Simply put, data discovery is the process of locating where your data resides within your core infrastructure, databases and siloes. Classification is then the process of labelling that data logically to give context and an understanding of the type of information itself. For example, a file containing passport details could effectively be labelled as PII (personally identifiable information) and given a risk score to denote that this file contains “sensitive” data.
Used correctly, data discovery and classification (DDC) will enable organizations to locate and label their most sensitive files and folders (those containing PII or business secrets) so that they can apply the correct security measures to them to mitigate the risks of data breaches.
Why Aren’t Organizations Snapping Up DDC?
Based upon the above definition, it always surprises us how many organizations ignore this critical aspect of data security despite the obvious importance and associated benefits.
The reason for the slow uptake could be put down to the general lack of good, easy-to use and affordable DDC solutions on the market. Many solutions have fundamental issues with their data classification capabilities in particular that put most people off adoption. One such issue being that many solutions will not classify historical data, only the data created after the point of implementation.
Why is Discovery and Classification Important?
Most organizations have got data security backwards. They spend a lot of money building firewalls and defending the perimeter around the data and completely ignore the data itself. This would be fine if data security threats only ever originated from outside the organization – but we know this just isn’t the case.
Year after year we are seeing a huge proportion of cybersecurity threats originating from employees or other people within the organization who already have access to sensitive data. Firewalls and perimeters are all well and good, but what is the point of locking the doors and windows if your biggest threats already have a key?
1. Adopting a Data-Centric Approach to Security
Data discovery and classification is the first (and a crucial) step in focusing your cybersecurity efforts on the data itself. If you are able to determine here your most sensitive data is through discovery and classification, you can then determine who has access and what changes are being made to it. Doing this proactively will enable you to spot and react to insider threats quicker and hopefully prevent nasty data breaches.
2. Meet Compliance Mandates More Easily
It doesn’t matter what size your organization, what industry you’re in or where you’re located – if you store, handle or process sensitive data then you are most likely bound by at least one compliance mandate.
Regulations like the GDPR, HIPAA, FISMA, SOX and others all require you to know which of your files and folders contain sensitive data related specifically to that mandate, who has access to it, what’s happening to it and more. Without first knowing (and being able to generate a report on) where your sensitive data is and what makes it sensitive, you’ll fall at the first hurdle.
3. Ransomware Becomes Less of a Problem
Because of the intrinsic value of data, ransomware attacks pose a consistent threat to organizations. Attackers are looking to hijack the data that is the most valuable to your organization (usually data that, if lost, would damage the reputation and bottom line of your business).
If you were subject to a ransomware attack and you could determine quickly and easily that the encrypted files contained no data sensitive to the security and compliance functioning of your organization – that would be useful wouldn’t it?
Data Discovery and Classification Software
If you want to learn about how the data discovery and classification software in our award-winning solution, LepideAuditor, can help you automatically discover and classify your sensitive data, get in touch with one of our experts or book yourself onto a demo today!