The data classification process analyzes an organization's data repositories to efficiently sort files into different categories based on its content and context, and assists in configuring suitable levels of security controls to comply with data laws. It is one of the first steps to secure sensitive business-critical data. Data classification runs in tandem with data discovery to add contextual information to data security policies .
Clearly state the desired outcomes of data classification. Often, the classification process follows the data discovery process. Therefore, it is good to start with the end goals for data discovery. The major objective of data classification is to identify and tag sensitive data from all data repositories to apply security controls successfully.
A data classification tool helps to ascertain the sensitive nature of data and provides you with context-aware insights needed to assess the importance of the data and the consequences if the data is breached. Usually, data is classified with "public," "private," "internal," and "restricted" labels with ascending priority. These tags make the data security policies applied relevant to each subset of data.
Data classification policies should be aligned with the data discovery policy to assist in preparing data security measures. It is vital to seamlessly integrate data discovery and classification tools, if these are deployed individually. Alternatively, you can incorporate both tools into a single data risk assessment solution to ensure content-aware protection.
Data classification is one of the essential requirements of compliance mandates like HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, and others. Evaluate the compliance requirements thoroughly to identify data risks and data handling guidelines. Ensure that all processes that address sensitive data meet the security requirements of the regulatory mandate.
Before full-scale implementation of the data classification process, test the sorting and file tagging processes on a smaller scale. Compare and adjust the processes according to business requirements, objectives set, and compliance requirements to be met.
It's necessary to update the data classification process periodically to ensure data security resulting from increasing data growth, stringent compliance requirements, new data risks, and evolving business needs. Leave scope for changes and adjustments in your data classification plan to incorporate updates more efficiently.