Many employees are celebrating the recent shift to remote and hybrid work. However, some security specialists and compliance experts are not as thrilled. Digitalization, cloud computing, and Software as a Service (SaaS) bring new freedom and flexibility to organizations and workers.
At the same time, they send data out into the wild beyond traditional security perimeters. There is a lot of freedom in work-at-home and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies. However, as data passes through off-site networks, cyber criminals can access it more easily.
When company and customer data drifts beyond the purview of on-site security measures, there is a greater potential for data theft, manipulation, and loss.
The ultimate objective of many cyber criminals is the theft or destruction of valuable data.
The solution, however, is not to upset employees, reverse the trend, and call everyone back to the office. Restricting the use of personal devices for work purposes is equally unpopular. It’s not only employees who benefit from remote work. Organizations are seeing major operational efficiencies and cost savings, too.
What organizations need is to find ways to heighten security and maintain flexibility. The challenge is to balance the benefits of new technology and data protection. That’s where data-centric security strategies come in.
What is a data-centric security model?
Data-centric security is an essential strategy that focuses on how data is collected, transmitted, stored, replicated, archived, and accessed within an organization.
Unlike traditional security approaches that primarily focus on protecting servers and infrastructure, a data-centric model prioritizes the lifecycle of data that flows through an organization.
Basically, this means that data-centric processes and policies are concerned with ensuring that sensitive data is stored and transmitted securely and that only authorized individuals have access to it.
This is particularly important today, where organizations are no longer limited to traditional offices, and employees may work remotely or from different locations.
By implementing data-centric security measures, organizations can protect their business and customer data from financial and reputational loss, which can be devastating. In addition, data-centric security is important for complying with evolving legislation designed to keep employees, customers, and national interests safe.
To remain compliant, organizations must have full and precise visibility over their data and where it’s going. Overall, data-centric security is a modern and necessary approach to protecting sensitive information in an increasingly digital world.
Addressing Gaps with a Data-Centric Security Approach
While organizations have always handled valuable data, protecting it used to be a paper-based or temporary obligation (e.g., storing credit card details). However, numerous challenges appear when you look at how modern businesses operate.
Organizations now deal with enormous amounts of financial and business data, intellectual property, and sensitive customer and employee information. That data runs through an endless variety of software programs and platforms. Many are third-party, cloud-based, external apps and environments.
In August to October of 2022, password manager LastPass suffered a major breach that resulted in the theft of technical information and source code. It stemmed from a compromise of a LastPass DevOps engineer’s home computer via remote code execution, which installed keylogger malware to capture master passwords to the LastPass corporate vault.
You need to observe complex privacy and data protection regulations at each stage. As data management becomes more layered and challenging, significant security gaps emerge.
The following are the common gaps that data-centric security strategies help address.
Most data breaches—82%, according to 2022 data from Verizon—are the result of human actions and human errors. Top organizations maintain cyber security awareness programs, but employees are fallible. Many vulnerabilities emerge simply because employees try to be efficient and save time.
Employees working remotely might access data through unsecured Wi-Fi networks at their homes or in public places. They may download valuable data onto external devices or send information through email rather than across secure FTP servers: some share login details and passwords with colleagues or supervisors. A data-centric approach recognizes and addresses these behavioral gaps.
If you can’t see data, you can’t control it. IT teams don’t have the bandwidth to visit every employee’s home to monitor their devices and emails and assess their Wi-Fi networks. They can’t be certain that employees or downstream vendors haven’t modified or sent private data beyond the organization.
As a result, the extended office can be a challenge for security professionals since they lose visibility over the data passing through the organization. Data-centric technologies strive to keep that data in view across its lifecycle, adding a protective layer to keep data safe.
When data moves outside of an organization, IT departments lose the ability to control it. This data gap is similar to the visibility gap but has compliance implications.
As organizations rely on Software and digital channels to conduct business, new regulatory frameworks emerge to keep consumer, supply chain, and reporting data accurate and safe.
Organizations need control over data to ensure they collect, process, store, and report on it in accordance with current legislation. The data-centric model maps and monitors the lifecycle of data to close these control gaps.
Response Time Gap
Cyber criminals constantly change their tactics to get system access from new directions. They look for open doors in new software packages and exploit new business processes.
Even organizations with top-notch cyber security programs experience a delay between their existing protections and the time it takes them to identify and respond to new technologies, processes, and threats. Response gaps lasting months or days can have significant potential damages. Focusing on full data protection helps shorten this time lag and mitigate the effects.
Data-Centric Security Tools to Close Gaps and Protect Data
The data-centric approach is an end-to-end data protection strategy. It addresses security gaps by keeping data safe at every stage as it passes through an organization. The following tools close data security gaps, protect data exchanges and company communications, and mitigate cyber security threats to organizational data.
Data Classification Tools
The first step in data-centric security is data classification based on its nature and sensitivity. You need to know what data type they collect, store, process, and transmit. You need to know where it is in its data lifecycle and its value at each stage. The best way to manage this is by using data classification tools.
These tools tag data with different attributes (e.g., restricted, public) that help group and sort data. When data is classified, organizations can assign different risk levels to it and impose access protocols and security measures to protect it as it moves through employee and vendor hands.
Digital rights management software is a great way to implement data classification. It encrypts every piece of data it encounters and assigns rights to active ones until the data leaves the system.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Tools
After an organization classifies its data, it needs added protections to keep it secure. Data loss prevention (DLP) creates a protective barrier around data. DLP software tools protect vulnerable data from external phishing, ransomware attacks, and unauthorized internal use.
Since many modern-day cyber threats come through email, the cornerstone of many DLP tools is email security software.
Managed File Transfer (MFT) Tools
Managed file transfer (MFT) tools provide an added layer of protection over any data exchange internally and externally. MFT solutions can be run as enterprise software or provided as a SaaS solution. Many organizations choose MFT tools to simplify and streamline data security across all points in the data lifecycle.
Maintain Flexibility with Data-Centric Security
Security models focusing on infrastructure build a strong perimeter, making employees jump through hoops to navigate intricate and arduous protocols to access data and perform their duties. The data-centric model, in contrast, prioritizes data flow.
Encryption and automated processes work behind the scenes to protect valuable data, keep communication channels open, and keep businesses humming along.
Further, work-from-home employees can be trained to spot and prevent data security risks by developing a cyber security culture that will empower them to make the right security decisions at work, at home, and while traveling.
Fortra’s Terranova Security helps solve the security challenges brought about by the remote working setup, providing the human fix to human risk.
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