SecurityBrief Asia logo
Asia's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

Data classification: What’s the point of brushing off 'digital dust'?

By Sara Barker
Wed 8 Aug 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

To a lot of us data is boring but a necessary evil.  Our organisations create documents that end up being stored somewhere (often goodness knows where) gathering the equivalent of digital dust.  We’re accumulating vast stores of data we have no idea what to do with, and no hope of learning anything useful from.  And then if you layer on top the increasingly stringent data protection and compliance requirements, then it’s easy to see that we’ve got our data management work cut out for us. 

For IT security professionals, this data deluge only adds to the challenge of identifying, mitigating and remediating the ever-increasing number of cyber threats out there.  Much of the advice around security strategy has shifted from attempting to block threats at the perimeter, to protecting what matters most – sensitive data.  But therein lies another challenge.  With such high volumes of data, how is it possible to quickly identify which data is the highest priority for protection?

Although not a new phenomenon, there has been a recent resurgence in data discovery and classification techniques.  When implemented properly a solid data classification process will allow the IT security team to identify where sensitive data resides, set policies for handling it, implement appropriate technical controls, and educate users about current threats to the data they work with and best practices for keeping it safe.

Best practice for implementing a data classification strategy

Data classification is not a one size fits all approach. Every company has different needs to address, so a strategy must be tailored accordingly. However, the following five-point action plan can be used to create the foundation of an effective strategy:

Define what’s needed

Establish the goals, objectives and strategic intent of the policy are.  Make sure all relevant employees are aware and understand why it is being put in place. An effective data policy must also balance the confidentiality and privacy of employees/users against the integrity and availability of the data being protected. A policy that's too stringent can alienate staff and impede their ability to carry out their jobs, but if it's too lax, the very data the firm is trying to protect could be at risk.

Establish the scope

It's important to establish where the boundaries will be early on; otherwise it can quickly grow out of control. This is particularly important when considering partners and third parties. How far into their network, will/can you reach? Equally important is legacy and archived data. Where is it and how will it be protected? Finally, make sure to note anything that's out of scope and ensure this is evaluated and adjusted regularly.

Discover all sensitive data that’s in scope

Once data policy and scope have been established, the next task is to identify all the sensitive data that requires classification and protection. First, understand what data is being looking for. This could take many forms, ranging from confidential case files and personally identifiable information, through to client IP, source code, proprietary formulas etc.

Next, focus on where this data is likely to be found, from endpoints and servers, to on-site databases and in the cloud. Remember that discovery is not a one time event, it should be continuously re-evaluated, taking into account data at rest, data in motion and data in use across all platforms.

Evaluate all appropriate solutions

When the time comes to identify an appropriate data classification solution, there are plenty to choose from. Many of the best solutions today are automated and classification can be context (file type, location etc) and/or content based (fingerprint, RegEx etc). This option can be expensive and require a high degree of fine tuning, but once up and running it is extremely fast and classification can be repeated as often as desired.

An alternative to automated solutions is a manual approach, which allows users themselves to choose the classification of a file. This approach relies on a data expert to lead the classification process and can be time intensive, but in law firms where the correct classification is intricate and/or subjective, a manual approach can often be preferable.

A final option is to outsource the classification process to a service provider or consulting firm. This approach is rarely the most efficient or cost effective, but can provide a one-time classification of data and give any firm a good idea of where it stands in terms of compliance and risk.

Ensure feedback mechanisms are in place

The final stage is to ensure there are effective feedback mechanisms in place that allow swift reporting both up and down the firm’s hierarchy. As part of this, data flow should be analysed regularly to ensure classified data isn't moving in unauthorised ways or resting in places it shouldn't be. Any issues or discrepancies should be immediately flagged for follow up.

With data now playing a pivotal role in nearly every firm around the world, the ability to track, classify and protect it is critical. An effective data classification strategy should form the cornerstone of any modern security initiative, allowing firms to quickly identify the data most valuable to them and their clients, and ensure it is safe at all times.

