November 11, 2021

How to Reduce the Risk of Sensitive Data

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Mark Rowan

No matter the industry your company operates in, it’s very likely that you keep a wealth of sensitive and personal information in your system. From social security numbers to financial information to other identifying information about your customers and employees, there’s probably a lot in there-- and you might not be engaging in strong enough sensitive data management. If a breach or cyberattack occurs, you could leave all of that information open to be stolen or destroyed.

It’s no secret that this is a concern for many organizations. Luckily, there are solutions that can improve one’s compliance with data governance. Let’s break down what needs to be done to reduce the risk of sensitive data within a company, and how automation can be beneficial for this process.

How to Reduce the Risk of Sensitive Data

Automation of key elements of data management can be massively helpful in reducing the risk of sensitive data. If you want to implement better data regulatory compliance and data privacy and leverage automation to improve your outcomes, there are a few key steps you’ll need to take.

Inventory what you have.

To start, it’s vital to take stock of your inventory of personal identifiable information (PII), payment card industry (PCI), and protected health information (PHI) data. Successful data security should always begin with the knowledge of what information you have in your systems and and who has access to that information. This is the first step towards understanding how sensitive data moves through your company and thus identifying potential security pitfalls. 

This can be easier said than done. Automating data discovery is key to success. Leverage a tool like Data Sentinel to do a complete inventory of structured, unstructured and semi structured data within all of your source systems. On premises, on cloud(s) and within 3rd party outsourced systems and applications. Inventory your information by type as well as location.

If you deal with a lot of financial information, it’s vital to follow payment card industry (PCI) regulations to keep that information under lock and key. The twelve requirements of PCI DSS are well defined and can be found online.

Track your data as it moves around the company.

You can start tracking information through your organization by speaking with your sales team, IT team, HR office, accounting team, and relevant third-party service providers. This is how you’ll really grasp how your data is moving through the organization.

Ask the right questions. Who is sending sensitive information into your organization? Are they customers, banks, credit bureaus, etc.? How does your business receive this information, either by website, cash registers, or the mail? What type of information is collected at each and every entry point? Where does this information end up, and how exactly has access to it?

Automate the tracking and tracing of sensitive data as it moves, lands and is used throughout the organization. Data Sentinel has the ability to do this as a core capability out of the box, as does a number of other vendors within the data privacy market.

Reduce your overall sensitive data footprint.

This is one of the most effective things you can do to keep your data safe-- develop and implement a data minimization strategy.

First, collect only the data that is absolutely necessary to achieve the goals of the business. If you’re pulling in data from various sources and storing them, look at the value that information has for your company. Do you actually need that data? Is it entirely necessary to store customer social security numbers or credit card information?

Next, start scaling down and destroying information that is not needed for your organization to grow or is duplicate or redundant. Look at the default settings on your system software that processes bank card transactions. Out of the box, many types of financial software will automatically save information you really don’t need. If you have to log information by law (such as with medical information) create a records retention policy to pinpoint exactly what information needs to be kept, how to properly secure it, and how to dispose of that information when it is no longer needed.

Anonymize and secure your data.

Anonymizing your data is an excellent way to protect it. Essentially, you can use automation software to create a mirror image of your database, then use processes like encryption and character substitution to make the identification of the data impossible or very difficult.

Securing your data doesn’t end with this method, though. Be sure to store paper documents and other physical sources of data in locked filing cabinets. Restrict access to employees with actual business needs for that information, and control who has the key to that information. It can also be helpful to invest in a data management system and digitize such documents.

Invest in employee education.

Your organization is only as strong as your workforce. If you implement data management techniques but don’t train your employees to use those techniques, you might just be wasting your time. Take the time to train your staff to spot security issues. This shouldn’t be a one-time thing, either. Continuously train them in order to really place importance on data security.

You should always do background checks on employees that will have access to sensitive data as well. Just as well, each member of your workforce should sign an agreement to follow your organization’s security standards.

Where does automation fit?

Automate where you can is the key to success, especially when dealing with unstructured data, scale and complexity. The following areas are a great starting place for technology to help automate the process:

Data discovery

Data inventory

Data classification

Sensitive data tracking

Dynamic data masking

Data isolation

Data deduplication / minimization

And of course, automating all of the reporting needed to ensure compliance with company policies and regulations.

