Yet, most organizations don’t give it the attention it deserves. Here’s why it’s hard, and what you can do to do it right.
When we talk about protecting enterprises from attack, we are really talking about protecting our data. After all, it is the data that is so heavily regulated. It’s data - when comprised - that causes breach notifications. And it’s that valuable data that one ultimately doesn't want to fall into the wrong hands.
So it’s surprising why so few companies - companies that spend so much capital and effort on security technologies to defend their networks - actually seek to know where their sensitive, confidential, and regulated data reside. Perhaps it’s because they don’t see the real value in doing so. Perhaps it’s because the process has proven to be insurmountable at some point in the past. Regardless of the reason: it’s a serious oversight.
Why? First consider the benefits of understanding sensitive data location. Understanding and controlling the location of sensitive data can help to significantly reduce risk as that data can be consolidated into fewer data stores as it’s identified. It can also help streamline data leak prevention deployments, help with litigation readiness, (for data disclosure requests) and can improve data retention policies. So why isn't it being done?
Part of the challenge is that auditing endpoint data, without the right tools, isn't ;easy. First, many of the tools require that endpoint data be fully indexed before it can be searched. That’s just ludicrous today, as the process will take weeks, if not a month or more to complete. With the velocity at which data moves today, the locations and nature of the data will change before the indexing process is even completed. Not to mention that much of the data will be on highly-mobile notebooks. Additionally, unstructured data is a big challenge for most tools. This includes finding data in emails, attachments, and local files.
Also, policies alone, without technological enforcement, isn’t enough. Users will always find a way to bypass policies that aren’t monitored and enforced either accidentally or intentionally. So sensitive data discovery technology should also provide remediation: it’s the only way to deliver critical enforcement capabilities to ensure sensitive data is not anywhere against your data policies.
Despite these difficulties, endpoint data classification is something that must be done. Not only because having sensitive data scattered about significantly increases risk exposure, as well as the costs associated with eDiscovery requests - but it’s also a requirement among many regulations. Some of those include Nevada’s Security of Personal Information Law (NRS 603.A), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
For these regulations, and for un-regulated confidential data, the ability to discover sensitive data on endpoints is crucial for reducing the risk and costs of incidents, remaining compliant, and enforcing policies to avoid mishaps and regulatory findings. When looking for a solution, there are certain requirements you need consider:
- Broad Encryption support
- Broad OS support
- Ease and Flexibility of deployment and configuration
- Forensic-grade visibility
- Review capability
- Policy enforcement mechanism
- Integration with other systems
There’s no doubt that endpoint data identification and auditing will be a challenge for some time to come. If you’d like to learn more, you’re invited to watch the on-demand webinar Dude, Where’s My Data – Finding & Securing Sensitive Data, which provides more detail on the challenges of endpoint data auditing and identification, and how EnCase Cybersecurity will help.