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How Do You Identify and Classify Your Sensitive Data?

Identify and Classify Sensitive Data

Putting a system in place to identify and classify sensitive data can help your team better prepare to protect it.

The term “sensitive data” is a major concern for cybersecurity teams at organizations around the world. Identifying what makes data sensitive, and therefore worth the time and effort to secure, can be a challenge. However, in most industries, the storage and safety of sensitive data are regulated by law. Successful cybersecurity teams recognize the importance that organization and classification have in determining the success of their security programs. Let’s take a closer look at how to identify and classify your sensitive data so your team can better protect it from unauthorized access from both insiders as well as outsiders.

The Difference Between “Regulated” and “Unregulated” Data

The two broadest categories for sensitive data are “regulated” versus “unregulated”. These do not refer to their status in the eyes of the government – instead, these terms have a more sophisticated meaning. Regulated data is always sensitive and always needs to be protected. This is information such as social security numbers, bank account information, healthcare history, and so on. Unregulated data, on the other hand, contains publicly-known information which may or may not be mixed with sensitive information. The vast majority of data at organizations comes in the form of unregulated data, and this presents the greatest challenge to security teams – applying data classification standards to each and every piece of data to determine whether it needs to be protected as sensitive.

Classifying Sensitive Data Efficiently

Because the regulated and unregulated terms are so broad, they’re not the most efficient methods for classifying sensitive data at the organizational level. That’s why most organizations take a more robust approach to identifying and classifying sensitive data. While the terms that are used can be unique to each organization, successful teams generally categorize their data into 4 groups.

  • Public: Public classification means that the data poses very little risk if disclosed because the information is freely accessible by anyone. Information such as pricing data or a public university’s directory are examples of what public data could look like.
  • Internal: Internal data is not meant for the public, but the exposure of this data will cause little to no harm to the organization. Information such as a company’s organizational chart or service information for the IT team could fall under this category.
  • Confidential: Confidential data needs to stay private and be protected as such by your security team. If it is exposed to the public, the organization will see negative repercussions as a result.
  • Restricted: Restricted data is the most sensitive data in your organization. It not only needs to be protected, but access to it by your employees needs to be heavily regulated. The exposure of this data can lead to serious legal and financial trouble for your organization.

Contact ITMG to Assess Your Current Capabilities and Develop Strategies and Protocols Designed to Help Your Company Mitigate Your Insider Risk

ITMG is an industry leader in helping organizations throughout the United States strengthen their insider risk management programs and secure sensitive data and intellectual property. Our team of bona fide experts has the real-world experience necessary to plan out and create holistic security solutions tailored to the special needs and risks in your industry. Contact ITMG today to learn more about how we can help! You can also visit our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages for more updates and insights into the world of insider risk management.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 19th, 2021 at 9:14 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.