Every day businesses are creating more and more data. Data gets saved, employees move on, data is forgotten, and lost. Valuable information sits on your file servers and document stores, not protected and unrecoverable because no-one knows it exists let alone where to find it.
Simply put, data classification is the process of labeling data according to its type, sensitivity, and business value so that informed choices can be made about how it is managed, protected, and shared, both within and outside your organization.
By organizing data into categories, organizations have more control, making data easier to locate and retrieve, which is of particular importance when it comes to risk management, compliance, and data security.
Data classification benefits your business by:
Download “Top Reasons for Data Classification” to learn the benefits of making data classification the foundation of your organizations data security program.Download Solution Brief
In a world where data loss is costing organizations millions of dollars in fines, there is not one organization who shouldn’t have data protection at the top of their agenda. Your organization simply cannot afford to not protect the sensitive data it is creating and storing, and therefore, data classification is an essential part of your organization’s data protection strategy.
The main (but not the only) reason that organizations look at classifying the data they create and handle is to ensure that sensitive information can be controlled. A big part of designing a classification policy is understanding what data is sensitive, what is less so, and what is not. Who should have access to this information, and whether you should be holding that information, archiving or deleting it.
You can only adequately protect the data that you know you have, and that’s why data classification matters. It provides context for reporting, triggering the right policies at the right time to keep your organization from facing the ultimate risk, a data breach.
Read our white paper “5 Reasons Classification is the First Step to Successful Data Loss Prevention” to learn how your organization can kick-start a successful DLP project beginning with data classification.Download White Paper
Depending on its level of sensitivity or value to the organization, the type of classification given to data determines a number of things, including who has access to that data and how long it should be retained. Typically, there should be four base levels when it comes to initially categorizing data:
While these base categories might offer a place to start in your data classification journey, it’s highly likely it won’t be where you end up. There are a number of reasons why normal business practices within organizations will typically require a greater level of depth to the way data is classified to conform with data security policy, for example:
While we’ve looked at mapping data out by type, you should also look to segment your organization’s data in terms of the level of sensitivity – high, moderate, or low.
Data classification involves the use of tags and labels to define the data type, its confidentiality, and its integrity. There are three main types of data classification that are considered the industry standard:
The following shows common examples of organizational data which may be classified into each sensitivity level:
The amount of data being generated by organizations globally is at an all-time high, a path which shows every sign of increasing still further. And while businesses generate, store, and share more and more data, and more types of data from multiple and disparate sources, they’re also confronted with the threat of having to protect all that information from non-authorized outsiders, accidental loss and internal bad actors, all while complying with the increasing amount of data protection regulations worldwide.
To adequately protect your organization’s information, you first need to identify what needs protecting. And you can’t do that without knowing your data at an intimate level: what it is, what it contains, where it lives, and so on.
To make things even more challenging, your data can now reside on more systems than ever – cloud, mobile devices, local machines, or company networks. And while some of that data may need no protection at all in terms of compliance or privacy issues, several other data types absolutely must be protected. Some examples are:
That’s not even counting company financial data, HR data, trade secrets, or even (for those who deal with government and military) classified information. Leaving this kind of data exposed risks the ire of regulators willing and able to hand out swift and harsh punishments. Failure to protect any of the above likely means a serious (and costly) breach of regulations like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), or NATO STANAGs just to name a few. Depending on what data is exposed, the punishments range from fines and reputational risk to jail time.
There are many compelling reasons to find a solution that works, especially considering the list of global regulatory compliance legislation continues to grow. A flexible data classification solution can help organizations protect their sensitive data at any stage in their privacy journey to assist adherence to regulatory compliance requirements.
Learn more about how our solutions can help you meet data compliance regulations.
Data classification tools not only help organizations to protect their data, they also help users understand how to treat different types of data with different levels of sensitivity. Automation plays a central role in data governance and helps to maintain the required balance between technology and people-focused operations to achieve an inclusive security culture.
The necessity of an adequate data security backbone and a robust, enterprise-wide security culture have become central concerns for CISOs as a result of the pandemic, with new business demands, changing working environments and the current and future operational constraints of 2020 now taking hold.
