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.

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