Guarding the Goldmine: Structured Data Protection to ‘Secure the World’ this Cybersecurity Month

Cybersecurity Awareness Month invites individuals and organizations to augment their knowledge and defenses, promoting the year's theme, “Secure the World.” This annual emphasis on cyber hygiene underscores the criticality of ingrained practices such as employing strong passwords, enabling multi-factor authentication, recognizing and responding to phishing attempts, and ensuring software is consistently updated. In embracing these practices and extending this knowledge across our communities and schools, we cultivate a collective consciousness to elevate cybersecurity, aiming to make the online world more secure every day of the year.

Today, businesses are inundated with data, a reservoir of untapped potential and opportunities. While harnessing this data can be a goldmine for informed decision-making and elevating customer experiences, it also poses an avalanche of cybersecurity threats. Amid these complexities, a significant oversight many companies face is underestimating the importance of structured data. Ironically, structured data often contains the precise treasure troves that malicious entities covet most. Here, the “Secure the World” mission is deeply intertwined with the need to secure data. The intersection of Cybersecurity Awareness Month and data security discussions accentuates the substantial synchronicities in the strategies and awareness needed to protect our most treasured digital resources. 

Structured Data: The Silent Guardian of Business Assets

Structured data refers to information organized into a specific format or schema, making it easily searchable and analyzable by database management systems. Imagine it as neatly arranged data in tables with rows and columns. Each column is like a labeled jar that holds a particular type of data (like text, numbers, or dates), while each row is a complete record. This contrasts with unstructured data, ranging from text documents to videos.

Key hallmarks of structured data include:

  • Organized in Rows and Columns: This data predominantly resides in relational databases, contained in tables.
  • Defined Datatype: Each data point or field has a specific, predefined nature, ensuring efficient and accurate data operations.
  • Easily Queried: Using tools like SQL, one can swiftly search, retrieve, and analyze structured data.

Interestingly, managing structured data has been revolutionized by platforms such as:

  • Snowflake: A robust cloud data platform, Snowflake excels in storing, computing, and analyzing structured and semi-structured data. Its architecture uniquely separates data storage from the computing aspect, paving the way for unprecedented scalability.
  • Databricks: Rooted in Apache Spark, Databricks presents an integrated analytics platform adept at big data processing and machine learning tasks. While it can handle structured and unstructured data, it mainly optimizes structured data analysis.
  • Amazon RDS: Amazon's managed relational database service streamlines many tasks tied to databases, such as timely backups and efficient scaling.

Moreover, traditional stalwarts like Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, and PostgreSQL have long anchored the world of structured data.

Yet, while structured data platforms evolve and offer enhanced capabilities, many companies have migrated to the cloud — an environment that, as recent trends suggest, has become the newest battlefield for cyber threats. As organizations seamlessly tap into the power of cloud-driven structured data management, they inadvertently expose themselves to a fresh array of vulnerabilities. This new era of cloud-based threats beckons our data security strategies to recalibrate.

A New Era of Cloud-Based Threats

Recent data underscores businesses' vulnerabilities and threats, especially in cloud environments. A study from Thales released in July 2023 discovered that 39% of companies had suffered a data breach in their cloud environment the previous year. This marks an uptick from 35% reported in 2022. Even more startling is that 75% of businesses indicated that more than 40% of the data they stored in the cloud was classified as sensitive, reflecting a 26% jump from the prior year.

Despite this pronounced shift to cloud-based storage of sensitive data, only an average of 45% of this data is encrypted. These numbers highlight the scale of the risk and the dire need for more robust security measures in cloud environments. Such vulnerabilities are compounded by issues like a lack of control over encryption keys and the increasing complexity of managing multiple critical management systems.

Navigating the intricacies of structured data management, it becomes evident that as we take advantage of the benefits of the cloud, we also inherit its vulnerabilities. The risks associated with structured data, particularly when stored in the cloud, are becoming hard to ignore.

Why Prioritizing Structured Data is Crucial

  • Guardianship of Sensitive Information: Given its organized nature, structured data often holds critical details, from personal information to financial records. This makes it a prime target for cyber adversaries.
  • Regulatory Adherence: In an interconnected global business landscape, ensuring structured data aligns with international regulations like GDPR is not just about compliance; it's about upholding trust and integrity.
  • Customer Trust: Trust remains at the heart of business beyond any asset. Any compromise in data security can be detrimental.
  • Corporate Espionage Deterrence: In an era of cut-throat competition, safeguarding trade secrets and intellectual assets is paramount.
  • Strengthening Cyber Defenses: Fortifying defenses around structured data is indispensable, given the rising tide of cyber threats.
  • Mitigation of Insider Threats:  Prioritizing structured data security can help monitor and control internal access and activities, ensuring that sensitive information is not mishandled or misappropriated.

Best Practices for Structured Data Safeguarding

  • Structured Data Categorization:
    • Value: Lay the foundation for efficient data safeguarding by classifying and tagging data based on sensitivity and regulatory benchmarks.
    • Use Case: Enables businesses to implement targeted protective measures, like encryption for high-sensitivity data, and ensure compliance with regulations such as GDPR and CCPA.
  • Hierarchical Access Controls:
    • Value: Fortify data security with role-specific access, ensuring data is accessible solely on a need-to-know basis.
    • Use Case: By leveraging Dasera's Privileges Analysis, organizations can ascertain who has what access, ensuring that the principle of least privilege is enforced, thereby reducing breach risks.
  • Relentless Data Surveillance:
    • Value: Constantly monitor data touchpoints to verify compliant and legitimate access.
    • Use Case: With Dasera's data-in-use monitoring, businesses can promptly spot and act on suspicious activities, significantly minimizing data breach risks.
  • Embrace Established Governance Paradigms:
    • Value: Adopt globally acclaimed governance frameworks like DMBOK or COBIT, adapting them to align with company objectives.
    • Use Case: Harnessing such frameworks helps businesses standardize their data governance practices, enhancing organizational data security posture.
  • Auditing Digital Footprints:
    • Value: Diligently track user behaviors, data changes, and access trajectories to highlight potential vulnerabilities.
    • Use Case: This audit trail aids in forensics, helping identify vulnerabilities and improving overall security.

As Cybersecurity Awareness Month unfolds, with its clarion call to “Secure the World,” the emphasis on elevating cybersecurity practices and structured data security is more critical than ever. It’s a collective reminder to individuals and organizations to fortify their defenses, whether digital or related to structured data. The mission to secure the world is deeply interlinked with securing structured data, the silent guardian of business assets. By ardently safeguarding our structured data, we contribute to a global effort to mitigate cyber threats and uphold the sanctity of our digital world. Embracing robust data security practices is not merely about compliance; it’s about fostering trust, integrity, and a sustainable future in our increasingly interconnected realm, enhancing cybersecurity awareness not just this month but every day of the year.


David Mundy