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Beyond Data Cataloging: Unlocking Secure Data Sharing with Sensitive Data Intelligence and Granular Access Controls

Published February 20, 2024

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Imagine navigating a vast, bustling city where every building represents a piece of data. Traditional data cataloging provides the map and labels for these buildings, making them easy to find but not necessarily easy to access. Simply possessing the map doesn't grant you the keys to each building or insights into who has access and why, as well as what activities they are conducting within. This is where the criticality of effective data access intelligence and data access controls comes into play in today's data-driven landscape. Like a city planner who not only designs the city's layout but also governs who can access each building and when, Data Access Governance offers a comprehensive solution to manage and secure data access, ensuring the city's vitality and safety.

Data Governance vs. Data Access Governance

Traditional data governance frameworks are like city maps without detailed traffic markings and rules or security protocols. They may tell you where data is located – the addresses of the buildings and an inventory of the rooms – but don't tell you about traffic patterns – which roads are closed or one-way, who travels on them, and where they can go in the buildings, and when they do. Likewise, data governance provides limited insight into or control over actual access permissions and activity.

Without granular access controls, audit trails, and dynamic entitlements, organizations face the risk of leaving their data open to anyone or, conversely, locking valuable information away even from those who legitimately need it. Ad hoc grants of privileges to unblock business processes create gaps. These gaps can lead to data breaches, non-compliance penalties, and erosion of brand trust, akin to a city where buildings are either too open to trespassers or too locked down, hampering its growth and livability.

The Imperative for Data Access Intelligence and Controls

To make our city—our data ecosystem—both accessible and secure, we need more than just a map; we require a smart access system. This system would assess who is attempting to enter a building or a specific room within it—for instance, a particular table in a vast database—why they need access, and ensure they can only access the areas relevant to their needs. Further, it should also ground access decisions in the sensitive data inventory rather than merely the address. 

Data Access Governance (DAG) extends traditional access control by infusing it with intelligence about permissions, data contents, identities, and ongoing activities. It's not just about managing who can access what but understanding and analyzing the landscape of access privileges. DAG identifies which users have rights to specific assets and types of sensitive data and, crucially, which users are actively utilizing those privileges. Through dynamic access rules, automated data classification, and real-time monitoring, DAG ensures your data ecosystem is not only navigable but also secure and compliant, providing a comprehensive view of actual access patterns and behaviors.

A Comprehensive Data Access Governance Framework

Implementing a DAG framework is akin to maintaining an inventory of every room in every building in the city and upgrading the city with advanced security systems, smart locks, and surveillance appropriate to their contents. This ensures that access to each building is both secure and compliant with city regulations. Key features of a DAG solution include:

  • Centralized Policy Engine: Acts as the city council, setting access policies that are automatically enforced throughout the city.
  • Automated Data Tagging and Classification: This process is akin to inventorying and logging the contents of every room. This comprehensive inventory is used throughout access governance: evaluating the privileges currently in place, assigning access rules for rooms based on their contents, and determining whether any rooms with sensitive contents have been too accessible. 
  • Granular Access Controls: Providing key cards that grant access to specific floors or rooms within a building, tailored to the individual's role and purpose, and taking into account the contents of each room.
  • Dynamic Data Masking: The equivalent of frosted glass doors in certain areas, allowing individuals to see only the information that they are permitted to view without exposing sensitive details.

By adopting these measures, our data city becomes a model of efficiency, security, and compliance, facilitating growth and innovation while protecting its citizens' privacy and safety.

In an era where data sharing accelerates innovation, the challenge of protecting sensitive information looms large. By identifying and dynamically masking sensitive data based on user roles and locations, organizations can navigate these waters. This approach enables secure, broad data sharing under automated guardrails, fostering innovation while ensuring data privacy and compliance.

Adopting a dynamic and intelligent approach to data access governance is no longer optional in today's fast-paced, data-driven world. It's a necessity for organizations that aim to not only protect their data assets but also to empower their teams with secure, compliant access to the data they need. As you reflect on your organization's journey towards secure, democratized data use, consider the following questions:

  1. Can you tie access policies not just to manual tags on data assets but to the actual discovered contents of those assets?
  2. How do you ensure that sensitive data is accessible only to those with a legitimate need?
  3. What measures are in place to audit data access and enforce compliance dynamically?
  4. Can you assess the appropriateness of access privileges and access patterns on data assets, given the nature and sensitivity of their contents?
  5. In the event of a data breach, how prepared are you to identify and address access vulnerabilities, as well as to quantify and qualify the sensitive data compromised by actual access activities?
  6. How do you ensure sensitive data is shared securely and compliantly within your organization as well as externally?

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