Effective Data Security Begins With a Strong Tech Foundation

March 31, 2020
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3 min read

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”

Michael Saldarriaga
Product Marketing Manager, IBM Security

Michael is a Product Marketing Manager on IBM's Data Security Team, with a focus IBM's encryption and compliance products. Michael earned has an MBA from Duk...
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