January 19, 2016 By Kathryn Zeidenstein 2 min read

We’ve heard the phrase crown jewels a lot lately. We aren’t talking about royalty and alarmed glass enclosures, though. We’re talking about data classification — specifically, the most valuable data in the enterprise. This is the data that, if it falls into the wrong hands, could mean significant damage to a company, government, health care provider or educational institution.

Protect Critical Data

Organizations must prioritize the protection of crown jewels, but any organization worth its salt realizes that data classification will make abundantly clear that there are massive volumes of data that could still cause pain if lost, even though it might be a level or two below crown jewels. This pain could come financially, in terms of regulatory fines and paying for breach protection, and can cause terrible distress to an organization’s clients and customers, such as fraud resulting from stolen health care data or payment information.

The problem is that it can be hard to know such data exists and identify where it is. Even with a stringent governance and privacy policy, can you really say with confidence that there isn’t a team testing with production data or a new application that requires personally identifiable information to register?

It’s not really a strategy to say “if we don’t know it’s there, it doesn’t exist.” You might get lucky and auditors won’t find the violation, but there are those who are much more diligent in probing for your soft spots. That, of course, would be the relentless army of cybercriminals.

Learn more about securing the data that powers your business

The Steps to Classification

Of course, data breaches are part of the risk equation you calculate every day. You might have limited staff working on other high-priority tasks. But isn’t data discovery and classification partly the job of automation? Not always. Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you approach the data classification process:

  • Make a plan and use tools and automated processes to make the job easier. Don’t forget to look at structured data, files and documents.
  • Consider bringing in trusted services to help you create a plan and even do the initial classification work for you. They can also help you become self-sufficient moving forward by putting the correct automation in place.
  • Don’t forget to take the next step and protect valuable data using encryption, monitoring and rigorous authorization and authentication mechanisms. Monitor those entitlements, as well.
  • One more thing! Make sure the applications that access that data are not inadvertently opening the door using a very common attack method, SQL injection.

The important thing is to get started. You might be surprised what you find.

More from Data Protection

Overheard at RSA Conference 2024: Top trends cybersecurity experts are talking about

4 min read - At a brunch roundtable, one of the many informal events held during the RSA Conference 2024 (RSAC), the conversation turned to the most popular trends and themes at this year’s events. There was no disagreement in what people presenting sessions or companies on the Expo show floor were talking about: RSAC 2024 is all about artificial intelligence (or as one CISO said, “It’s not RSAC; it’s RSAI”). The chatter around AI shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone who attended…

3 Strategies to overcome data security challenges in 2024

3 min read - There are over 17 billion internet-connected devices in the world — and experts expect that number will surge to almost 30 billion by 2030.This rapidly growing digital ecosystem makes it increasingly challenging to protect people’s privacy. Attackers only need to be right once to seize databases of personally identifiable information (PII), including payment card information, addresses, phone numbers and Social Security numbers.In addition to the ever-present cybersecurity threats, data security teams must consider the growing list of data compliance laws…

How data residency impacts security and compliance

3 min read - Every piece of your organization’s data is stored in a physical location. Even data stored in a cloud environment lives in a physical location on the virtual server. However, the data may not be in the location you expect, especially if your company uses multiple cloud providers. The data you are trying to protect may be stored literally across the world from where you sit right now or even in multiple locations at the same time. And if you don’t…

Topic updates

Get email updates and stay ahead of the latest threats to the security landscape, thought leadership and research.
Subscribe today