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Mastering Data Flow: Enhancing Security and Compliance in the Cloud

Mastering Data Flow: Enhancing Security and Compliance in the Cloud

Blog Article Published: 12/01/2023

Originally published by Dig Security.

Written by Sharon Farber.

Many organizations face challenges in determining their data’s precise locations and pathways. Without understanding where data flows, an organization cannot ensure that it remains appropriately secure and compliant throughout its lifecycle. It can traverse across borders and boundaries, creating major compliance issues.

This blog post is the third part of a three-part series, focusing on the importance of understanding data flow in the context of incident response and emphasizing the need for organizations to proactively address this aspect to enhance their overall data protection strategies.

Understanding Your Data Use?

Understanding and monitoring how data is used within an organization is paramount. Without proper oversight, potential vulnerabilities can arise, leading to gaps in visibility for data extraction. This can range from malicious theft to unauthorized copying of sensitive data to insecure locations. Unauthorized access to sensitive data assets can also pose compliance challenges, as inappropriate access may be considered a breach or noncompliance.

It is crucial to recognize that not all staff members require access to sensitive data, and following the principle of least privilege, where users only have access to the data necessary to complete their job, is a crucial step in security. Though roles and permissions change over time, so comprehensive monitoring and access controls are required for organizations to proactively mitigate the risks associated with data usage and uphold data security standards.

Apps Accessing sensitive storage assets?

Understanding the access and usage of sensitive data extends beyond users to include applications as well. This aspect introduces additional compliance challenges that organizations need to address. When applications interact with sensitive data, they often create copies of that data in memory or storage. However, these copied data instances may not receive the same rigorous security measures as the original data, creating potential vulnerabilities.

Improperly secured copies of sensitive data can serve as possible entry points for unauthorized access or breaches, jeopardizing the confidentiality and integrity of the information. Organizations must ensure proper security controls are in place to protect the original data and any copies or instances created by applications throughout their lifecycle. Unfortunately, the challenge here lies in determining where the copied data is and tracking it throughout its lifecycle.

More than 50% of sensitive data assets are accessed by 5-to-10 applications

Knowing where your assets are accessed

Ensuring appropriate location-based access to sensitive data is critical to data protection. Access to sensitive information from different geolocations can introduce significant challenges for organizations. Regulatory restrictions, such as those imposed by GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and CN (Cybersecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China), often prohibit sensitive data from leaving its designated geolocation. Violating these restrictions can lead to severe consequences and noncompliance issues. Moreover, accessing data across borders can inadvertently result in the creation of unauthorized copies in forbidden locations, exacerbating data governance and security concerns.

Without in-depth visibility into cloud resource storage at rest and as it moves, it is virtually impossible to maintain data residency and safeguard sensitive information while adhering to regulatory requirements.

Over 56% (more than one of two assets) is accessed from multiple geographic locations.

Where the data flows to

Understanding the flow of data is crucial for organizations to manage and protect their sensitive information effectively. While data replication is necessary for ensuring redundancy and mitigating the impact of outages, it can also give rise to compliance challenges. In unmanaged environments, the replication process can result in the creation of shadow data assets that persist. For example, residual replication data may stay even after deleting an original database. These residual data instances may contain sensitive information, which is likely inadequately managed or secured because it is not tracked. This poses a significant risk to data privacy and security.

6% of companies have data that has been transferred to publicly open assets.

Like accessing data across regions or borders can give rise to compliance issues, data replication comes with the same challenges. It may violate data protection regulations and restrictions. The risks associated with data flow and cross-service flows further highlight the importance of implementing robust controls and monitoring mechanisms to ensure data replication is compliant and secure.

The only way to maintain control over data flow is to implement appropriate data governance practices, employing technologies that enable visibility, management, and data encryption throughout its flow to minimize the risks and maintain compliance with applicable regulations.

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