Data risk assessment

What is data risk assessment?

Data risk assessment is the process of identifying the scope of risks to your data by locating it; uncovering vulnerabilities such as inconsistent access controls or inefficient storage practices; and recognizing the threats that could exploit these vulnerabilities.

Most organizations realize the criticality of securing their sensitive data, but are often oblivious to their sensitive data's location.That one in every two organizations struggles to find its sensitive data tells how this is a prevalent challenge. This roadblock can lead to inefficient classification and inadequate security controls that pose a threat to the organization's data. But this issue can be easily overcome by conducting a data risk assessment as a starting point to securing data.

The importance of data risk assessment

A data risk assessment provides insights on the volume of sensitive data stored, its location, and the users with permission to access or modify the sensitive data. These observations can help data security administrators achieve three major goals:

    Safeguarding sensitive data:
    Data risk assessment helps to classify data into different categories, based on its level of sensitivity. IT administrators can implement elevated security measures to highly sensitive files, which in turn aids data loss prevention efforts.
    Assigning required accesses:
    Insights on users with access to sensitive files helps data security administrators manage permissions effectively. This ensures availability to a target set of users while preventing undue access to sensitive files to others.
    Adhering to regulatory compliances:
    Regulations such as the GDPR mandate organizations to follow certain practices, while storing and processing sensitive data. For instance, Article 25 (2) of the GDPR requires organizations to follow data minimization and ensure personal data is not accessible to an indefinite number of individuals. Performing data risk assessments can help in complying with such regulations.

Compliance risk assessment

Organizations storing or processing sensitive data are legally required to adhere to data compliance regulations. These regulations lay guidelines to organizations on safe data possession, organization, storage, and management processes. Here are a few widely-followed compliance regulations with stringent data protection requirements:

  • GDPR risk assessment: Complying with the GDPR requires businesses offering goods or services to the EU citizens to practice data minimization, record the usage, storage, and processing of sensitive data, and perform data protection impact assessments periodically. Using a GDPR compliance tool helps in adhering to GDPR guidelines.
  • HIPAA risk assessment: HIPAA compliance mandates the standards companies need to follow in order to secure protected health information. These include auditing and reporting of all accesses and modifications to PHI, as well as tracking changes to access rights and file server permissions to identify anomalies. Here's how your organization can benefit from a HIPAA compliance tool.
  • PCI risk assessment: PCI DSS is implemented by the PCI Security Standards Council. PCI DSS requires all entities involved in payment card processing to follow certain regulations, including implementation of data discovery to confirm the scope of this security standard, revoking access for terminated users, and limiting access to cardholder data. Learn how your organization can leverage a PCI DSS compliance tool.
  • SOX risk assessment: SOX is a United States federal law, that intends to improve corporate accountability and transparency. To comply with SOX, organizations should track modifications to files to assess risks to data integrity, periodically review attempts to access critical data including those successful and failed, and utilize customizable alerts to detect user actions that violate data protection policies. Learn how your organization can benefit from a SOX compliance tool.
  • Data risk assessments provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the data stored, who has access to it, and how it is used. This information can help IT admins to evaluate your organization's security posture against the data compliance mandates and implement necessary measures.

Data risk assessment process

In this evolving threat landscape, cyberattackers are constantly on the lookout for a vulnerability that could act as a gateway into your network. Just as attackers constantly search for it, so should you—with a focus on removing it. Confining data risk assessments to a half-yearly audit might not be sufficient to maintain your network's integrity. We recommend a continuous risk assessment of your sensitive data. Starting from data discovery to risk mitigation, here's how DataSecurity Plus helps in each stage of the data risk assessment process:

Process With DataSecurity Plus
Data discovery The data discovery component helps in discovering sensitive data, their location, the policy they match, and more through character strings or regular expressions.
Data classification The data classification tool helps in classifying files based on risk score as well as the rules and policies that match. Users can also choose to create custom classification profiles manually.
Data access control The Permission analyzer tool provides you with comprehensive insights on file and folder permissions, helping you to regulate access to sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access.
Risk prioritization The data risk assessment component keeps you informed of the files and users at risk through a risk score mechanism that takes into account permissions, content sensitivity, and other factors that could increase vulnerability of your data.
Risk mitigation and security responses The data risk assessment component has the provision to configure alerts to notify stakeholders regarding changes in permissions and execute mitigation measures by deleting irrelevant sensitive data. It can also move sensitive files to secure locations and perform other incident response actions to maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data.

The DataSecurity Plus solution

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