your program

Contact Stratascale to learn more about conquering data sprawl with classification and governance solutions.