As data volumes continue to grow, maintaining the confidentiality, integrity and availability (the CIA triad) of data has become a priority for all security leaders. Managing an ever-evolving data footprint demands a solid data protection posture that includes investment in appropriate data classification tools. To support this, employee education programs should onboard and inform staff around key data management and classification processes. But in all of this, automation is the third critical ingredient for success.
Read our article “Data Security Best Practices Every CISO Should Know.”Learn Now
Now more than ever, strong data use and protection facilities are required to give employees appropriate and safe access to information and to sufficiently inform and educate them about sensitive data and confidentiality. The provision of automated protection facilities as a central tenet of security posture that will help define, measure and mark the status of data, and to maintain this within secure and authorized repositories, will be paramount.
By combining people, process and technology, CISOs can deliver on all key data protection and control requirements; not only with regard to ensuring understanding and appropriate management of data, but delivering the breadth of security coverage required on a local and remote basis and ensuring its suitability for all stakeholders.
Combining good data protection technology with human expertise and processes provides considerable benefits that include:
At a foundational level, enterprise data protection must extend to ensuring an in-depth knowledge of what data is held and where, and, accordingly, what differing levels of security controls are needed to keep the various data categories safe.
From a data protection perspective, businesses must first of all acknowledge that not all data is equal. With that in mind, different controls are required to ensure that differing types of data are not lost or accessed by unauthorized parties. Beyond the high-level requirement to protect confidential, business-critical and sensitive data, businesses must then also apply differing data protection rules applicable to other data categories gathered, used and stored by all businesses.
Maintaining a focus on business context and the ability to meet regulatory requirements will be critical into the future, as well as ensuring enterprise-wide understanding around data and risk. Further, prioritization must be given to delivering smart data protection facilities to make the right decisions on data access and availability—to deliver technology-based efficiency and automation to adequately support the ever-increasing data volumes of remote workforces.
It is important to have a plan in place to address data protection for your remote workforce. Watch our webinar “Best Practices for Remote Workers” to learn more.View Webinar
Businesses that adapt best to the post-pandemic era will use automation, data-driven digital access technologies and cloud to effect improved operations and efficiencies.
With the remote workforce here to stay, more data will be generated outside of the more traditional, secure, on-premises work environment than ever before, and enabling safe user and data access will be key. The sheer volumes of data involved will make it ever more difficult to protect sensitive information and will drive an urgent need for more inclusive and automated forms of data protection.
Automation will make a significant contribution to improved operational efficiencies post-pandemic, as well as delivering agile, automated operations with safe user and data access at the center of their strategies. Data classification tools will protect data by applying appropriate security labels, together with helping to educate users on how to treat different types of data with different levels of classification according to the relative level of sensitivity applied to that document.
Download our “Enhancing Security Automation” brochure to see how security automation can help resolve common data protection challenges.Download Brochure
We have seen how automation plays a key role in establishing a firm foundation for an organization’s security culture, but given that employees play such a vital role in ensuring that business maintains a strong data privacy posture, the ability to work with stakeholders and users to understand data protection requirements and policies is key. Security and data protection education must be conducted company-wide and must exist at a level that is workable and sustainable.
Regular security awareness training and a company-wide inclusive security culture within the business will ensure that data security becomes a part of everyday working practice, embedded into all actions and the very heart of the business.
A robust data protection protocol is critical for all organizations, and will particularly be the case as we move beyond COVID-19 into the ‘new normal.’ Delivering optimal operational efficiencies, data management and data classification provisions under post-pandemic budget constraints will be an ongoing business challenge. To do nothing, however, will set up an organization to fail, and we have already seen large fines incurred for those that have not made data security a top priority. Data leaders, therefore, must be selective and identify the combination of technologies, processes and people investments that will deliver the greatest security controls.
Developing and building a combined technology and user-centric, people-based approach to data protection will be critical. Through a solid security culture and training and the integrated use of technology and automation, data leaders can deliver the most fitting security culture for their organization. Beyond this, success will be contingent on the ability of CISOs to work with stakeholders and users to understand their data protection requirements and to deliver appropriate policies as a central component of overarching data protection strategies.
Using data classification software allows organizations to not only identify their data and where it resides, but to then proactively tag each email or file with metadata to ensure it stays identified and protected across various systems or when handled by partners. Effective identification and classification tools typically allow organizations to:
In recognition for our enterprise data security and protection capabilities, Cybersecurity Excellence has named HelpSystems the 2021 winner in the following categories:
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