Rethinking Data Governance to Bolster Security Strategy

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Data security is primarily focused on data theft and at-rest data protection today, with organizations encrypting data to secure it from data misuse and controlling data access. However, this is only a fraction of data security’s untapped potential. While it's important to secure data at rest, it’s also important to think about the entire lifecycle of data. Data security needs to flow with data throughout its entire lifecycle, whether the data lives on a hard drive or in the cloud, in order to provide maximum control.

This protection of sensitive data becomes more powerful when integrated with data governance, equipping companies with holistic data control strategies. Data control creates an additional layer of security, ensuring that only the people who should have access to data are able to access it. To make this information more accurate and actionable, companies also need visibility into data consumption patterns—when is data being consumed, how much data is being consumed, and who is consuming the data? Policy enforcement and visibility into data consumption allow true data protection.

So where does data security come into the picture? It plays a vital part, determining how data can be used and by whom. It’s critical to understand who is accessing the data and why; once that’s established, companies can begin to enforce policies set by data governance, with evolving data security strategies that manage data access.

Take, for example, a large and fast-growing consumer packaged goods company, which recognized that its most important asset—personally identifiable customer data—needed to be protected and compliant with regulations, while still in use. The company completed an audit to discover where its sensitive data lived within its hybrid multi-cloud ecosystem. After that, they used observability technology to monitor a full month of data consumption and access. Finally, the data teams implemented data governance policies based on that information and enacted those across the organization. This has been key to ensuring the correct governance of PII data.

The takeaway is, a data governance strategy that intertwines data security is a strengthened strategy. It sets policies in place and enforces those policies to control data access, while ensuring customers the privacy and security they need.

Securing the future of data governance and privacy, today

The pandemic changed the future of work. As organizations continue to operate with a distributed workforce, how can they protect and improve upon their data governance efforts?

  • Take tooling seriously: Tooling becomes extremely important in remote and hybrid work environments to facilitate organization, compliance and security. These enterprise software tools give companies insight into the types of data access requests being made, as well as other security-related requests. In the case of a security incident, a system to track access and requests comes in handy.
  • Automate where possible to relieve teams: Manual processes are difficult to maintain and allow room for human error. Automated policy enforcement can enable quick classification and continuous scanning of new data, allowing users to identify and catalogue data based on compliance policies, while still being able to analyze and gain value from their data. By automating data governance processes, companies can manage and control their data in real-time, with a cohesive strategy that relieves pressure on employees and operates more efficiently.
  • Always over-communicate: When working with a distributed workforce, it’s also important to be extra clear, even verbose, when requesting access to data and ensuring that data is being safely used. Users requesting data access need to outline reasons for their request, and governance teams granting data access need to define user restrictions. Everything needs to be tracked with a system to ensure patterns are being identified and existing processes are being improved upon. Hybrid work forced us to adjust to working in an asynchronous fashion, and as we continue to do so, over-communicating will be essential to successfully securing data and access to it.

The “old” approach to data governance—handling metadata management, discovery, classification and data quality and calling it a day—is no longer enough. Companies need to keep up with the ever-changing, complicated landscape for data sharing and access. Achieving a stronger, holistic data governance and control strategy begins by integrating essential security protocols into policies—and leaving behind the tools that leave these components in isolation.

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