Data Classification for GDPR: How Classification Can Help You Comply with Regulations

Danny Murphy by   08.19.2019   Compliance

If your organization stores, processes or transfers the data of EU citizens (whether they are your customers or your employees) then the GDPR should be at the forefront of your mind. If you want to avoid the serious implications of non-compliance, including potentially crippling fines, then you need to get to grips with what the GDPR entails and how to ensure you are compliant.

If your organization has typically had issues identifying and managing data, then you’re going to struggle with the GDPR. If you don’t know where personally identifiable information (PII) relating to EU citizens is located, how can you hope to ensure the correct access controls or respond to deletion requests?

How Can Data Classification Help with the GDPR?

Data classification is a method of identifying and categorizing data into certain types so that they can be organized based on their associated risk value. For example, the home address and contact details of a UK citizen should be classified under GDPR related PII. Data classification will help you search for all the data in your organization that is related to the GDPR or any other compliance mandate and enable you to organize your security controls accordingly.

Data classification solutions can specifically help organizations achieve GDPR compliance by helping to shape appropriate access controls over sensitive information. They can classify or label data to highlight what compliance regulations or categories it falls under. Classifying data will allow you to easily search and retrieve data in the event of a subject access request. Data classification solutions can also be used in conjunction with other solutions to help keep sensitive data secure (more on that later).

Developing a Data Classification Plan

The first step in any solid data security plan is to ensure you know where your most sensitive data is. The increasing complexity of modern organizations means that data is often stored in a variety of places, from on-premise to the cloud, which can make locating sensitive data a difficult thing to do.

When you develop your data classification plan, you should know in advance what compliance regulations you are bound by. If GDPR is your primary compliance concern, you should know exactly which chapters and articles are related to the storing, processing and transferring of data and what steps you need to take to meet them. There are a number of vendors on the market who provide pre-defined GDPR classification reports for those organizations that do not have the in-house expertise on what data falls under GDPR and what is required.

Using Data Classification to Clean Your Data

Part of the GDPR focuses on ensuring that if you have no legal or business use for data, then you make sure it is deleted as appropriate. Data classification can help you to do this. Once you know what is contained within certain files you can decide whether or not you need it. It’s a good idea to also keep a record of what you delete and why. Accountability is a big factor in meeting the GDPR as well. The data owner needs to know whether data under their ownership should be deleted or kept and why.

Combining Data Classification with Monitoring Solutions

Once you have determined where your most sensitive data is and who should have access to it, the next logical step should be to ensure that your data classification plan coincides with a proactive and continuous monitoring strategy. Ideally, you should have a way to analyze user behavior so that you can identify in real time when anomalous user behavior takes place.

Being able to spot anomalous or unwanted user behavior with your GDPR-related data will be useful in the event of a data breach. The quicker you are able to spot the signs of a data breach, the better, as the compliance regulation only allows up to 72 hours for you to notify the relevant Supervisory Authority. That authority will want to know exactly what data has been lost, what security controls were applied and what is being done – this is where your earlier classification comes in handy.

How Data Security Platforms Help Meet GDPR Compliance

Data security platforms combine numerous pieces of data security functionality into a single solution to help simplify and streamline your security efforts. LepideAuditor, for example, is a data security platform that allows you to locate and classify your sensitive information that falls under GDPR compliance, see who has access to it and continuously monitor user behavior. You can get real time notifications on unwanted changes and generate pre-defined GDPR reports to help satisfy compliance auditors.

If you would like to see exactly how LepideAuditor can help you be GDPR compliant, schedule a demo with one of our engineers today.

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