Why Data Consumption Governance Is a Must in the New Normal

As a society, we’ve been forced seemingly overnight into a new work environment with offices closing (and many companies permanently downsizing office space) and remote work seeming more and more like it’s here to stay. The new normal is sure to be more digital, and enterprises are moving quickly to adapt to these changes by enabling remote work and further accelerating the migration to the cloud. Unfortunately, these rapid changes have also opened up new avenues for attackers to exploit. If companies are to remain secure in the new normal, they’ll need to adapt their security posture as well.

Enterprises already invest heavily in security (worldwide security spending is already over $100 billion annually, and expected to grow to $170 billion by 2022), but still lack basic visibility into and control over the sensitive data they collect and consume. This lack of visibility prevents companies from understanding how their organization uses data and from taking advantage of these data consumption patterns, a key requirement as we evolve into the age of data. Meanwhile, a lack of control around data consumption means that while companies may have implemented controls around who is able to access data and what data they’re allowed to access, they’ve not closed a critical gap: how much data a credentialed request is allowed to consume.

These two factors — an inability to understand enterprise data consumption and a lack of control around how much data is allowed to be consumed — combined with a quickly evolving regulatory environment create a perfect storm for today’s enterprises: credentialed requests for data are often able to consume without limits, opening up a level of risk that puts entire companies at stake. With the rapid changes demanded by today’s new normal, the urgency to close this gap has only grown in importance.

What are the impacts of unchecked data consumption?

Companies that don’t place limits on the consumption of sensitive data are already in very dangerous territory as they remain vulnerable to both insider and external threats. Verizon’s latest Data Breach Investigations Report informs us that inside actors are involved in 30% of data breaches, and over 80% of hacking-related breaches (hacking by external parties is the most common type of threat action) involve the use of brute-force attacks or stolen credentials. The common denominator here is clear: having credentials is the best way to obtain the asset actors are looking for — sensitive data.

In addition to the financial impacts of a breach (CCPA fines can be up to $7,500 per record, for example), the impacts to brand reputation and operations pile up quickly, with strategic efforts put on hold while team members turn into firefighters and customers lose trust in the company.

To mitigate these risks, enterprises need a solution that provides observability and control over data consumption. These controls provide confidence in the security of the organization’s data no matter where it lives, enabling companies to properly and rapidly take advantage of the migration to the cloud. In fact, it’s only by having these capabilities that organizations can confidently and securely enter the new normal.

How can you gain both visibility and control?

Ideally, it would be great if you could treat your data the same way banks treat money in an ATM.  Here’s the process as we see it:

  • Identity: In order to access your funds, you need to present a card to show who you are.
  • Multi-factor authentication: You must also enter a PIN code to prove your identity.
  • Privilege: Once you’re authenticated, you only have access to your funds, not anyone else’s.
  • Auditing: When you deposit or withdraw funds, you’re monitored with a camera and your actions are recorded.

This is where most companies are today, and where security tools offer their services. You’re able to solve for identity, authentication, and privilege, and most tools can provide some level of auditing for you as well. However, there is a major piece missing from the enterprise’s arsenal that banks solved a long time ago: controlling how much someone is able to consume — money in the bank’s case, data in ours.

  • Thresholds: Limits on how much you can consume per transaction or over time.

For security and logical reasons, banks place limits on the amount of money you’re allowed to withdraw from an ATM. These limits are enforced on individual trips to the ATM, as well as contextually throughout the day. Limits like this protect the end user from fraudulent activity, protect the bank from customers withdrawing more money than they have (either accidentally or maliciously), and ultimately build trust in the bank’s ability to securely store its customers’ money.

This is exactly what enterprises need to be doing with sensitive data. You need the ability to contextually understand consumption patterns across all sensitive data (whether PII, PHI, or PCI data), limit how much data a user is allowed to consume per request, and proactively prevent requests from consuming more data than they are allowed to.

If you want to learn more about mitigating risk using data consumption governance check out an upcoming webinar, hosted by ONUG, entitled “Data Consumption Governance: A New Cloud-Native Approach to Data Security”.  Get the details here.


Author's Bio

James Beecham

Founder and CTO, ALTR

ALTR’s Data Security as a Service (DSaaS) mitigates the risk of direct access to and consumption of sensitive enterprise data. This is the first service of its kind to integrate data access monitoring, governance, and at-rest protection natively at the application layer. By placing security into the critical path of data, ALTR offers a simpler, more effective security model, wherever your data is stored.