November 11, 2021

How to Reduce the Risk of Sensitive Data

Date:
Hosted By:
Register Now

No matter the industry your company operates in, it’s very likely that you keep a wealth of sensitive and personal information in your system. From social security numbers to financial information to other identifying information about your customers and employees, there’s probably a lot in there-- and you might not be engaging in strong enough sensitive data management. If a breach or cyberattack occurs, you could leave all of that information open to be stolen or destroyed.

It’s no secret that this is a concern for many organizations. Luckily, there are solutions that can improve one’s compliance with data governance. Let’s break down what needs to be done to reduce the risk of sensitive data within a company, and how automation can be beneficial for this process.

How to Reduce the Risk of Sensitive Data

Automation of key elements of data management can be massively helpful in reducing the risk of sensitive data. If you want to implement better data regulatory compliance and data privacy and leverage automation to improve your outcomes, there are a few key steps you’ll need to take.

Inventory what you have.

To start, it’s vital to take stock of your inventory of personal identifiable information (PII), payment card industry (PCI), and protected health information (PHI) data. Successful data security should always begin with the knowledge of what information you have in your systems and and who has access to that information. This is the first step towards understanding how sensitive data moves through your company and thus identifying potential security pitfalls. 

This can be easier said than done. Automating data discovery is key to success. Leverage a tool like Data Sentinel to do a complete inventory of structured, unstructured and semi structured data within all of your source systems. On premises, on cloud(s) and within 3rd party outsourced systems and applications. Inventory your information by type as well as location.

If you deal with a lot of financial information, it’s vital to follow payment card industry (PCI) regulations to keep that information under lock and key. The twelve requirements of PCI DSS are well defined and can be found online.

Track your data as it moves around the company.

You can start tracking information through your organization by speaking with your sales team, IT team, HR office, accounting team, and relevant third-party service providers. This is how you’ll really grasp how your data is moving through the organization.

Ask the right questions. Who is sending sensitive information into your organization? Are they customers, banks, credit bureaus, etc.? How does your business receive this information, either by website, cash registers, or the mail? What type of information is collected at each and every entry point? Where does this information end up, and how exactly has access to it?

Automate the tracking and tracing of sensitive data as it moves, lands and is used throughout the organization. Data Sentinel has the ability to do this as a core capability out of the box, as does a number of other vendors within the data privacy market.

Reduce your overall sensitive data footprint.

This is one of the most effective things you can do to keep your data safe-- develop and implement a data minimization strategy.

First, collect only the data that is absolutely necessary to achieve the goals of the business. If you’re pulling in data from various sources and storing them, look at the value that information has for your company. Do you actually need that data? Is it entirely necessary to store customer social security numbers or credit card information?

Next, start scaling down and destroying information that is not needed for your organization to grow or is duplicate or redundant. Look at the default settings on your system software that processes bank card transactions. Out of the box, many types of financial software will automatically save information you really don’t need. If you have to log information by law (such as with medical information) create a records retention policy to pinpoint exactly what information needs to be kept, how to properly secure it, and how to dispose of that information when it is no longer needed.

Anonymize and secure your data.

Anonymizing your data is an excellent way to protect it. Essentially, you can use automation software to create a mirror image of your database, then use processes like encryption and character substitution to make the identification of the data impossible or very difficult.

Securing your data doesn’t end with this method, though. Be sure to store paper documents and other physical sources of data in locked filing cabinets. Restrict access to employees with actual business needs for that information, and control who has the key to that information. It can also be helpful to invest in a data management system and digitize such documents.

Invest in employee education.

Your organization is only as strong as your workforce. If you implement data management techniques but don’t train your employees to use those techniques, you might just be wasting your time. Take the time to train your staff to spot security issues. This shouldn’t be a one-time thing, either. Continuously train them in order to really place importance on data security.

You should always do background checks on employees that will have access to sensitive data as well. Just as well, each member of your workforce should sign an agreement to follow your organization’s security standards.

Where does automation fit?

Automate where you can is the key to success, especially when dealing with unstructured data, scale and complexity. The following areas are a great starting place for technology to help automate the process:

Data discovery

Data inventory

Data classification

Sensitive data tracking

Dynamic data masking

Data isolation

Data deduplication / minimization

And of course, automating all of the reporting needed to ensure compliance with company policies and regulations.

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