Taking (and maintaining) control of your organization’s attack surface boils down to a basic truth: you can’t protect what you don’t know about. If you don’t have confidence in your organization’s current data classification practices, then it’s likely that your organization uses, stores, and shares volumes of sensitive data that it’s not aware of.
Sensitive data is high-value currency to malicious actors and career hackers. As sensitive data stores build over time, attackers improve their odds of breach success and overall profitability. That’s because every piece of data can be used to complete a puzzle that grants threat actors greater access to individuals and organizations.
Even the most innocuous data is valuable
Every organization has data—and lots of it. Almost every organization also has some level of classification of data in place; however, many of the systems and structures they use don’t or can’t account for unique, duplicate, or orphaned data, otherwise known as dark data.
The most vulnerable types of dark data classify as personal identifiable information (PII); according to the 2023 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, customer, partner, and/or employee PII accounted for more than 50% of confidential data varieties in reported breaches.
Dark data represents unstructured information, and it’s found everywhere, including databases, emails, documents, and even social media accounts. IDC estimates that by 2025, the world’s 175 zettabytes of data will contain mostly unstructured data types, at a whopping 80 per cent.
Workplace reliance on hybrid and remote systems, cloud applications, and endpoints continuously expand data stores. Data is often siloed across these systems, making it hard to track and manage. The first step to managing both unstructured and structured data types across your organization is to understand where the data lives.
Sensitive data lives everywhere
Sensitive data can be found on email servers, cloud storage systems, file sharing services like Dropbox or GoogleDrive, and customer relationship management (CRM) tools like Salesforce or Office365. But how do you know what data types are sensitive?
Data classification best practices involve understanding the types of data that need to be protected, like customer information or financial records, and then determining how that data should be classified based on its sensitivity level. This helps organizations identify which digital assets or areas of the business could be more vulnerable to attacks and prioritize their security efforts accordingly. Additionally, this can help ensure compliance with regulations related to protecting sensitive information.