Data Discovery Software Tools: Capabilities and Benefits
It’s challenging enough for companies to protect customer data and remain compliant with data privacy regulations. But the first and most essential step toward protecting it and remaining compliant: organization-wide awareness of where all the sensitive information you’ve collected exists.
Data discovery tools can help you accurately identify data in any location so you get the complete visibility needed to effectively protect it.
What is data discovery?
Data discovery involves thoroughly combing through a company’s digital infrastructure to find sensitive customer and employee data and protect it. Data discovery is undeniably the most crucial element in the data security process. How can you protect something without knowing it exists? Once identified, that data can be classified and remediated for sustained privacy, security and compliance.
Challenges to data discovery
The sheer amount of data that enterprise organizations possess can severely hinder accurate data discovery. Sensitive information exists in myriad places and forms that it’s easy to miss, especially during manual data discovery.
What’s more, as much as 90% of enterprise data is unstructured, making it more difficult to search for and correctly label. The process of identifying unstructured data, which includes productivity documents, emails, photos and social media posts, can lead to false positives. False positives occur when data gets mislabeled as sensitive, usually because it resembles actual sensitive data formats. Resolving these takes up IT and security operations teams’ already-compromised time.
With the volume of new data increasing by the second, the risk of false positives and the need for accurate, automated data discovery tools does, too.
How can data discovery software help?
Data discovery software aims to eliminate these challenges by automating the discovery process and providing enterprise organizations with clear visibility to all their data for proper security.
Automated data discovery tools work by scanning any and all locations where data could exist — a SaaS data discovery solution will search cloud storage tools, while an on-premise solution tackles corporate network assets like online databases, servers and endpoints — to accurately identify sensitive information. They also check for sensitive data housed within Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, images, .doc, .txt, .ppt and .zip files.
Benefits of data discovery software
A data discovery tool saves enterprises key resources like time and money, reduces the risk of a data breach and upholds compliance with privacy regulations.
Save valuable resources
Manual data discovery is time-consuming and error-prone, and mistakes, such as overlooked or misidentified data, can be even more costly. In addition to the inherent time-saving that comes with process automation, these tools can prevent time from being wasted on correcting false positives by accurately identifying data from the start.
Enterprises can also anticipate lower data-storage costs with data discovery software. Having that visibility into where data lives within an organization makes it easier to sort, clean and track. Once useless data has been properly removed and frees up storage space, you may realize you no longer need as much moving forward.
Lower the risk of data breaches
Unprotected data is fodder for unauthorized attacks. Because data discovery software ensures you know where all your data is, you’re able to protect it from the get-go and keep it free of vulnerabilities as it gets classified and remediated.
In the case of a data breach, data discovery tools can tell you which data was compromised, who has access to it and where it lives so you can act quickly to avoid serious time and financial repercussions.
A key factor behind preventing data breaches is complying with data privacy laws, and accurate data discovery paves the way for that compliance. With clear visibility into all your organization’s sensitive data, you can ensure it’s protected in accordance with legislation like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), ultimately avoiding the steep fines associated with noncompliance.
What to consider when choosing a data discovery software
When choosing a data discovery tool, consider the following questions to help you make an informed decision that best suits your organization’s needs.
Is the tool scalable?
When your organization grows, the amount of data you need to store and protect — as well as how and where it’s stored — will likely shift, too. Your data discovery software should be able to grow and adapt with you, especially if compliance is a future concern. The right data discovery tool can improve your ability to fulfill data subject rights requests in a timely manner, which is required to maintain compliance. As your organization expands and these consumer requests increase, being able to deliver this data efficiently will prove to be highly beneficial.
Is the tool intuitive?
In addition to increased security, one of the most appealing factors of a data discovery software is its ability to save time. A tool that’s not user-friendly completely defeats the purpose of implementing it in the first place. IT and security operations teams will end up spending the time intended to be saved and dedicated to other security initiatives on figuring out how to use it instead.
Is the tool accurate?
Secure data begins with accurate data discovery. This means your data discovery software should be capable of thoroughly scouring all locations within your organization where sensitive information could live and correctly identifying it.
Data discovery tools can guarantee reduced inaccuracies from human error, such as failing to find data, by automating the discovery process. Unfortunately, not all data discovery tools can guarantee the same for identification-related inaccuracies like false positives. In large numbers, false positives take valuable time to resolve, decreasing the productivity of security operations teams and distracting from real security threats.