Data Discovery

The first step to effective information security and risk management

Data discovery is the first step to effective information security and risk management.  

Data Discovery helps businesses understand:

  • What data they have
  • Where the data is stored
  • What access and protection levels are needed

Data Discovery benefits

Data Discovery is also the first step on a journey towards compliance and with so many regulations and standards to comply with, this is now more important than ever.

Discovery can be a manual or automated process.  The manual method involves interviewing a broad range of staff in all business areas.  You can alternatively require employees to complete questionnaires. Given an adequate amount of time and resources, this can be quite accurate as it is these people who are accessing and processing the data on a daily basis. However, it will not deliver a granular understanding or inventory of all the data assets that you own/control.

Larger enterprises are more likely to use an eDiscovery tool.  Such solutions will scan your entire environment, on premises or in the cloud, to find all your data.  This data will then be collated into an index where various functions can be performed in it. This is clearly a much quicker method but can be costly.  However, such tools do bring added longer term benefits such as:

  • Efficiency when complying with data subjects’ rights, such as those mandated in The EU GDPR (right of access, right to be forgotten etc).
  • Complying with legal eDiscovery requirements are simplified

No matter the method adopted for discovery, it is important to include third party applications in scope.  These are often overlooked as the data is not stored within the organisation’s network. However, the data controlled by the organisation should always be included no matter where it resides.

It should not be forgotten that there may be data that has leaked from the organisation’s network on to open or even closed sources on the internet.  This data, if deemed sensitive, can pose a significant risk to the business. As such, efforts should be made to locate this data and if at all possible, bring it back under the control of the organisation.

When the data has been discovered it should be collated into an asset inventory with data owners identified.  This is an essential part of any security strategy. It allows organisations to categorise information assets and then move toward identifying sensitive data.

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