Article by Digital Guardian VP and GM EMEA, Jan van Vliet.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
How to ensure ethical deployment of AI implentations
The increase in automation and machine technology such as AI and machine learning has unlocked a whole new level of scale and service to organisations. 
Story image
Digital Transformation
How to modernise legacy apps without compromising security
At a time when digital transformation has become central to business, even the most important applications come with a ‘use-by’ date.
Story image
Ransomware
A third of companies paying ransom don’t recover data - report
Veeam's report finds 76% of businesses who are victims of cyberattacks paid the ransom to recover data, but a third were still unable to get their information back.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
AI-based email security platform Abnormal Security valued at $4B
"A new breed of cybersecurity solutions that leverage AI is required to change the game and stop the rising threat of sophisticated and targeted email attacks."
Story image
Phishing
Google reveals new safety and security measures for users
Google's new measures include automatic two step verification, virtual cards and making it easier to remove contact information on Google Search results.
Story image
Secure access service edge / SASE
Versa Networks recognised as SASE leader in Govie Awards
Versa Networks has announced its SASE offering has been recognised in The Govies Government Security Awards competition by Security Today magazine.
Story image
Ransomware
Anniversaries remind us to review identity risks
World Password Day provides a timely reminder for ordinary citizens and organisations to stop and think about the risks associated with digital identities.
Story image
Workato
Workato unveils enhancements to enterprise automation platform
"The extra layer of protection with EKM, zero-logging, and hourly key rotation gives customers a lot more visibility and control over more sensitive data."
Story image
Phishing
Developments in phishing and how to protect your business
Phishing, the practice of sending malicious emails to encourage users to perform actions that benefit an attacker, is a key security concern for modern businesses due to its prevalence and impact.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from IronNet
Michael Ehrlich joins us today to discuss the history of IronNet and the crucial role the company plays in the cyber defence space.
Story image
BeyondTrust
BeyondTrust integrates Password Safe solution with SailPoint
BeyondTrust has announced the integration of BeyondTrust Password Safe with SailPoint identity security offerings.
Story image
APAC
Odaseva expands in APAC and UK with more security features
Odaseva, a data platform for Salesforce, is establishing new headquarters in London as well as a new data center in India.
Story image
Cybersecurity
ThoughtLab reveals 10 best practices for cybersecurity in 2022
The benchmarking study reveals best practices that can reduce the probability of a material breach and the time it takes to find and respond to those that happen.
Story image
Cybersecurity
HackerOne launches Attack Resistance Management solution
HackerOne has launched Attack Resistance Management - a new category of security solution that targets the root causes of the attack resistance gap. 
Story image
Microsoft
Apple, Google and Microsoft expands plans to get rid of passwords
FIDO Alliance says the world is closer to not relying on passwords after Apple, Google and Microsoft expands their support for a passwordless sign-in standard.
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Fortinet
Fortinet sees 34% revenue increase in latest financial results
Fortinet has released its financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2022, seeing a total revenue increase of 34.4% compared to the same quarter last year.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Updates from Google Workspace set to ease hybrid working troubles
Google Workspace has announced a variety of new features which will utilise Google AI capabilities to help make hybrid working situations more efficient and effective.
Story image
Data Protection
Managed Service Providers key to customer data protection
Frequent cyberattacks in the ASEAN region drive the demand for MSPs that can deliver purpose-built security solutions for SME customers.
Story image
Appian
Appian awarded billions in damages against Pegasystems Inc.
Appian has been awarded USD$2.036 billion in damages against Pegasystems Inc as the result of a jury verdict in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Virginia.
Story image
Ransomware
Zerto unveils updates to ransomware recovery capabilities
"Organisations face increased risks from the volume and sophistication of ransomware attacks prevalent today."
Story image
SaaS
Absolute Software expands Secure Access product offering
Absolute Software is enhancing its Secure Access product portfolio, enabling minimised risk exposure and optimised user experiences in the hybrid working environment.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft unveils three new security managed services
Security Experts includes three new managed services, Defender Experts for Hunting, Defender Experts for XDR, Security Services for Enterprise.
Story image
Malware
Sharp increase in phishing as cybercriminals leverage SEO to lure victims
"Malware lurking everywhere, from cloud apps to search engines, leaving organisations at greater risk than ever before."
Story image
Ivanti
Ivanti and Lookout bring zero trust security to hybrid work
Ivanti and Lookout have joined forces to help organisations accelerate cloud adoption and mature their zero trust security posture in the everywhere workplace.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Hard numbers: Why ambiguity in cybersecurity no longer adds up
As cybersecurity costs and risks continue to escalate, CEOs continue to struggle with what their investment in cyber protection buys. Getting rid of ambiguity becomes necessary.
Story image
Cybersecurity
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Managed service providers: effective scoping to avoid costly vendor pitfalls
Managed security services are outsourced services focusing on the security and resilience of business networks.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Companies rushing to secure print infrastructure
As the pandemic prioritised communication channels and the shift to remote work, IT departments fell behind in updating the security of print and IT infrastructure.
Story image
Training
Fortinet training edges toward closing cybersecurity gap
The Fortinet Training Institute has made significant progress in closing the cybersecurity skills gap, on track to train one million people by 2026.
Story image
Ransomware
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Cisco, Hitachi Vantara, Tricentis & Zscaler
We round up all job appointments from April 28 - May 5, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
SonicWall
Find out how you and your business can prevent being caught out by everything from ransomware to cryptojacking.
Link image
Story image
Blue Prism
Blue Prism Desktop uses IA to defend against vulnerabilities
SS&C Blue Prism Desktop aims to help protect businesses against vulnerabilities, using a combination of security measures and intelligent automation tech.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Datacom, Micro Focus, SnapLogic and VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 6-12, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Forensics
Exterro adds advanced capabilities to digital forensic tool
The launch is in-line with Exterro’s investment in the FTK product line, and underscores the company's commitment to the digital forensics.
Story image
Firewall
Sophos named Gartner Peer Insights Customers Choice for network firewalls
The company earned the highest overall customer rating among vendors with at least 150 verified customer reviews.
Story image
Cybersecurity
CyberArk launches $30M investment fund to advance security
CyberArk has announced the launch of CyberArk Ventures, a $30 million global investment fund dedicated to advancing the next generation of security disruptors.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Physical security systems guide the hybrid workplace to new heights
Organisations are reviewing how data gathered from their physical security systems can optimise, protect and enhance their business operations in unique ways.
Story image
Hyperscale
SpaceDC partners with Aofei for data center sales in Asia
SpaceDC has partnered with Aofei Data International to sell Aofei's data centers, CDN and SDN in China.
Story image
Cybersecurity
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
Surveillance
Genetec launches new enclosure management system for data centers
Genetec has released a new enclosure management solution that will give data centers the ability to secure, monitor and manage access to racks and cabinets remotely.
Story image
Phishing
KnowBe4 celebrates reaching 50,000 customers worldwide
KnowBe4 has reached the milestone of 50,000 customers, adding nearly 2,500 in the first quarter of 2022 alone.