Over the next 2 months, we’ll be posting a series of blogs that will share information and best practices garnered from over a decade of experience implementing data discovery and more recent data classification solutions. In this blog series you will learn how to identify data as sensitive, how to define a classification schema and separate your data, the risks of not classifying data balanced with the benefits of a good data classification program, and the components of a data classification and sensitive data management lifecycle. These tools will arm you for managing risks and preventing the next financially damaging breach of sensitive data.
Due to the rapidly changing landscape of data creation, storage and usage, the crucial business processes of sensitive data management, and within that of data classification, have recently become hot topics across board rooms and among CIOs and CISOs. With a clear plan and the use of innovative technologies that help simplify and facilitate these processes, organizations can now make data classification, the enabling centerpiece of sensitive data management, part of their everyday business operations, and decrease risk and security costs, and improve their overall security posture.
So, What is Data Classification?
When most people hear the term “classified” they think of a government agency that stamps ‘Top Secret’ on a document for a limited group of people’s ‘eyes only’. While this is an accurate example, the broader definition of data classification is the act of separating data into groups, or classes, based on shared characteristics with the intent of treating those groups differently. Businesses don’t usually invest the time and money to classify documents simply to find public data, but rather to find and manage sensitive data to ensure it is not exposed to unauthorized eyes.
Classification lets you identify and tag the sensitive data from within the ocean of information stored across your enterprise and allows you to focus resources and apply protections appropriately to reduce or even eliminate the risk of data exposure.
Classified data provides knowledge to people, processes, and technologies so that of all the millions of files a company might have, the most critical ones are known and protected.
When done right, sensitive data classification improves productivity and security while reducing risk.
Why is Data Classification Critical?
In today’s world, data breaches are an increasingly common occurrence, with the most financial damage being done when they expose sensitive data like social security numbers, credit card and health information, business secrets, government records, and other valuable data that is costly to lose.
The common reason for these breaches is the unintended misappropriation of security controls: You cannot protect data that is unknown to you. Your greatest defense against financially damaging post-breach losses is to know what your sensitive data is, restrict where it is, limit who has access to it, protect it, and monitor its usage. To effectively accomplish each of these tasks, sensitive data must first be found and classified.
When you know where your data is and what is sensitive, as well as what isn’t, you are empowered to control and protect information to prevent a security incident from becoming a data breach. An appropriately classified file would not be accidentally emailed by an employee. And, even if it was – say maliciously – that classified file could be blocked from being sent by a security technology configured to read and act on its classification.
- Defining Classified Data
- Understanding What Makes Data Sensitive
- Determining the Sensitivity of Information
- Examining The Types of Sensitive Data: Regulated vs. Unregulated
- Why Classify Your Data?
- Avoiding the Hidden Cost of Classified Data
- Increasing Data Awareness
- Reducing Your Risk
- Preventing Costly Data Breaches
- Traditional Approaches Have Reached Their Limitations
- Accurately Discovering Your Data
- Identifying Your Most Important Data
- Shrinking Your Sensitive Data Footprint
- Setting Policies That Can Be Enforced and Monitored
- Creating a Culture of Data Awareness
- Embedding Classification In All Processes and Systems
- Top 10 Ways To Get Started With Data Classification