Why data-centric security is now a top priority for every business

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In today’s business environment, data is one of the most valuable assets any organization owns. Consequently, a great deal of time and money is spent trying to ensure that the most effective data security measures are in place to protect it. But with so many options available, knowing which approach to take is becoming increasingly difficult.

Escalating cybercrime, the adoption of cloud computing, an explosion in mobile device usage, and varying technology and applications means there’s so much to consider. No matter the industry, a data security breach is now an increasingly likely scenario that all businesses could face. Security teams should therefore consider a strategy that is focused on protecting actual data throughout its entire lifecycle, rather than just focusing on the infrastructure around it. 

This is where a data-centric approach comes into play. A data-centric security framework includes solutions designed to understand, govern, and secure sensitive data, whether on-premises or in the cloud. Doing so takes data security far beyond the infrastructure-focused measures that most organizations already have in place, ensuring data stays protected wherever it goes.

Data Security Budgets are Growing at a Rapid Pace

The good news is that data security budgets are growing as businesses acknowledge the importance of what’s at stake. According to Gartner, security and risk management spending worldwide grew 12.4 percent to reach $150.4 billion in 2021. However, despite such significant investment, the number of data breaches continues to rise.

With more data, networks, apps, and logins in existence than ever before, there’s a growing amount of data at risk of being out of sight and beyond the reach of security teams. Furthermore, gaps in security policy and process, when combined with outdated perimeter-based approaches to security, mean many organizations’ data security programs simply aren’t robust  enough anymore.

Identifying the Gaps

Modern data security architecture typically has four main gaps revolving around employee and external partner behaviors, which can be remedied with a data-centric security culture and strategy.

The Control Gap

Lost files or leaked information can go beyond an organization's control. Many organizations use Identity and Access Management, Mobile Device Management and/or Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions to monitor and control their employees’ access to data. However, data that leaves the organization is out of their control and if valuable data is leaked or lost, serious consequences can occur, particularly for compliance. 

The Visibility Gap

Modern business requires the regular sharing of sensitive information files and having visibility of that data once it leaves an organization's  environment is beyond the capabilities of most monitoring, auditing, and tracking tools. As a result, the nature of the information within them cannot be tracked or audited without additional data-centric-focused technologies in place.

The Behavior Gap

Usability is a big challenge for organizations of all sizes. Employees will often look for faster, more convenient ways to do their jobs. In fact, human error was still the number one cause of data breaches in 2021. Adding sensitive data to a USB, copying unsecured documents, and bypassing secure FTP servers are just a few of the ways employees try to bypass security processes in a bid to get things done more easily.

The Response Time Gap

In every organization, there is a time gap between the uptake of a new application or behavior and the ability of users to understand and respond. It's this gap that often has security teams in firefighting mode and a time when sensitive information can be most vulnerable. 

Security needs to operate at the speed of business, with the flexibility to adapt to the unknown. An organization's response time gap could be days, weeks, months, or even years. The longer it is, the greater the risk of people taking measures into their own hands, or of sensitive data going missing.

A Data-centric Approach Closes Security Gaps

In the face of growing cyber threats, keeping sensitive data safe means moving away from a traditional infrastructure-centric security approach, to one that focuses on protecting what really matters: the data itself.

Businesses  need  a guaranteed way to secure, track, and share any kind of data, no matter where it’s stored or located, or how it travels, with robust policy enforcement, strong encryption, and strict access controls. Data-centric security solutions enable employees to collaborate freely while ensuring a high level of security and visibility, and revoke access to sensitive data that may have  been mistakenly shared. Further, by adding a cloud-based tether, data can be managed with access rights and decrypted  if the person receiving the data is approved. 

Data, as we well know, is the lifeblood of business today, and when it’s locked down too tightly, it slows the business down. When organizations adopt file-level security,  sensitive data is secured through its entire life cycle; everywhere it travels, no matter who has it or where it’s stored. By adding in additional layers of data-centric security, data is protected in motion, in use, or at rest both inside and outside the organization, providing the peace of mind needed to operate confidently and compliantly in every situation.

Image credit: Narith Thongphasuk38 / Shutterstock

Chris Spargen is Sr. Manager, Solutions Engineering, HelpSystems

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