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A Comprehensive Guide to Data Security: Remediating Risk Proactively

In a world where the safeguarding of critical business data assets is more crucial than ever, organizations face the imperative task of strengthening their data security profile. It's crucial for organizations to enforce advanced management strategies and protective protocols. This blog post delves into the critical necessity of robust access control measures, the strategic quarantine of sensitive data, and the importance of comprehensive data retention policies. We'll explore how these practices not only shield against unauthorized access but also how a meticulous approach to the archival and destruction of stale data can mitigate cyber threats, reduce legal risks, and enhance overall fiscal efficiency. Join us as we unpack the essentials of securing sensitive data in the digital age and the significance of defensible data destruction in maintaining a resilient and trustworthy data landscape.



 

Non-Standard Permission Remediation:

At the heart of Data Access Governance lies the intricate process of establishing a comprehensive data access control standard. The steps in this process include:

Define Data Access Governance Standard: It's vital for every organization to document and understand its own data access governance standard. This ensures cohesion across the enterprise, providing clarity on how data should be accessed by administrators, end-users, and applications.

Standardize Administrative Access: Recognizing and standardizing access for specific system-level accounts, administrative groups/accounts, and service accounts is paramount. By doing so, essential administrative applications like backup, replication, data security, and DLP can have consistent access across all data. This also curbs the problem of administrative access sprawl, making sure that only the necessary system accounts and administrators are granted access.

Resource Groups vs. Role Groups: Crafting unique groups for each distinct data resource, such as an "Accounting Folder Group," is of utmost importance. This approach, as opposed to creating broad role groups like "Accounting Team," minimizes the potential for access overlap, especially when there's collaboration across multiple teams.

Standardize Inheritance: Legacy data stores, especially file systems, heavily depend on an inheritance structure. It's where child folders derive permissions from their parent directories. For seamless access management, organizations should determine and enforce a strict inheritance standard across all data resources.

Standardize Permissions: Detailing and enforcing standardized permissions for every data store is critical. Questions to address include: Should there be distinct roles like Owners, Members, and Reviewers? Can Owners adjust data access membership? Are Members allowed to create, modify, or delete data? Should Reviewers have only read-only access? All these permissions should be explicitly defined, discovered, and enforced to ensure a robust data access control framework.

Access Risk Remediation:

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, organizations are met with a series of access risks that need vigilant monitoring and proactive remediation.

Open Access: A phenomenon predominantly observed in legacy File Systems, where access permissions granted to groups like "Domain Users, Everyone, NT Authenticated Users" can unintentionally reveal sensitive data to the entire domain. To counter this:

  • Ensure establishment of resource-based groups.

  • Detect sub-folders that are set to inherit permissions but have unique permissions of their own. It's crucial to correct these folders before their top-level counterparts to prevent overwriting their distinct permissions.

  • Recognize orphaned users who were either explicitly granted NTFS/NFS access or those who accessed data via Open Access permissions.

  • Seize this opportunity to implement Access Governance Standards, including the identification of standard administrators, the creation of resource-based groups, and the proper configuration of inheritance patterns.

External Access: Modern cloud-based collaboration platforms like Microsoft OneDrive, Teams, and SharePoint Online empower employees to collaborate seamlessly with external users, be it third-party partners, vendors, or customers. However, this flexibility also paves the way for potential exposure of crucial business data to users outside of the IT domain. As a remedy, organizations should:

  • Implement strict controls around external access.

  • Identify any sensitive data that's exposed to external access and take steps to quarantine it, ensuring it remains shielded from unauthorized access.

Anonymous Access: With cloud collaboration tools comes the convenience of collaborating with anonymous users through anonymous links. Such links bypass authentication, meaning that anyone with the link can access the associated data. This not only poses a considerable risk but also renders auditing nearly impossible, as pinpointing who accessed the data becomes a challenge. To tackle this:

  • Organizations should implement stringent policies around the usage of Anonymous Links.

  • It's vital to identify and quarantine sensitive data that's been exposed via Anonymous Links, ensuring it stays out of reach from unintended eyes.

  • By addressing these multifaceted access risks head-on, organizations can significantly fortify their data's security, ensuring a safe and efficient digital working environment.

Securing Sensitive Data:

In today's interconnected digital era, safeguarding sensitive data has never been more paramount. As data flows fluidly within and outside organizations, there's an imperative need for meticulous management and protection measures. Implementing robust controls and swift reactive protocols ensures that critical data remains inaccessible to unauthorized entities, preserving both organizational integrity and stakeholder trust.

Access Control: As emphasized earlier, imposing strict data access controls is a vital step to limiting access to sensitive data. Yet, the inherently collaborative nature of data within organizations mandates that we look beyond conventional methods and consider additional layers of protection for our sensitive business data.

Quarantine: Especially in environments where data is configured for wide collaboration - spanning different teams, the entire organization, or even involving external and anonymous entities - it's crucial to spot business-sensitive data that might be exposed in these realms. Once identified, a concrete quarantine protocol must be rolled out to shield this data from unauthorized access. Equally important is the notification of data owners, ensuring minimal disruptions to user productivity while upholding data security.

By integrating these strategies into their data management workflows, organizations can confidently navigate the digital space, knowing their sensitive assets are well-protected.

Stale Data Archive and Defensible Destruction:

The accumulation of stale data poses multifaceted risks to organizations, ranging from increased vulnerabilities to cyber threats like ransomware to burgeoning legal risks. In fact, according to the Rand Corporation’s “Where the Money Goes” study, a staggering 73% of e-discovery costs are tied up in the review stage, underscoring the financial implications of hoarding unnecessary data. As such, proactive management and judicious disposal of this stale data become imperative not only for security and compliance but also for fiscal prudence.

Data Retention Policy. Before taking any decisive action on stale data, organizations must institute a comprehensive and actionable data retention policy. This policy serves as the foundation for the defensible destruction of data, ensuring that the entire organization operates with a unified understanding of data maintenance. To solidify its importance and ensure its adherence, the policy should be disseminated to all employees through the employee handbook and integrated into regular security training sessions.

Archive Protocol. To truly mitigate risks, organizations must craft a meticulous archive protocol, focusing on reducing their liability exposure. By doing so, they effectively shield stale data from day-to-day cyber threats, such as ransomware, and ensure its safekeeping.

Defensible Destruction. Consistent enforcement of data retention policies is non-negotiable. By doing so, organizations can confidently and legally dispose of redundant, obsolete, and trivial (ROT) data, ensuring that only necessary data is retained, thereby reducing potential security and legal risks.


 

Eevabits Data Risk & Security Assessment


Understanding the vulnerabilities and potential risks embedded within an organization's data management practices is the cornerstone of a robust security strategy. This is where Eevabits Data Risk & Security Assessment becomes invaluable. As we navigate the complex challenges outlined in the aforementioned sections of this blog, it becomes evident that a proactive approach is necessary.


Eevabits offers a comprehensive assessment designed to meticulously analyze an organization's environment, pinpointing areas of concern such as Non-Standard Permissions, which may lead to unintended open access, and Access Risks that could leave sensitive data vulnerable to external threats. By methodically scrutinizing the current state of data exposure, the assessment aids in identifying which sensitive data may be inadvertently accessible.


Additionally, it delves into the depths of data hygiene practices to uncover Stale Data that not only consumes resources but also introduces unnecessary risks. This thorough examination by Eevabits ensures that organizations can understand and address their security posture proactively, leading to enhanced protection of their invaluable business data.



 


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