Data Classification : Key to Data Protection

Data Classification or labeling of data based on its sensitivity is an important aspect of information security. The term has been around for a long time and you have to know what you are protecting. 
 
We can see that companies still struggle with this basic premise of security. Almost every organization will be having a scheme to label data based on the value of the organization. Every organization should manage its data by classifying, categorizing and assigning an owner to it. It is very important to manage the data throughout its entire lifecycle. i.e; from the time the data is created until it is destroyed at the end of its life. 
 
Labels shouldn’t be placed on data using a permanent glue.Because sticking a label on the data at any one time may or may not be valid over the lifetime of the data. What we need to incorporate in our strategies is the notion that the data does change over time and that this has to be a living part of the security program.
 
The first step is to develop a security classification guide or data classification guide where we define the levels of sensitivity and the labels that we assigned to our data. The most common labels used in corporate environments are sensitive, restricted, confidential, internal use only, public etc. Once we categorize the data, we can then implement appropriate levels of security control based on the value of the data and the risk level associated. Data policies are to be formulated by defining the labels that we used for our data, how we are storing that data and how it is destroyed at the end of the cycle. It is also important to make sure that we are continuously auditing the access to sensitive data in order to verify that only authorized individuals are accessing the data.
 
Data classification helps to determine how much effort, resource, and money the organization have to spend to protect the data and how to control the access to it. It is not efficient to treat every data at the same level while designing a security system. If we treat all the data at the low-security level, people will be able to access even the sensitive data very easily. If we treat all the data at the highest security level, a lot of money, effort, and resources will be required to protect the data that is not at all critical. So classifying the data based on the level is sensitivity is vital for every organization.
 

The Importance of Data Classification

  • Data classification helps to determine how much effort, resource, and money the organization have to spend to protect the data and how to control the access to it.
  • Data Classification helps the organization to establish basic control requirements as well as it educates the information users on the importance of protecting the data, thereby providing a way of securing information. 
  • Data classification scheme also ensures that the employees are handling the sensitive data appropriately. 
  • It enhances the effectiveness of data protection or storage technologies namely data archiving solutions, DLP etc thereby reducing the risk of expensive data breaches. 
  • It facilitates organizations in meeting data protection and data regulatory requirements. 
Information Security functions need the visibility to adjust efforts, prioritize issues and focus controls based on the value of the business. Data Classification and understanding information assets is a critical part of this visibility. 

Authored By - Athira Sajan
TCS Enterprise Security and Risk Management
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