Data is the engine of the modern economy. Whether it consists of customer data, intellectual property, market insights or financial information, these types of sensitive data enable the most successful businesses to thrive. It’s no surprise, then, that securing that critical data is increasingly a strategic priority for organizations around the globe.

Not all organizations, however, are at the same point in their privacy and data security journey. Without the right tools and teams in place, some companies may find that their most sensitive assets are vulnerable to malicious actors, which could increase the probability of a damaging data breach. Some may find that without the right resources in place to protect clients’ and consumers’ private information, they will be unable to comply with regulations and industry standards. Companies in this unfortunate position are subject to regulatory scrutiny, legal action and fines, as well as a loss of public trust. In short, without a proper data security technology foundation, your enterprise may risk losing more than just its competitive advantage.

When it comes to safeguarding a company’s critical assets, the responsibility lies with the senior data security leaders, like the chief information officer (CIO), chief information security officer (CISO) or senior vice presidents (VPs) of security. Given the growing number of data sources — structured, unstructured and semi-structured environments deployed on-premises and across private and public clouds — increasing governmental scrutiny, multiplying regulations and the widening skills shortage of security teams, it’s an understatement to say that security leaders have their hands full.

What’s a CISO to Do?

Hope is not lost. Today’s most successful security leaders deploy unified strategies for securing critical data as well as defining and governing access to it — whether it resides on-premises or in a hybrid multicloud — all the while making it easy to demonstrate the steps their firm is taking to protect client data and work toward regulatory compliance. There are a number of models that these leaders can follow to design or redesign their company’s security strategy.

One such example is Forrester Research’s Zero Trust model, a data-centric framework to cybersecurity that posits that security leaders should assume they have already been compromised. Security systems should be designed to monitor access to sensitive data and verify user access every time, for all users. In the report, “Lay Your Security Tech Foundation,” Forrester recommends that CIOs “work with their information security and privacy leaders to lay the technology foundation for securing the business and protecting the brand.”

They say it’s a poor craftsman that blames his tools, but even the most adept security leader will be unsuccessful if they lack the right tools and resources. Fortunately, for all the struggling CISOs out there, Forrester has prepared a security technology road map for organizations that are in the early stages of their data privacy and security journeys, outlining four key technology areas to develop:

  1. Data governance
  2. Data security
  3. Cloud governance
  4. Technology innovation

Within those categories, Forrester dives into the specific use cases and the proper technology that security teams should invest in to ensure that their data is protected, that they are working toward regulatory compliance and that they remain competitive.

When choosing which technology solutions will be the basis of your data privacy and security strategy, you will want to prioritize solutions with a data-centric approach to information security that also facilitate compliance to minimize the costs of audits, fines and data breaches.

A Data-Centric Approach to Data Security

Before you can protect your sensitive data, you need to know what it is, where it is and who can see it. Forrester recommends that you invest in a solution that can discover and classify your sensitive data, wherever it resides — be it on-premises or in a hybrid multicloud environment.

Once you understand where your data is, you should analyze your risk posture to discover who has access to the sensitive data and where there are holes in your current security scheme. After that, you need to wrap your critical data in encryption, set access policies and then monitor users to make sure nothing fishy happens. In the end, Zero Trust is about just that — trusting no one.

Addressing Compliance With Industry and Government Regulations

Once your data is protected, it is essential that you document the steps taken to meet data privacy regulations. A common complaint of security teams is that addressing compliance needs is not only complicated, given the varying requirements across jurisdictions, but also time-consuming.

A solution that can automate compliance audit workflows can help save time and potentially reduce complexity while limiting exposure to government investigations and fines. It can also help give CISOs the peace of mind to tell their clients and customers that they are working hard to safeguard their private information.

The digital landscape is too complex and dynamic for security leaders to assume that their data is ever totally secure. That’s why adopting a Zero Trust system and mindset and investing in the right security solutions are so critical to mitigating risk and allowing your enterprise to thrive.

Read the Forrester Research report, “Lay Your Security Tech Foundation”

More from CISO

How to Solve the People Problem in Cybersecurity

You may think this article is going to discuss how users are one of the biggest challenges to cybersecurity. After all, employees are known to click on unverified links, download malicious files and neglect to change their passwords. And then there are those who use their personal devices for business purposes and put the network at risk. Yes, all those people can cause issues for cybersecurity. But the people who are usually blamed for cybersecurity issues wouldn’t have such an…

The Cyber Battle: Why We Need More Women to Win it

It is a well-known fact that the cybersecurity industry lacks people and is in need of more skilled cyber professionals every day. In 2022, the industry was short of more than 3 million people. This is in the context of workforce growth by almost half a million in 2021 year over year per recent research. Stemming from the lack of professionals, diversity — or as the UN says, “leaving nobody behind” — becomes difficult to realize. In 2021, women made…

Backdoor Deployment and Ransomware: Top Threats Identified in X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023

Deployment of backdoors was the number one action on objective taken by threat actors last year, according to the 2023 IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index — a comprehensive analysis of our research data collected throughout the year. Backdoor access is now among the hottest commodities on the dark web and can sell for thousands of dollars, compared to credit card data — which can go for as low as $10. On the dark web — a veritable eBay for…

Detecting the Undetected: The Risk to Your Info

IBM’s Advanced Threat Detection and Response Team (ATDR) has seen an increase in the malware family known as information stealers in the wild over the past year. Info stealers are malware with the capability of scanning for and exfiltrating data and credentials from your device. When executed, they begin scanning for and copying various directories that usually contain some sort of sensitive information or credentials including web and login data from Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. In other instances, they…