From PII to Access Management: Practical Approaches to Data Security, Governance, and Management

Data security and governance have become critical priorities for organizations across various industries. With the proliferation of data and the increasing complexity of IT environments, companies face numerous challenges in managing and securing their data. This blog post tackles everyday use cases and environments where organizations encounter data security and governance issues, along with practical solutions to address these challenges.

Identifying and Managing PII Data

One of the foremost challenges for organizations is identifying Personally Identifiable Information (PII) within their data stores. If not adequately protected, PII data can lead to significant security breaches and compliance issues. Companies need robust mechanisms to detect and classify PII data to ensure it is handled appropriately and in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Understanding the Data Landscape

Organizations often need help to gain a comprehensive understanding of their data. This includes knowing their data, where it is stored, and how it is used. Lack of visibility into data sources can lead to inefficiencies and security vulnerabilities. Implementing tools that provide detailed insights into data assets is crucial for effective data management and security.

Managing Data Copies and Location

Data duplication is a common issue that can complicate data management and increase storage costs. Identifying copies of the same data across different storage locations is essential for optimizing storage and ensuring data consistency. Additionally, understanding where data resides—whether on-premises, in the cloud, or across hybrid environments—helps organizations implement appropriate security measures.

Proper Data Classification

Correctly classifying data is vital for protecting sensitive information while allowing appropriate access to non-sensitive data. Data classification tools can help organizations categorize data based on sensitivity and criticality, enabling more effective security policies and access controls.

Access Management and Monitoring

Knowing who has access to data and how they access it is fundamental to data security. Organizations must implement stringent access management practices to ensure only authorized personnel can access sensitive information. Monitoring user activity, such as who is running queries and accessing data stores, helps detect potential security breaches and unauthorized access.

Identifying Users for Cleanup or Remediation

Over time, users may accumulate excessive access privileges no longer necessary for their roles. Identifying these users and cleaning up or remediating their access can reduce the risk of unauthorized data access and enhance overall security. This involves regularly reviewing access logs and implementing policies to revoke unnecessary permissions.

Addressing Excessive Access

Excessive access, where individuals have permissions to multiple data stores beyond their requirement, poses significant security risks. Implementing policies to limit access based on the principle of least privilege ensures that users have only the permissions necessary for their job functions, thereby minimizing the attack surface.

Common Data Stores and Security Considerations

Organizations typically utilize a variety of data stores, including Oracle, S3, AWS, GCP (BigQuery), and Azure. Each of these platforms has unique security considerations and requires specific strategies to secure data effectively:

  • Oracle: Implement robust database security measures, including encryption, access controls, and regular audits.
  • S3: Ensure proper configuration of bucket policies and access controls to prevent unauthorized access.
  • AWS: Utilize AWS security tools and services to monitor and protect data within the cloud environment.
  • GCP (BigQuery): Apply Google Cloud’s security best practices to safeguard data stored in BigQuery, including data encryption and access management.
  • Azure: Leverage Azure’s security features, such as Azure Active Directory, encryption, and threat detection, to protect data across Azure services.
  • OneDrive: Implement security measures like file encryption, access controls, and regular monitoring to protect data stored in OneDrive.
  • Office 365 (O365): Utilize O365 security tools and services, such as data loss prevention (DLP), encryption, and advanced threat protection, to safeguard data within the Office 365 environment.

Managing and securing data is a complex but essential task for modern organizations. By addressing the challenges of identifying PII data, understanding the data landscape, managing data copies and locations, correctly classifying data, and implementing robust access management practices, organizations can enhance their data security and governance frameworks. Leveraging tools and strategies tailored to their specific environments and data stores will strengthen their security posture and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.


David Mundy